Find out how you can move away from negative self-talk to grow your self-love in this blog post.
(The following content has been approved by our psychologists.)
“How stupid am I!“
“I am not good enough to get this job“
“I am not good enough to be with that guy“
“I don’t belong here“
“I can never do anything right“
“I should just give up“
Do you recognise these harsh negative words? Many of us have this cruel nagging voice in our head that constantly tells us things such as how unworthy we are, how despicable and unloved we are, and how much we don’t deserve happiness.
If we pay close attention to what we say to ourselves, we may be surprised how unloving we are towards ourselves. Would we allow our friends and family to say such words to us? No! But as soon as something good is about to happen to us, our own inner nit-picker pops into our head and takes over our decisions and actions. Just think about it.
How many times did we not speak up in a meeting because of fear of saying something stupid? How many times did we not ask for what we want because of thoughts associated with feeling undeserving? How many times did we avoid talking to that cute guy for the fear of being rejected? So many missed opportunities!
Where does our inner critic come from?
This inner critic within us, is an internalised voice that has been hanging around for many years. Our habitual set of behaviors, memories, emotional reactions, unconscious habits, hardwired beliefs, attitudes and perceptions shape us over years.
The roots of our inner critic can be traced back to our childhood. During our childhood, we internalised our interaction with our caregivers, parents, teachers, family members and peers in our lives and learned to self-relate in the same manner.
So, if the caregiver tells a child that they are stupid, bad, or worthless, the child cannot help but believe this at some level. In other words, an inner critic is the combination of negative messages we received in the past.
Our critical internal monologue has a huge impact on our life and our overall mental wellbeing. It can become either a friend or foe. Our positive inner critic can be a friend by pushing us to become better and giving gentle nudges to get back on track, but our harsh negative inner critic is an enemy.
Brené Brown, Ph.D., professor at the University Of Houston Graduate College Of Social Work, refers to this negative self-talk as shame.
She believes if shame is left to its own devices, it can destroy our lives.
This incessant internal monologue criticizes us, belittles us and drags us down. It constantly magnifies the bad and minimizes the good in our lives. It lowers our self-esteem and keeps us stuck in our comfort zone, scared and paralysed.
It’s a form of self-sabotage that doesn’t allow us to move our life forward. Not only does it make us judge and shame ourselves, it also constantly evaluates other people and their intentions, leading to bitter thoughts and ruined relationships.
If we don’t learn how to transform our inner voice from being cruel to being friendly, calm and encouraging, it can be a deeply damaging force in our life.
We often put so much effort into making everyone else like us. But the truth is, nothing will change until we love ourselves. To improve our self-esteem, it is really important that we tame this little monster in our head and change the way we talk to ourselves and create a healthier self-image.
In the words of renowned therapist, Marissa Peer:
“Every word you say is a blueprint that your mind, body and psyche want to make a reality“.
How can we conquer our inner critic?
1. Accept your inner critic
First, try to observe how self-criticism operates inside us. We need to make ourselves aware of how we talk to ourselves during difficult situations.
Once we are mindful of our inner dialogue and the words we use with ourselves, we can step back from the criticism and observe it calmly, seeing it as a separate entity operating within us.
This kind of calm witnessing will allow the inner critic to become less intense and more reasonable. In simple words, we can witness it, hear it but we don’t need to be it. As the world-renowned author, Mel Robbins says:
“Feelings happen. Doubt happens. What will you do with that story your brain is telling you? Will you buy into it? Or will you observe it, acknowledge it, and let it pass? The choice is always yours.”
2. Develop Self-compassion
Self-compassion is the antidote to self-criticism. When the inner critic starts pounding away, turn to your inner nurturer as a refuge and an ally. This part of ourselves is protective and encouraging when other people are critical of us or when things are stressful, disappointing or terrible.
During the moments of doubt, if we can extend empathy to ourselves, our inner-critic simply can’t survive. If we can say to ourselves, “I understand these thoughts but they aren’t true “, we can easily quiet our negative self-talk.
3. Imagine your inner critic as a silly character
To dim our inner critic, Brown suggests to give our negative inner critic a name. She calls hers Gremlin. Or maybe imagine it as a silly character like heihei, the incredibly stupid chicken from Moana movie. Once we see our inner critic as a silly character, we can already stop taking it seriously and lighten everything up.
4. Gently challenge your inner critic
Our inner critic feeds on us buying into what it says. We need to learn to argue against it and truly intend to win; and then spin the negative talk to possible For every ‘I can’t’ replace it with ‘I might ‘. Take actions not on the basis of what your inner critic tells you but on the basis of what you value, who you want to be and what you aim to achieve.
Our opinion of ourselves becomes our reality. Whatever we think and believe of ourselves, our brain will work hard each day to find the evidence to prove our thoughts right.
Therefore, we need to quiet our inner critic to and let our nurturing voice guide us to move further in life.
We need to believe in ourselves and stop holding ourselves back in life. Just remember, no one belongs here more than you!