Every single one of us has an inner critical voice. It’s the voice we talk to ourselves with in our head, that helps us make sense of things but that can also be incredibly critical of our actions. Usually we have a handle on this voice, but when we feel stressed, tired, anxious or in anyway vulnerable, we can rapidly lose control and allow our inner critic to take over.
My post 3 Ways To Take Control Of Your Inner Critic looked at some of the ways we can learn to take the control back, however sometimes it’s not necessarily about needing to take control but more about being able to quieten down the voice for a little while. It might surprise you to hear that your inner voice does actually have a positive purpose – to help you recognise when you’ve done something wrong and to then work out the ways to make things right. Therefore, we don’t want to mute it entirely, but we could certainly do with working out how to drown it out when it gets a bit too loud.
Read on to discover a few ways to help you to quieten down your inner critical voice:
When the negative chatter gets too much one of the best things you can do to take your mind off it is to shift the focus and distract yourself with something that requires your full attention. Now, this doesn’t need to be anything massive, I’m not asking you to go skydiving or fly to the moon (OK bit extreme I know, sorry about that!), but it does involve you finding something physical to do rather than a mentally oriented task. And I’ll explain why it needs to be a physical activity, because the irony is that as I’m sat here writing this post my inner critic is having an absolute field day, telling me that what I’m writing is rubbish and that it’s taking me too long. It is doing its utmost to turn the tables by trying to prevent me from doing what I need to do by dangling distraction in the form of biscuits, Facebook and videos about people with Tourette’s attempting to make cakes (yep seriously, I am so easily distracted). And if I’m honest, it’s winning. This is taking me too long to write.
You need to break the cycle and take yourself out of a situation by distracting your inner critical voice with a different task for a while. Change the busy chatter thoughts to experiential ones – clean the house, sort the kitchen drawers, do the washing up, anything at all to take your mind away from that nasty niggly voice in your head – and then come back to it. Your head will be so much clearer and you’ll also have done something productive with your time rather than, for instance, sitting blankly at a screen feeling rubbish about yourself (been there, done that). So rather than plug away at something, which in fact only serves to feed your inner critic further, you need to take yourself away and deny it what it craves.
Play It Loud
Sometimes you just gotta blast that beastie out, so bung on your fave tunes and turn that volume up to high!
We all know how emotive music is and listening to something that is upbeat and that makes you want to dance around your kitchen is guaranteed to lift your spirits. And when you’re feeling that good, even the nastiest mind gremlin struggles to compete against those melodious positive vibes.
This is about drowning out the bad so that it gives you a chance to reset, put things in perspective, and to think clearly without being influenced. Why not have a go at compiling your own gremlin playlist, so that whenever you start to hear the unwelcome voice creeping back in, you can simply utter those powerful words, “OK Google, play gremlin playlist’.
I know the self care label gets bandied around a lot these days and the very definition of it can mean so many different things to different people, but no matter how you define it a lot can be said for taking the time to provide yourself with some form of care.
Small acts of self care could include:
- Having an uninterrupted bath.
- Having an early night.
- Sitting in the garden with a cuppa.
- Blow drying your hair.
- Filing your nails.
- Putting on your favourite dress.
- Wearing matching underwear.
- Eating chocolate and not feeling guilty about it.
I know these may seem like really inconsequential things, but we don’t always allow ourselves to take the time to do these very small and simple things for ourselves. How often have you felt as though you’re bottom of the pile? As though your needs come way below those of the rest of your family? You may think you’re the glue that holds them together, but what good are you to them if you burnout from the enormity of it and what example are you setting if you don’t show them that you are important and need looking after too?
By looking after yourself in even the tiniest of ways, it communicates a level of self respect, a sense of worth, that all helps to put your inner critic back in its place. Because with self worth comes confidence and strength, and with that comes the ability to look your inner critic square in the eye and say “do you know what, I’m not listening to you, because I can, I will, and I am in control of me”. This empowerment of the self is a liberation. It frees you from your negative mind state and allows you to reach your true potential. Yes, that inner critical voice is still lurking in there, but now you have the tools to turn it away when it arrives uninvited.
