Silencing Your Inner Critic
By Dr Galia Barhava
You know the drill: it’s 2am in the morning, you woke up to go to the bathroom, and now you can’t go back to sleep. Your mind starts racing, you play back the events of the day, and you start to second-guess everything you did. Did I do this right? Did I handle this person correctly? I think I f**ed it up! Why am I always so useless/stupid/incapable? You start chastising yourself.
“Oh” you think to yourself, “welcome, old friend”; your inner critic has raised his voice again.
After working with so many women and men as a coach and facilitator over the years, I often ask myself: why is it that so many outwardly successful people have such a loud inner critic?
I’ve come to realise that there are many different explanations. For some, it is their own definition of success, one they never stopped to reflect on.
For others, it is about the environment they were raised in, where coming second was never good enough. For others, still it has served as a good coach over the years to get them to where they are. But somewhere down the line, that coach became toxic. I believe that stopping to understand the source of our self-criticism, and finding ways to silence it, are powerful ways to unleash our inner potential.
Being Perfect Isn’t the Goal
I often must remind my clients that they are, in fact, human; that they are allowed to make mistakes and that sometimes they will do or say the wrong thing – and that’s OK as long as they own up to it, apologise, and move on; that life isn’t about getting everything right or perfect the first time. In fact, the powerful concept of ‘the growth mindset’ coined by Carol Dweck is all about reframing our focus from being ‘good’ at something to focusing on getting better!
AN EXERCISE FOR NEXT TIME you find yourself beating yourself up on not doing something as well as you hoped. For example, the presentation you did didn’t go as well as you would have liked.
Rather than chastising yourself for doing a bad job, ask yourself this:
‘How can I do this better next time?’
Write down at least 3 concrete suggestions for improvement for yourself.
Remember that our inner critic doesn’t only impact us; when we are very critical of ourselves, we are also extremely critical of other people which can be very destructive.
By learning to show ourselves compassion, we become more compassionate towards others and build stronger and healthier relationships with significant others in our lives – both personally and professionally.
How do you go about becoming more self-compassionate? Start by paying attention to the times you put yourself down in a conversation. Catch yourself and try and rephrase, at least in your own head. One of my clients, a promising young woman who since has become a senior leader in a global organisation, found that really listening to positive feedback – rather than just shrugging it off and focusing on the negative, was the most powerful way for her to silence her inner critic. She came to see all feedback, the good and the ‘corrective’, as gifts people were giving her. By seeing feedback this way, she became more forgiving of herself and others, as well as a brilliant giver of feedback!
To Err is Human; To Forgive, Divine
It is never too late to become more self-compassionate. For some of my older, more established clients, the notion of thinking about three good things that happened in a day, and the ways that they contributed to them, is an authentic way to see how much good they do and how they contribute to those around them. So, when they slipped up, rather than endlessly punishing themselves, they were able to re-frame and see that they actually do a lot of positive and constructive things. This helps them to forgive themselves and accept that as humans they are, in fact, allowed to err.
Name Him or Her….
In one of our Oro Group Mentoring workshops we discussed our inner critics, and one of our fabulous mentees shared with us that her way of silencing her inner critic is by giving it a persona, and as such, it is easier to silence that person. In her case, she personified her inner critic as Lisa Simpson!
So, whenever the inner critic rears her unwelcome head so says to herself ‘go away Lisa, I don’t need you here, you add no value’.
Ultimately, the key to silencing our inner critic is through re-framing for ourselves that all we do in life should be about getting better in whatever it is that we do – being parents, partners, or professionals. Once we change our frame of thinking from expecting to always get it ‘right’ the first time and generally being ‘perfect’, to accepting that we will always make mistakes and that that is a GOOD THING from which we can learn to improve, we will learn to forgive ourselves and be a hell-of-a-lot kinder to significant others in our lives.
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