Managing Self-Critical Voices
We all have that little voice in our heads. Sometimes it can be really helpful and motivate us to accomplish our goals, but other times it can be overly critical. When our self-talk becomes overly critical, it not only has a negative impact on our minds but also on our bodies as well as the people around us. So, it’s important to learn to manage our self-critical voices and practice being more self-compassionate
Negative self-talk increases a person’s risk of experiencing mental health challenges. It increases people’s stress levels, makes them feel hopeless, and increases feelings of depression. It also leads to limited thinking, lowered abilities to see and in turn capitalize on opportunities as well as increased perfectionism. When these self-critical voices are expressed outwardly, they can also damage relationships.
How to Manage Self-Critical Voices and Negative Self-Talk
There are numerous ways to manage and change our self-critical voices and not all of them will work for everyone. We have provided some starting points for changing the sound of the inner critic.
1. Point out your critic.
- Often we are so used to the voice of our inner critic, as it was developed over a number of years, that we stop recognizing it. So, start paying attention to how you speak to yourself and notice how often you are critical or self-judgemental. It can be helpful to write these down to keep track of patterns in your critic and to identify just how often this voice arises.
- If you’re having trouble pinpointing your inner critic, consider writing down every moment you say something to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone you care about.
2. Be curious.
- It’s challenging to be critical and curious at the same time. When you notice yourself being critical, instead be curious about why you might be feeling a particular way, or where that thought came from. This is a great place to start when thinking about challenging these thoughts that for some of us are ingrained.
3. Give the critic a name.
- Giving the critic a name, such as Judgemental Joey, can bring some levity to the situation and make the hard work of challenging the critical voice more fun. It also allows us to see the voice as something outside of ourself which makes it appear less threatening and easier for us to disagree with.
4. Try to use more neutral language.
- Challenging our inner critic can be challenging and so is switching from negative to positive language. So, try switching to using more neutral language. This can be a great first step before even attempting to challenge these thoughts directly. For example, ‘the weather is shitty’ invokes a negative feeling where ‘it’s been raining for 32 days straight’ is simply a fact.
- Try to reduce your usage of words like bad, good, right, wrong, fat, skinny, ugly, pretty, stupid, smart. Instead, use words like helpful, unhelpful, serving, unserving, comfortable, uncomfortable, interesting, unexpected, challenging, etc.
5. Say the thought out loud.
- It can be easy to believe the thought when it’s inside of our head. Often when we say it out loud, we can hear how ridiculous it sounds and it simply becomes easier to challenge.
6. Challenge your inner critic.
- For many of us, our inner critical voice has existed for a long time unchallenged. Not only because the voice can be so easy to believe, but also because we often don’t share our thoughts with others who may have an easier time challenging them than we do. So, when these thoughts come up, think of what evidence you have for and against the thought.
You deserve compassion and there is no reason why you cannot provide it to yourself. Also, remember these skills take practice. So, as you’re starting this process, don’t beat yourself up when you catch yourself being judgmental. Notice it, the same way you would notice your mind wandering in mindfulness practice, be compassionate and empathetic with yourself and take one small step toward self-compassion. We can all learn to manage our self-critical voices and practice being more compassionate.