Escape For A While
Depending on your personality type and of course the type of situation you find yourself in when your inner critic rears its ugly head, you will respond with either a fight or flight reaction. If you haven’t heard of the fight or flight response let me explain. It’s pretty simple really in that when something happens that is stressful to you, or that you see as a risk in some way you will either react to it by running away (flight) or by standing your ground (fight). There is nothing cowardly about running and likewise it doesn’t make you braver by staying put, most of the time it is an automatic response that we cannot control, so you might find that the best way to deal with your inner critical voice is to simply walk away from it.
Escaping from a stressful, tricky, or overwhelming situation could mean something as quick and easy as stepping away from your laptop for a few minutes. Other times it may require slightly more drastic action and involve you having to completely stop what you’re doing for a much longer period of time. In instances like this it is always more productive to leave, rather than trying to battle it out and end up making yourself feel worse. You could try going out for a run, sitting out in your garden with a cuppa, taking the dog for a walk, or even doing your grocery shopping, anything at all that allows you to escape.
This break allows you to make sense and to rationalise, so that when you return you are clearer, stronger and better equipped at ignoring those negative thoughts.
Listen To A Different Voice
When the voice is loud and when you really can’t get yourself out of the funk you’re feeling, perhaps it’s time to introduce a different voice into the mix. It’s amazing how a different perspective can shine a positive light onto something that to you looks so dark. Call a family member, arrange to meet up with a friend, hey go and chat to your neighbour over the fence or strike up a conversation with a stranger in the supermarket, it doesn’t matter who it is or what you chat about, just get yourself away from your own mind for a while!
It’s also really important to remember that you would never talk to a friend in the same way that you allow your inner critical voice to talk to you – you just wouldn’t. In order to teach yourself that it is unacceptable to treat yourself in this way you should think about the connections you have in your life. Try to build relationships with people who are positive and who build you up and then pay attention to how this makes you feel. The more you hear good things about yourself, the more likely you are to come to believe them and this will do wonders for your self esteem, which in turn will lessen the impact of your inner saboteur.
Work It Out
Exercise isn’t just great for physical health, it is also a wonder tonic for good mental health too. If your mind feels too full, too chaotic, too restless, and your inner critic is particularly loud and disparaging, in my personal opinion there is nothing that sorts this out better than either going for a run, or smashing out a strength workout.
It’s strange because you’d think more time on your own would make the problem worse, but actually the movement and rush of endorphins helps to flush out the negativity. I guess having the time to confront your inner critic head on, shifts the position of power, from it to you. And when you feel strong physically it inevitably makes you feel stronger mentally too.
The ‘flushing out’ process also helps me to increase my creativity and allows me to think outside the box if you like. I get some of my best writing ideas in the middle of a run – so much so that I sometimes have to stop and frantically type it out into my phone for fear of forgetting it all by the time I get home.
Your inner critical voice hates mental clarity and this is exactly what exercise gives you.
Learning how to handle your inner critical voice is an incredibly useful skill to have and don’t get me wrong it takes time. Like any new skill you won’t master it overnight, and there will be mistakes made along the way (your inner critic will make sure of that!), but once you’ve got it even just a tiny bit sussed, oh my goodness it feels good!
How Do You Handle Your Inner Critical Voice?
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Becky Stafferton is a full time blogger over on her website The Art of Healthy Living, mum of 2 and certified Queen of the hashtags. She continually strives to promote a realistic, sustainable and positive image of how to lead a healthy life. When she’s not writing or reading her teenage diary she can be found swigging Prosecco from the bottle, running through muddy puddles, making lists of lists, having a good old moan, scoffing flapjacks and squatting like her life depends on it.