Have you ever heard of this inner voice in your head telling you what you should do or should not do or questioning if your actions make sense?
That’s what we call the inner critic. It’s important to appreciate the role that it plays - often it feels as if it helps motivate us to achieve goals or improve ourselves to be more acceptable. However, it does so at the cost of steering us into unhealthy perfectionism and shame. unhealthy perfectionism is a result of trying to meet unrealistic expectations, either those we think others have of us, or those we expect of ourselves. This may lead to negative emotions and self-perception
According to researcher and author Brené Brown, unhealthy perfectionism can be amplified by some environmental and cultural factors like social media, cultural values, or peers. She calls this “hustling for worthiness”.
Feeling like we failed at meeting these external standards creates a sense of shame and further reinforces the self-critical voice. Given the current social climate it is very easy to fall into unhealthy perfectionism so it’s really important that we know simple ways to quiet our inner critic.
3 Ways to Quiet the Inner Critic
Name your Inner Critic - One way to start creating some distance between you and your inner critic is simply to identify it and give it a name! For example, in an anecdote given by a clinical psychologist (Dr. Tara Cousineau), a client named their critic "Monica" inspired by the Friends' character Monica who is pretty controlling and detail oriented. Once you give your critic a name, it’s easier to respond to it next time when it’s making you feel bad. This might look like: “Hey, Monica, this is not helpful right now. I’ve got it.”
Change the Script - So, any negative words and emotions can provide you hints. Hints to befriend this self-critic and to reassure it during moments of struggle or uncertainty. Overtime, this will help you cultivate resilience but still maintain a soft heart which in turn allows you to embrace failure. If the critic says “You should do this right now before it's too late!” The hint is that the critic is trying to rush you to do something. Try to reassure it, for example : “I know you want me to do this right now, but I can assure you it's not the right time.” You can even say it out loud or write down your responses to the critic in a journal.
Practice Self Kindness and Compassion - Create messages of kindness which you can play or read on repeat to calm your body and mind in moments of self-criticism. Whatever message you choose, remember to:
1. Be Clear
2. Be authentic and true to your experience, and
3. Use a kind tone.
Here’s also a 5-min self-compassion meditation from a well-known researcher Kristin Neff: https://insighttimer.com/kristinneff/guided-meditations/self-compassion-break-19
Despite the prevalence of the inner critic, try your best to not let it take centre stage.
It can play a role in motivating you and can prevent you from negative emotions but it can just as easily become dangerous if you start surrounding your goals based on the expectation of others as it can affect your judgement.
So be patient and always remember to be kind to yourself 💗.