I write about Inner Critic (IC) a lot. Most of the time it’s indirectly but let’s bring this little devil out into the light today shall we?
What is an Inner Critic?
It’s a negative voice in your head telling you:
You’re not doing enough
You’re not good enough
You better not speak up because you might look dumb
You better play your life/career/relationship safe because of all the possible negative what-ifs that may happen if you don’t
You better not show any weakness
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Your IC says:
You need to live up, and ideally exceed, an unrealistic standard. A standard that you ironically never achieve because your IC always moves the bar an inch out of reach
You better try harder and get that project perfect like literally everyone else or you’re a loser
You need to give more of yourself to others to earn their acceptance, respect or love
The bad news: We all have this voice.
The really good news: We can do something about it!
Why do you have this shitty voice?
Your IC is basically a ghost voice from way back when. Think parents, teachers, or other people who played a significant role in your life when you were little. These people simply wanted to keep you safe and make sure you fit in to society.
“Karen, you need to get all A’s! You’re a very smart girl.”
What Karen heard with her seven-year-old mind:
“I need to be perfect. That’s the only way.”
How Karen’s mind still plays that past programming as an adult:
“I am not going to try for that promotion because what if I don’t get it? Failure is not OK.”
How your mind sees your IC
Your subconscious mind is like a ginormous mainframe computer and it stores all your past experiences and emotions, especially the negative and fear-based ones, how you perceived them way back when as a child (a child with an understandably undeveloped mind.)
This part of your mind doesn't distinguish between real or imagined and so when you think something today that has the same uncomfortable emotion as when you were little it cautions you to fear it.
This doesn't help you as an adult and that's why you need to take back your power and deflate that devil!
Deflate your IC in 1, 2, 3!
#1 Bring her into the light!
Recognize when she’s talking and what she’s saying. Hint: She'll always make you feel like shit and question your ability or worth.
#2 Ask yourself better questions like:
Do I have to think this? What’s a better way to move through this situation?
What if doing my best is enough? What does it mean to do my best?
What is a time I was out of my comfort zone and succeeded? How could that work like that for me in this situation?
#3 Take action on your better answers!
You’re IC hates when you take action because it threatens her existence which is exactly why you must do it.
Here's an example of the three steps in action:
What if I speak up about my money-saving idea at the annual meeting and everyone thinks it's dumb? I would be mortified.
(This is where the voice is loud and where we typically stall out.)
Ahhhh, I just used a negative 'what-if', that's just my Inner Critic talking. She's trying to keep me safe from possible ridicule.
Is my idea really dumb? No! I've been going over the steps in my head and I absolutely think we can save $50,000!
How can I present it in a way that is well-received?
I will call my best friend, she will support me and I know she'll have great ideas.
I am calling her right now!
Remember: Your IC is the devil and you're not. You are a very capable, talented, and smart adult who can tell her to shut up!