Our inner critic is probably one of our worst enemies and yet we often hamper and pamper it and give it so much more space in our lives than it deserves. We beat ourselves up, we judge ourselves, compare ourselves to others. Why does it seem so challenging, so difficult to shut the inner critic out and silence it?
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
The power of the inner critic differs for every individual and depends on many factors. It starts early in our childhood.
Were we accepted by the people around us as we are?
Were we encouraged and challenged?
Were we praised or blamed?
Were the good things taken for granted and the bad things overrated?
Were we constantly criticised and made to feel inadequate?
Were we strengthened and motivated?
Did we feel the need to always be better than others to be recognised or even loved?
I believe that this is the basis for the power that the inner critic has over us in our life.
But also in later life as we grow up, our inner critic is nourished again and again – today more than ever, especially through social media and the constant presence of any kind of media. We are shown an ideal at every turn that really no one can possibly live up to.
It is suggested to us that we are
not good enough not smart enough
not slim enough
not pretty enough
not lovable enough
simply not enough…
if we do not fit into a certain norm.
We react so much easier and stronger to negatives, often even finding it difficult to accept a kind word or a compliment. There is a quote from the film Pretty Woman that describes just that (from minute 1.18) so perfectly how we often feel.
But how can you deal and even silence your inner critic?
The first step to reduce the volume of the inner critic is to become aware of what it is trying to tell us. Unfortunately the messages the inner critic sends us are often inn our unconscious.
The beliefs of the inner critic that we have internalised since childhood often run unconsciously and it is not always easy to make ourselves aware of these. But if we do manage to recognise and grasp these recurring patterns and habits that we have been following almost religiously, we have the chance to reduce and even take away their power over us.
The Enneagram is an unbelievably great tool in quickly getting to the bottom of this.
What follows is possibly the most difficult part in silencing our inner critic. To get our of this spiral of negativity and self loathing and belittling ourselves, it is essential to rephrase what the inner critic is telling us and making ourselves aware what our strenghts and abilities are.
So instead of doubting ourselves we can have an inner dialog telling ourselves that we are
good enough and smart enough
in a perfect body
and we are special and it is a good thing that we do not fit into a certain norm.
We are usually taught to overcome and work on our weaknesses an overcome these instead of strengthening our strengths – which is so much more fun and satisfying. The funny thing is that when you play on your strengths, is that you have a sense of achievement, which in turn strengthens your self-confidence and thus compensates for your possible weaknesses, making these less relevant. Unfortunately, the messages that our inner critic sends us very often run subconsciously. It is all the more important to bring them into our consciousness so that we can take away their power over us by rephrasing them.
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”
– Marilyn Monroe
I suppose we all have our inner critic and it can even be a good thing, something that encourages us to become better, to work on ourselves without belittling ourselves, allowing us to grow. It might sound like a contradiction to what I said before – to not work on your weaknesses or shortcomings – but both is possible in the end. If you imagine you inner critic like the angel and devil sitting on your shoulders and the dialog they might have, helping you decide if the message you are hearing is worth listening to or if there are arguments against it…
Knowing what you are up against is definitely a help in silencing your inner critic and perhaps you even manage to make him an ally.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
– Oscar Wilde