We all have an inner critic or gremlin; or whatever you like to call that nasty voice in your head that is negative and critical and mean and harsh and horrible. It’s a magnificent obstacle. Genuinely, it really is – because once you can get this one retrained, it will change your life. Just imagine going through life without that critical commentary in your head.
The first thing to do with this critical inner voice is to make a decision not to treat yourself this way. You wouldn’t speak to anyone else that way (not if you expected them to speak to you again), so don’t talk to yourself like that. By the way, don’t demonise the inner critic or gremlin or ego. They’re still a part of you, an important part of you and demonising any part of you doesn’t help you become whole and fabulous.
Instead, look at understanding that part of you. Every part of every body has a positive intention – and the inner critic’s intention is usually to get the best from you. The trouble is that most of us aren’t overly inspired and motivated by criticism – it actually has the exact opposite effect on many of us, making us doubt ourselves, feel bad about ourselves and fearful of trying anything new.
As we grew up, we probably saw a lot of self-criticism as a motivator – perhaps you had a teacher who did that, or you saw a parent criticise themselves? But it doesn’t work. It’s time to introduce a new way of working, even if you have been criticising yourself for the past 10/20/30/70 years. Let’s update the old software. Look at what the positive intention is of that negative self-talk, and find a new way to achieve the same end.
When I explored my inner critic’s motives, I found she wanted to help me be the best I can be. She was actually quite cross that I wasn’t appreciative. I gave her a new way to help me be the best I can be: encouragement. Use that skill of laser-sharp focus on your faults to point out your strengths, what you are great at, what you’re doing well, how you’re awesome. It’s a small tweak to use the skills of the inner critic for good, not evil.
Of course it takes time, anyone who’s been doing a job one way for decades needs an adjustment period to get used to a new way of working. Be very gentle with yourself in this transition; criticising yourself for criticising yourself is not only the height of irony, it’s completely counter-productive.
Your inner critic may also be more active when you’re tired or unwell – again, this is a good thing. She’s pointing something out to you; she’s a great custodian of your self-care. So pay attention and make sure you are taking care of yourself, loving yourself, being good to yourself. When you do this, you may find your inner critic pipes down because you’re feeling loved.
To help the transition from self-criticism to self-love, look for words you’d like to hear about yourself – affirmations about how fabulous you are. You’re learning a new language, so find some new words to practice. Affirmations can be a great way to retrain yourself not to negative self-talk – as soon as you notice you’re criticising yourself (and you will, until you don’t), you can bust out your favourite affirmation and switch the energy around entirely.
Here’s a few of my favourites:
I deeply and completely love and accept myself…always
I trust myself; I’m always doing the best I can
I dance through life with joy and ease
I am a magnet for good stuff
Every day, every year, life gets better and better
In any and every way you can, train yourself to see what’s good about you, how you’re doing well, what you’re good at. Turn that negative self-talk around to positive self-talk, start feeling good about yourself and taking excellent care of yourself. Negative self-talk is simply a habit you’ve got into…and habits can be changed.