Monica DiCristina, MA, LPC
We all know it is there, no one is surprised, but we still usually underestimate the volume and tenacity of our internal critic. You know the one... when you leave a dinner party and get into your car alone to drive home: “Why did I say that?” When you scroll through other people’s edited lives online: “I can’t keep up.” When you consider risking to pursue a new idea: “I’ll probably fail.” Just like the hum of the loud engines on an airplane, when you are hearing it often enough, you can become desensitized to the presence of the noise. It is now the constant vibrating background noise of your life, but at what cost? What might we become with a little more calm silence internally, and how do we quiet the internal critic?
1. Becoming mindful.
Mindfulness is all the rage, but what is it exactly? Really it is just actively paying attention. Start paying attention. Notice the noise. Notice.
2. Name it to tame it.
We cannot tame what we have not yet named. It is like punching in the dark... you might hit something, but chances are you will miss or just hurt yourself. Name your internal critic. Call it to account. I see you, internal critic, and I am going to name you for what you are: an old, critical voice that keeps me from believing in myself.
3. Break up.
It is time for a DTR. We need to define and then redefine the relationship with your internal critic. It may have existed in a misguided attempt to protect you from vulnerability and hurt. But you have outgrown it now, and you don’t need it anymore. Your critic is not your conscience, it is not your motivator, and it is not your friend. Time for a breakup. Thank you, internal critic, but you don’t serve me well anymore.
4. Build up the good.
Speak to yourself like you would to someone you dearly love and respect. Gently and kindly point out what you love about yourself, and what you are grateful for in your life. This isn’t futile silver lining thinking. We can change the way our brain is wired when we focus on what is true.
5. Feed what you want to grow.
Have you ever heard that saying about what you feed will grow and what you starve will die? Well, it is the same way with our internal world. Every time your internal critic pops up, tap your watch and say, “Oh hello, you’re right on time; I was just about to try something new; I expected you.” Greet your critic, then gently turn your attention to a replacement truth: “I am brave and I can try new things. And if I fail, it does not diminish my value.” Every time you choose this, you are feeding the good thought.
6. Give yourself permission to grow.
Sounds funny, right? But we are often oddly loyal to our old ways of thinking and to our old habits, however unhelpful they were. We put pretty curtains on our prison cells and make the best of it because trying something new is scary. Give yourself permission to enjoy who you are and become a freer version of yourself.