How to silence your inner critic and feel a lot better about yourself
Question: Do you remember that very unpleasant remark a colleague lashed out at you long ago as though it happened yesterday?
And the weeks of stressful mediations triggered by that incident?
Isn’t it true that you clearly remember the impact a negative event had on you years ago?
Now, how about that wonderful feeling you felt when you reached the peak of that spectacular summit in Switzerland?
Do you remember it as clearly as the anxiety you felt when you walked through the door of that mediation room?
Let me answer that for you.
You remember much more clearly the negative events in your life than the positive ones.
How can I be so certain?
Because the survival of the human species has conditioned all of us to pay more attention to the negative than to the positive.
It is what’s known as “Negative Bias”.
Negative Bias is the answer to the stressful environment where our ancestors lived, forcing them to always be on alert mode, constantly aware of the many threats in their environment in order to survive.
This tendency in our brain it what has developed and kept us alive successfully for thousands of years.
Today we don’t (always) have to worry about predators and similar threats and therefore, it is not always necessary to live in a permanent survival mode.
And yet, the negative tendencies of our brain continue to prevail.
Something which, rather than benefiting us, tends to put a very serious dent on our way of thinking and our behavior.
Can we combat such a deep-seated trend in our personality?
Let me show you how.
1- Be aware of your “inner speech”
One of the simplest ways to minimize the power of our “negative bias” is to be aware of our inner discourse and its tendencies to take us down the path of negativity.
Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist of Jewish origin defined the inner discourse “not as the inner representation of our external speech, but as a function in itself. It is still a speech, that is, thought connected with words. But while in the external discourse the thought is embodied in words, in the internal language the words die as they produce thought.”
As we have seen, that inner discourse which, at first glance might appear to be extremely rich and even harmless, can become a very serious self-sabotage weapon.
That’s why we must be aware of this innate tendency in humans and learn to identify it.
We have to accept its existence and recognize it without judging.
Give it permission to speak.
Listen to our inner voice, without being judgemental about its content.
We simply must accept it as part of our being, but deny it to become our greatest enemy.
But what if, after being aware of your inner discourse and your tendency towards negativity, you cannot “tame” it and it continues on being its cheeky and persistent self?
Start by recognizing that it is not you talking, but your past experiences.
And try to apply some of the following suggestions:
2- Mind the words and the tone you use in your inner speech
The sublime Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi once said:
“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”
How very true are these words, even today!
Because, don’t we all try to choose the words we use when talking to people around us?
But, are we as careful about the way we talk to ourselves?
Not at all.
Shouldn’t we watch the words we use in our mind?
Shouldn’t we watch the tone of voice we use to talk to ourselves?
Why don’t we try to be a little more self-compassionate?
Or a lot!
We would undoubtedly feel much better and live in a much more positive mood.
The question is: how can you “tone down” your inner critic and develop a positive and encouraging conversation?
- Eliminate “I have to” and “I must” from your inner vocabulary and replace phrases of this sort with less demanding expressions such as “I would like to” or “I would love to”.
- Be aware of general criticism and disqualification in your thinking and substitute it for specific behaviors. That is, instead of “I am an irresponsible (always)” try to be specific about a situation in which you have acted irresponsibly but you can redress with a little intention.
- Rephrase any negative thoughts or sentences in your mind in more positive terms to focus your attention on the good things in your life.
That is, instead of: “We will never finish our house renovations” try to think in positive terms like “We’ve come such a long way and have done such good work without knowing barely anything about design and construction. We are going to have a beautiful home! “
- Replace radical words and generalizations with less blunt words. Avoid all the “all”, “always”, and “never”, as well as “the worst”.
3- Observe your inner speech and apply self-compassion to the process
Several studies have proven that we can only achieve a balance of positive and negative emotions with a ratio of 5 to 1. In other words – 5 small moments of happiness equal to 1 moment of negativity.
What does that mean?
That, what really counts in our life is the frequency of our happy moments.
Not the intensity.
A big birthday bash once a year, is great.
But what really tips the balance off are the everyday smiles, the meals with friends, the walks outdoors, the moments of introspection …
That is why it’s so important that we are aware of what we think and say.
I personally observe what I am thinking several times a day.
I invite you to try it too.
You can start doing this simple exercise for ten days.
Set your 1 or 2 alarms on your cell phone to remind you that it’s time to pause and look inside.
It is time to remind you that you are a human being and that this whirlwind of thoughts is totally natural.
Take those seconds or minutes to talk to yourself with kindness, without judging or blaming yourself.
Take those seconds or minutes to shower yourself with some compassion.
Because that self-compassion is what will help you silence your inner critic today. Tomorrow. And always.
Don’t give up and you will soon see how your emotions feel a lot more balanced!
Don’t think you’ll have the patience to apply these suggestions to your life on your own? Get in contact
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