When starting a business or going after my goals, overcoming negativity from well-meaning friends was one of the toughest things I had to do. But what has been even harder? Hearing the voice of my inner critic telling me I cannot succeed.
I’m sure you know that voice. The one that says, “What makes you think you’ll be good at this?” Or “You can’t possibly succeed at that.” The voice that says you’re not good enough and nobody will approve of what you’re doing. It’s a constant companion, not just in your work but in everything you do in life.
Maybe what you hear sounds different. My experience working with people as a coach, consultant, and mentor, has taught me that most people have an inner critic that tries to defeat them. But as I’ve spent time exploring this voice we all seem to have, I’ve learned you can find freedom from your inner critic if you have a deeper understanding of its purpose.
Our Inner Critic’s Archetype: The Protector
Did you know that our inner critic is actually here to support you and keep you safe? It is your protector! Instead of trying to sabotage us, it just wants to prevent us from making mistakes and getting hurt.
I was surprised by the realization that my inner critic is, in reality, not out to get me. When I learned that it has my best interest at heart, I began to hear that voice in a whole new way.
What began as a survival mechanism has become misunderstood and has evolved to take control of our minds. For this reason, most people say to silence your inner critic. But I say to embrace it and use it to your advantage.
You may be thinking right now, what?! I am sure my inner critic is hurting me! Let’s pause together as I invite you to explore this with me.
Remember early childhood when people would tell you not to do something because you may get hurt? Well, our inner critic works in the same way. It takes stored information about actual or perceived dangers and warns us in an effort to keep us safe.
So what happened along the way?
As we mature, we can discern certain dangers for ourselves, so we no longer need the same guidance of early childhood. But throughout the years, that inner critic stored all the information about the actual and perceived dangers so it could continue doing its job. The problem? It cannot separate physical and emotional harm because it remembers our emotional pain.
Any uncomfortable experiences send up a red flag for protection. So, it considers emotions like shame and humiliation just as dangerous as falling from a swingset. As adults, we allow our inner critic to “protect” us by telling us what we are doing wrong. By hearing that voice in your mind louder than anyone else in the world, you’re basically beating them to the punch of inflicting shame and humiliation.
This pattern causes incredible damage and creates unnecessary self-inflicted pain. But, as hard as it is to believe, the inner critic actually acts out of love. When I discovered my inner critic’s motives, I was able to see that it loved me enough to prevent me from getting hurt. The reasons behind its behavior are pure, even if the way that it speaks to us isn’t too clean.
Just as a parent would do anything in their power to protect their child from harm, your inner critic does the same for you. