how to challenge your inner critic to be more confident
In the morning, as you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you think, wow, I’m looking gorgeous today? More likely, you’re going through a list of all your shortcomings.
- My nose is too big
- Look at the state of my skin; it’s so spotty and unhealthy looking
- Why does nothing look right on me?
Even at work, you can have a running commentary going on in your mind.
- I’ll never get everything done
- I’m never going to finish that project
- My manager thinks I have the brain of a goldfish
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These nagging thoughts run riot inside your head. They tell you that you are not good enough, capable enough or intelligent enough. These thoughts can have a big impact on your confidence. If you want to know where the negative voice comes from have a look at this article What Is The Negative Voice Inside My Head?
This negative running commentary is your inner doubt, or to put it another way, your inner critic at work, and boy, can she be a bitch.
Life is hard sometimes. The last thing you need is your inner critic getting at you about every little thing you're trying to do.
If you have decided you're ready to challenge your inner critic, you are taking a big step forward.
First of all, congratulations.
By learning how to challenge your inner critic, you will create a better life for yourself.
Before We Start On How To Challenge Your Inner Critic
There are just a few things you need to be aware of.
There Are No Quick Fixes
The thoughts in your head have been around for a long time, so it’s not easy to get rid of them. You will not wake up one morning and say, hey, I’m not going to have any negative thoughts today. But read on, I have techniques you can use to make it better.
Your Inner Critic Is Here To Stay
You will always have an inner critic; it doesn’t go away. The purpose here is to work with it more harmoniously. The inner critic is not all bad; it does help you stay safe.
Critical Thoughts Come From Fear
The thoughts you have, come from a position of fear. Whether that fear comes from a need to be perfect, wanting to fit in, or scared about what other people will think of you.
The Thoughts Are Someone Else’s Words
The criticisms are not you. They are someone else’s words that have become part of your own beliefs. They are not true.
Be Kind To Yourself
As you go through the different ways on how to challenge your inner critic, please remember to be kind to yourself. Exploring anything so personal is challenging.
How To Challenge Your Inner Critic
The First Step - Start Noticing
Inner critics like to whisper, never to speak out loud. The last thing they want is to be noticed in their nefarious schemes. By paying attention to what's going on in your head, you draw their lies out into the light where there's no place to hide.
Secondly - Take Action
I've always struggled with inner doubt, so I’m going to share some exercises I’ve tried myself and found worked for me. You can also achieve results, but remember they take effort and practised over time.
Separate Yourself From The Thought & Challenge Your Inner Critic
The thoughts are criticisms you inherited from your past. In this exercise, we'll separate you from the thought as a way to challenge your inner critic.
Think of a particular criticism you say about yourself.
For example, I am useless and don’t deserve success. Write this down on a piece of paper.
Write the same sentence underneath the first, but write it in the second person.
For example, you are useless and don’t deserve success.
By doing this, you can see the voice for what it really is – a total bitch.
Finally, underneath the previous two sentences, write a response such as:
- I work hard to be successful by setting myself goals and completing all the tasks associated with them.
- I may not complete them or do them right all the time, but I’m always learning how to improve myself.
This exercise lets you see that the actions you take make the criticism untrue.
The inner critic comes from a place of fear. It judges you and finds you lacking. Talk to yourself like someone you love. Would you say to your closest friend, ‘you are useless and don’t deserve success’. No, you wouldn’t. If you did, then you probably wouldn’t be friends for much longer.
Professor Paul Gilbert, OBE, writes extensively about self-compassion and how it develops our ability to face life's challenges.
To challenge your inner critic, take one of the criticisms you use against yourself all the time.
Now imagine a situation where a friend might speak those words.
Think about how you would respond. You would want to reassure her. You’d point out numerous ways she was successful, highlight her strengths and previous successes.
If you would do it for someone else, then you must do it for yourself.
Write your own criticism down. Imagine your friend saying it. Write down all the strengths and previous successes which disprove the statement.
You now have the evidence to show the criticism is not correct. The next time you hear your inner critic, remember your strengths and successes proves it wrong.
Give Your Inner Critic A Name And Alter Ego.
My inspiration for this exercise came when I read Todd Herman’s ‘The Alter Ego’. Herman refers to the inner critic as the enemy. We’re scared of things we can’t see. By giving the thought a name, we bring it into the light.
When you make it visible, you can challenge your inner critic.
You can take this further by creating an alter ego for your inner critic. Think about what she looks like, how she sounds, and how she behaves.
You can get really creative about this.
Make the alter ego ridiculous.
Something you would laugh at. The more ludicrous you make it, the funnier it becomes.
Have a look at my article What’s Your Inner Critic Called to see what mine looks like.
When your inner critic looks, sounds and behaves ridiculously, you take away its power.
Your inner critic becomes an image to be laughed at. In the same way, when a negative thought enters your mind, imagine your alter ego saying it. You can’t take it seriously. The pain the thought creates is reduced.
Challenge Your Inner Critic In A Journal
For the past five years, I've written in my journal every morning. Believe me, when you write down your thoughts and feelings, there is a sense of freedom.
My advice is to write without a plan. Treat it as an opportunity for a brain dump. Watch as all the toxins in your system are emptied out onto a page. No judgement, no-one to say whether you are right or wrong. Just let it all out.
What surprised me when I started to journal was how I could question the truth of what the inner critic was saying. When you write a negative thought, feel free to argue back. Point out the flaws and back it up with examples of times when you've proven those things aren't true.
Getting into the flow can feel like a rant. All those bitchy thoughts about my shortcomings would soon evolve into something more positive.
You don't need anything fancy to get started. Grab a notebook or create a document on your computer. Decide a time when you will write. If you schedule your writing time, you are more likely to do it.
Because I write every morning, it has become a habit. Write whatever is on your mind. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. You’re not writing something for public consumption, so you can just get into the flow and let it all out.
Writing out your thoughts and feelings can be scary and upsetting, but boy, it can make you feel so much better.
Say It Out Loud And Challenge Your Inner Critic
At the beginning of this article I said that the inner critic likes to whisper so others can't hear it.
Challenge your inner critic by saying the words out loud. Get it out in the open. You don't have to do it in front of anyone else.
When I can't make sense of things I talk out loud to myself - others may think I'm mad, but it really does help.
When you say something out loud, you can hear the statement properly. At that point, you realise how ridiculous it could sound to someone else.
Go on, give it a go. You might surprise yourself.
Your inner critic is made up of the negative thoughts you tell yourself. These thoughts are gathered throughout your life.
While the inner critic’s job is to keep you safe, it also holds you back and can be damaging to your confidence and self-esteem. Although you can’t gain complete freedom from your inner critic, you can learn to challenge your inner critic. To take the sting out of those bitchy thoughts.
To challenge your inner critic, there are several techniques. You can:
- Separate yourself from the thought
- Use compassion
- Create an alter ego and give it a name
- Say it out loud
Which one will you try first?
Remember, challenging your inner critic takes time and energy. This kind of voice doesn't just shut up because you told them to go away once. No, you're going to have to work at it. It's not a quick fix, but the benefits to you and your confidence are amazing.
Your world will change enormously in some pretty great ways. After all, without your critic to hold you back, just imagine what you could achieve!
Let’s kick that bitch out of our lives.
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