We made a mistake. Instead of setting a clear limit and saying that we cannot accept more work, we kept silent despite promising ourselves that we would “take care of ourselves” more “next time”. The superior is gone, and in our head a torrent of thoughts like: That’s what you need when you’re incompetent! What a nice thing you didn’t tell him you couldn’t breathe from work! Oh, no, you’re pretending to be smart and now you’re going to suffer. Well done, you will even stay overtime so that everything arrives …
We all know the inner voice that resents, criticizes us, belittles us, condemns us. This inner voice has several names: judge, saboteur, inner critic, negative inner speech. No matter how good we are at something, our inner critic is never satisfied. He is always facing the worst in our lives. It successfully sabotages our progress, self-confidence, and often overall well-being.
Who or what is our inner critic?
An internal critic or negative speech about ourselves is any internal dialogue we have with ourselves that can limit our ability to believe in ourselves and our abilities and potentials. Every negative thought we have about ourselves diminishes our ability to make positive changes in our lives and undermines the confidence we have in ourselves that we can do so. So, an internal critic can hinder our success. Some other negative consequences are: reduced ability to perceive our real possibilities, thoughts that limit us, perfectionism, feelings of depression, relationship challenges.
What can greatly help us in the “fight” with our inner critic is self-acceptance. Unfortunately, most of us never learn to fully accept ourselves, with all the virtues and flaws. To begin with, let’s pay attention to how we address ourselves. Would we address our best friend like that? Would we, after he made a mistake, tell him that he was a jerk, idiot, incompetent …, condemn him for a mistake, blame him for what happened and the like? If we didn’t address him in that way, then why are we talking to ourselves like that ?!
In order to be able to oppose our inner critic, another way is to confront what he tells us with objective facts by disputing and seeking proof why it is not true. For example, if we say to ourselves “You will never know how to fight for yourself in front of the boss. You are a loser, we can challenge this thought by looking for evidence to the contrary. It is true that this time I did not stand up for myself, but that does not mean I set the limit seven days ago and managed to keep it to the end! Also, it is important to separate our inner critic from our essence and to remind ourselves that we are not our negative thoughts that we have about ourselves.
Change negative inner speech
Do this exercise for a few weeks to change the way you treat yourself in the long run (the author of the exercise is Dr. Neff). If you are someone who likes to write things down, keeping a diary can be great for you. If you are someone who fails to be consistent in keeping a diary, you can speak your thoughts quietly or aloud.
Notice the first step when you are self-critical. Whenever you feel bad about something, think about what you said to yourself. Try to be as accurate as possible, literally recording your inner speech. What words do you use? Are there key phrases that come up again and again? Does your voice remind you of someone in your past who was critical of you?
The second step is to alleviate the negative voice. Do this with compassion for yourself, not self-condemnation for example, do not tell your inner critic leave me alone, but let my inner compassion say a few words.
The third step is to reshape your inner critic in a friendly way. If you have trouble thinking about which words to use, you can imagine what a very compassionate friend would say to you in this situation. It is important to start treating yourself kindly, even when it is unusual for you, because over time, a feeling of real warmth and care will follow.
Replace a bad habit with a good one
Replace your inner critic with self-compassion, which will support and encourage you more. It takes time and perseverance to acquire this new habit. By repeating the compassionate instead of accusing thoughts you direct to yourself, you come to listen to and hear your inner critic less and less. It’s a good way to develop more positive thinking about yourself, others, and life in general.