Mind games: How to silence your inner critic

Mind games: How to silence your inner critic

We all have an ‘inner critic’ who second-guesses our choices, and lobs insults about our perceived shortcomings.

The good news is the more we recognise this internal enemy, the easier it will be to shut him or her up, so we can be our best selves.

To become more aware of your negative thoughts or critical inner voice, follow these steps.

Pay attention next time a bad mood hits

Ask yourself what you were thinking about yourself at the time your mood shifted. 

Recognise situations that set off your negative thinking

Such as a phone call from your dad or a friend sharing good news.

Become aware that you have turned against yourself.

Notice the occasions when your mind takes over

Pay attention to when you are thinking people don’t like you and examine the thoughts you imagine they’re having about you.

Be alert to any cynical thoughts towards other people

They may be valuable clues as to how you attack yourself.

Once you become aware of these specific thoughts, consider what prompted them in the first place.

Think about what or whom these voices sound like

To understand where your negative thoughts come from.

People tend to find important connections between their voice and someone significant from their past.

Once you have done this, you can begin to identify where your voice started and separate it from your own point of view.

The next step is to change your thoughts with the following actions.

Challenge your critical inner voice

The most important step to silencing it is to respond to it from a realistic and compassionate perspective. Say aloud or write down a more congenial, honest response to each of your put downs. 

Use 'I' statements.

“I am a worthy person with many good qualities and have a lot to offer."

Connect your voice to your actions

Your critical inner voice has plenty of bad advice.

"Don't say anything. No-one wants to ear what you have to say."

As you learn to recognise your critical inner voice, you can start to catch on when it's starting to influence your behaviour. 

Change your behaviour

Once you see how the critical inner voice influences your behaviour, start to consciously act against it.

The process of ‘not listening’ to your inner critic and strengthening your own point of view can be uplifting, but it can also cause anxiety.

The more you oppose the voice, the weaker it will become.

Reflect on your negative thoughts

Determine if there is any truth to them. It's important to recognise that even though there may be a kernel of truth to them.

It's important to recognise that even though there may be a kernel of truth in a specific critical voice , nothing can be gained by attacking yourself.

This not only fails to change a behaviour you may dislike in yourself, it also makes you feel bad, which increases the likelihood that the behaviour will recur.

The best strategy is to take an objective and compassionate look at any negative behaviour or traits you have and work at changing them.

To a large extent, you have the power to re-create yourself to become a person you like and admire. 

There is always anxiety as people grow, but it is worthwhile to struggle through it to come out the other end.

Written by Dr Robert W. Firestone. This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.