There’s a gap between how you see yourself and how you think you ‘should’ be. This gap is the playground of your inner critic.
Everyone has an inner critic who says in a hundred different ways, “you’re not good enough”. The critic is fed by negative messages society sends you about who you ‘need’ to be in order to be worthy, smart, successful, rich, attractive, popular.
The critic can be especially loud in people experiencing anxiety or depression. Turning against yourself is one of the cruellest features of these conditions.
How to start to change your relationship with yourself
Silencing your critic is difficult to do because it’s probably been with you since childhood. Your critic may have even convinced you that you need it in order to stay motivated and not get lazy. But the benefits of starting a kinder relationship with yourself can be life changing.
Here are six things to remind yourself when your critic is giving you a hard time.
- Having an inner critic is not the issue. The issue is believing what your inner critic says to you and acting on its advice. Work on getting some distance from your critic.
- Write down your self-critical thoughts as if they were coming from someone else: “you’re incompetent”, “you’re ugly”. How would you argue back if a stranger said this to you or someone you cared about?
- If you’re constantly looking for information that confirms you’re not good enough, you’ll find it. Focus your attention elsewhere on the things you’re doing well. Keep a journal and each night, write down three things you did well that day. Look at these notes whenever your critic is really loud.
- You can’t be everyone. Notice when you’re taking your own strengths for granted and focusing on what others do better than you. It’s hard to see your own skills because they’ve been with you for so long you think everyone has them. But they don’t.
- Think about the faults of someone you admire. How should they talk to themselves about these? What would that sound like for yourself?
- Be a lifelong learner. Making a mistake doesn’t confirm your worst fears about yourself. View mistakes as a learning opportunity. View yourself as someone who is always growing. Facing difficulties helps you develop the skills to bounce back and succeed next time.
Accepting your imperfections is one of the great challenges of life. Find tactics that work for you and return to them during difficult days when your critic is strong, stubborn and convincing.
A moment of self-compassion can push your critic from the driver’s seat into the back seat. You can still hear it, but it’s no longer steering your journey.
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