Imagine that you knew someone who was always critical of others. She would always let you know when you’ve put on weight, or shakes your confidence right before an important presentation. She might even point out your flaws before a date, or say that you aren’t deserving of good things. If you had a friend like this, you would distance yourself from them, right? No one needs that amount of negativity in their lives! But the question is, if we wouldn’t accept this level of criticism from those around us, why do we accept it from ourselves? Although a little self-criticism is a good thing, we allow ourselves to get away with so much negative self-talk, that we often criticize ourselves subconsciously, it almost becomes background noise. This consequently impacts on our self-esteem and confidence in several situations. Thankfully, there are many useful strategies that we can use to silence our inner critics.
1. Listen to negative thoughts
This might seem slightly contradictory, however how is someone meant to silence their inner critic if they aren’t fully aware of it? By objectively listening to some of your negative thoughts, we can catch ourselves in the moment. Most of our negative thoughts are a result of insecurities. Therefore, by taking time to actually listen to what you think about yourself, you will often find that your self-criticism is excessive and untrue. Actively listening to negative thoughts allows us to catch and challenge what we might be subconsciously thinking about ourselves.
2. Get productive
Often, self-criticism is unwarranted, excessive, and over the top. However, some of our criticism is towards real issues that we cannot ignore; we have to address them. If there are certain aspects of your lifestyle that need improving, then actively do something about it. Try not to sit and listen to negative self-talk and allow yourself to get down on yourself, make a list of things that you might be able to change to make yourself feel better. Being negative towards yourself is never okay and it is certainly counter productive. Instead, take active steps to improve. Set goals and track your progress. Even if you end up taking baby steps, gradually improving an area of your life which you are unhappy with, will replace negative thoughts with positive ones and consequently silence your inner critic.
3. Remind yourself of how great you are
Sometimes the only way we can silence our inner critic is to completely drown it out with positive statements. By this, I don’t mean sitting in front of a mirror reciting positive affirmations (although, if this works for you, go for it!). What I mean by positive statements is giving yourself a pep talk when you are being particularly critical on yourself. A helpful tip is to write a list of all your strengths, and place it in your wallet for when you are feeling low. Whenever you begin to engage in negative self-talk, take out your list and remind yourself of everything you are great at. This is not about bragging or trying to inflate your own ego, it is about being honest with yourself regarding all the things you do well. Sometimes we just need a reminder of how amazing we actually are.
4. Try the power of ‘possible’ thinking
It is all well and good to try and ‘think positive,’ it’s another thing to believe what you tell yourself. Possible thinking, is a technique which involves developing neutral, helpful thoughts to deal with situations. For example, if someone has a negative thought that they are ‘a fat cow,’ a neutral, possible thought could be ‘I would like to lose 3 kilograms, and I know I can do it.’ The facts give you choice and goal setting abilities, to help steer you in the right direction. You might be skeptical about this one, but give it a go!
5. Put yourself in your friends’ shoes: what would they think?
A quick way to stop your negative self-talk is to think of a friend and imagine what she would say to you. “Which is probably, ‘Oh please, you are not fat,’ or “I’m sure you didn’t really ruin your career in the presentation.’ Another great rule is to think about what you are saying, and if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, then do not say it to yourself!