This concept is a complex topic for most people. It is normal to struggle with that annoying voice inside your head. Cognitive dissonance occurs when you know the right things to do yet find difficulty doing them. Eating better, more exercise, and better rest are some prominent examples. You can quickly become critical of yourself with these and other issues in your life. The secret to a positive self-image is understanding where your negative self-image comes from and reacting differently.
Your inner critic is that voice inside your head. You are not good enough, smart enough, or thin enough. In some cases, it makes you think you are an imposter when you are successful. You feed the critic by allowing it to fester in your mind. The secret is to get these thoughts into your consciousness and be aware of what you are telling yourself. It is crucial to get this thinking into the light by exploring your darkest ideas about yourself.
“[Your inner critic] developed to protect your vulnerability by helping you to adapt to the world around you and to meet its requirements, whatever they might be…. It makes you acceptable to others by criticizing and correcting your behavior before other people could criticize or reject you. In this way, it reasoned, it could earn love and protection for you as well as save you much shame and hurt.” – Hal Stone
One way to mitigate the inner critic is to honor it. Everyone’s inner critic is both well-intentioned and unprepared to serve you well in life. Your inner critic must mature and become self-aware for you to teach it how to adapt to the competent, effective leader you need to become. Invite the inner critic to reveal itself to you. Determine what gives you wise counsel and listen.
According to Lisa Firestone with Psychology Today, when we fail to identify and separate from this inner critic, we allow it to impact our behavior and shape the direction of our lives. It may sabotage our successes or our relationships, preventing us from living the lives we want to lead and becoming the people we seek to be.
Another way to tame your inner critic is to write these critical thoughts down. This action helps you see these thoughts from another point of view as untrue. Then write what you think about the written statements upon purposeful reflection. You will realize how absurd these thoughts are by shedding reality on them. They are often merely thought distortions rather than reality. By identifying, separating, and acting against this destructive thought process, you will grow more robust, and your inner critic grows weaker.
Remind yourself there is an inner champion in your mind as well. This champion believes in you and your ability to accomplish success however you define it. You are worthy, meaningful, and successful for a reason. The inner champion can defeat the critic by exercising itself in your mind. Your past actions (good and bad) have created you as the person you are today. Own it.
Try regarding your inner critic as something that lacks credibility — imagine it as a ridiculous character, like a silly cartoon villain. -Rick Hanson
Notice other people’s qualities that are like your own. Validate yourself as someone successful. They are just like you when they exhibit specific characteristics or behaviors. We learn that comparing ourselves to others is a bad idea. That is not always the case. Mirroring positivity in others can be a powerful weapon against your inner critic.
You can also use the third person point of view by imagining how other people see you. They admire your difficult choices and the obstacles you overcame to be where you are in life. You went back to school, published a book, or started a successful business. In my mastermind group, I often get members to state what they admire about others in the group openly. It is a potent activity that stirs emotions. Do this activity for yourself.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” ~William Shakespeare
Finally, remember the inner voice is your creation. It is an internal thought that may have been planted long ago by someone critical of you. However, it now resides in your mind. You own it, and you can control it when you choose to do so. I am not saying it is easy, but it is possible. Choosing to listen to your inner champion takes practice. The remembering self is different from the experiencing self. What you remember about your past is not the way you experienced it in real life.
Thought distortions are legitimate in life. Also known as cognitive distortions by the academic community, psychiatrist Aaron Beck pioneered research on cognitive distortions in his development of a treatment method known as cognitive behavioral therapy in the 1960s. Examples are polarized thinking, overgeneralizations, and catastrophizing. Cognitive distortions are thoughts that cause individuals to perceive reality inaccurately. During difficult circumstances, these distorted thoughts contribute to a negative outlook on the world and about us.
I grew up with thought distortions about food. Without going into detail, I learned how to eat differently in the last six months and permanently lost a significant amount of weight. If you want to learn more about that, contact me at www.johngrubbs.com. The inner critic about my body never helped me achieve success. It only caused me to make decisions that were counterproductive to achieving a healthy lifestyle. In short, my inner critic was ignorant (did not know better) about the way to achieve better health. And worse, I listened for many years.
If you listen to an ignorant inner critic, you can learn to listen to your internal champion. You can unlearn bad habits, and you can achieve harmony with reality. Realize you are fighting thought distortions. No matter the reason, you can rethink what success looks like in your life. A friend of mine calls the future self his avatar. Create the avatar of your future self. Make your hero the person you want to become in five years.