- Jed Murphree, LPC
Changing Your Negative Inner Critic
A number of people I work with report to having a very loud and negative inner critic.
What they are referring to is an inner voice (similar to our conscience) that we all possess that speaks up from time to time and critiques a decision, choice, or action we have made. This critic is a very necessary component in life; it deserves to be acknowledged, and has an important role in appraising and guiding our behavior.
However, problems occur when the critic is overly active and observant, or negative, pessimistic, unrelenting, or abusive; basically too critical by far. For whatever the reason, that inner voice finds very little positive or good in individual actions and sees no benefit from any effort that has been made. That "critic" attacks and tears down, and little else. It reports on failures, maximizes mistakes, and belittles through simple blunt force of its repetitive fault finding dialogue.
One way to start dealing with this aspect of ourselves is to ask this question: to whom does the voice of my inner critic belong?
Another way to look at the critic is to see the it as the messages we have heard from our parents, family, teachers, employers, friends, and acquaintances from our past that have been internalized, really taken to heart. Those messages that have stuck around, for good and for bad and everything in between. As we have grown up, adapted, and changed, so to has our inner critic.
Knowing who your critic is, along with when and where in your past it comes from provides a means with which to begin quieting it. Going after the critic aggressively and angrily is often ineffective and can only make it's voice that much louder. Instead, being aware of who's voice the critic uses helps to challenge the negative messages and question just how accurate and valid the critique is.
Certainly this is way to talk about, hard to put into practice when you first start.
That's just it, start to practice. Its okay to question what the critic says and challenge just how real the assessment is. You can tell it: "Thanks for the input. I've got this now. You have nothing else to add. I will not repeat the same mistake."
Look for the evidence that tells you your critic is wrong and inaccurate. Dispute your critic, it's okay to tell it where to go when its input is not needed.
If you feel you that you can't give yourself that kind talking to, ask a friend, your partner, or anyone whose opinion your trust and feel comfortable asking. What's important is a willingness to listen to someone else. All you may need is that nudge from someone outside yourself to set the critic straight or to quiet the chatter.
And if things are bad, consider seeking professional help, even for just a short period of time. Consistent negative self appraisal, a fancy way of saying that you are really, really hard on yourself, is often a sign of something more serious going on that deserves attention. It can get better.
You'll thank yourself later. Just remember, mental health matters.