5 Steps to Quiet That Voice In Your Head
That voice in your head can be a real mood killer, huh? But to call this voice an “inner critic” might be the greatest understatement the self-help world has ever used. I don’t know about you, but my “inner critic” is actually the most passive-aggressive, manipulative, and uncompassionate voice I’ve ever heard in my life. Think Satan meets the evil girlfriend from The Parent Trap.
To call this voice a “critic” is like calling the clown from It “not that scary”.
In fact, just the other day my grandma’s name flashed across my phone, and I had 3 instantaneous thoughts run through my head.
- “You’re in trouble, Christiana! You totally forgot to do something!” **cue frantic worry**
- “I bet she’s mad at you for not calling more often.” **cue shame**
- “Someone’s hurt!” **cue fear**
As I sat there looking at my phone, I didn’t know whether to answer, throw up, send it to voicemail, or curl into the fetal position and hope for the best.
(P.S. It was my grandma calling to ask how I was doing.)
While this inner dialogue may seem like the musings of a madwoman, our critics are ultimately just a survival mechanism trying to keep us alive (Thanks, I guess?). Think cavemen…when they heard the snap of a twig, only the ones who thought, “I bet that’s an animal coming to kill me” were the ones who survived! The reward for negativity was your life, so naturally the ones who survived long enough to procreate are the ones we can thank for that lovely inner dialogue we listen to every day.
This makes quieting this voice seem like an impossible task…because truthfully it (almost) is!
I know I said I was going to help you “quiet your inner critic” but really what I’m helping you do is manage this voice. I like to think of it like my coffee addiction. I can never make my desire for lattes go away, but I can learn how to limit myself to a healthy number and understand that sometimes I don’t really need caffeine but rather real food.
I want to give you tools, tricks, and tips to make this voice less loud, understand what it’s trying to tell you, and make it so that you don’t feel so bad about yourself when you make a mistake, aren’t perfect, or haven’t been able to become the female president of the world yet.
So without further adieu, let’s manage that critic!
GIVE IT A NAME
You’re going to think I’m totally bizarre, but go with me here. Give your inner critic a real name. Why? By giving this voice a name, you’re creating a separation between you and this voice. Those thoughts in your head, those negative voices? They’re NOT you! Think of them like noisy neighbors you can hear through thin walls. Just because your neighbors are fussy about the price of the water bill or their bank account balance doesn’t mean you have to be, too. Learn to hear those, “You’re a failure” thoughts and be able to respond with, “Wow, thanks but no thanks for that lovely insight, Ethel”. The name both provides a bit of humor and helps you realize you’re better than this voice.
AWARENESS IS KEY
Have you ever had a cold that totally snuck up on you? One night you go to bed feeling totally normal and the next morning it’s like a 14th century plague took up residence in your body. Your inner critic operates the same way sometimes. One minute you feel totally normal going about your day and later that evening find yourself crying into a half-eaten bag of Dove chocolates. That voice is sneaky, and it can subtly chip away at your confidence and self-image until your defenses are totally down and you have no idea why you’re so on edge or set off so easily. Awareness is key! Know what your inner critic is telling you so you can become aware that you’re under attack.
KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS
Speaking of awareness, it’s critical that you’re aware of your triggers to know how to manage your inner critic. Often our triggers can be identified by our “If/then” statements. Example: If I lose weight and am skinny, then I will be happy. If I get promoted, then I will be enough. Once you know your if/then statements (which aren’t true by the way), you can know what situations are going to trigger an inner verbal battle from you-know-who. For me, I know that I’m often triggered when I play volleyball these days because my if/then statement is, “If I don’t mess up, then I’m worthy”. You can imagine the pressure I put myself under, BUT knowing my triggers and being able to call myself out before the verbal onslaught happens does a heck of a lot for my confidence and self-esteem!
BE REAL WITH YOURSELF
I mentioned this earlier, but at the heart of your inner critic’s endless chatter is a desire to keep you safe. The mean words, the cutting phrases are all due to the stories you’ve learned from past situations you’ve been in in your life. Since this voice is in a weird, twisted way trying to help you, you can better manage it by getting to the heart of the issue and asking yourself the following questions: Is there actually something that needs to change? What’s the truth in this? Am I playing the victim/the gossiper/the mean girl/the rebel and does that need to change? When you can be real with yourself, find the gold nugget of truth, and make some positive changes, that particular voice often goes away.
END THE GOSSIP TRAIN
This goes without saying, but you can’t expect to manage your inner critic if your actual voice is being critical of others. Think about it: doesn’t every bully in movies have some deep seeded fear of not being worth or enough? Yep. And gossiping isn’t just, “Oh did you hear what so-and-so did last weekend??” chatter either. If you’re commenting on other people’s bodies, remarking about how they look, putting others down when you look at their Instagram, or ANYTHING that you wouldn’t say directly to their face, you’re gossiping…and that has to stop. The only way you can feel great, beautiful, smart, worthy, and enough is to view others that way as well. The gossip train has left the station.
And when all else fails, I like to remind myself of 1 important thing. I’m doing my best, and that’s all I can ask for. When you can remind yourself of that and believe it, you’re headed in the right direction. Plus, all 5 of these steps are helping you on your bravery journey!
How do you quiet your inner critic?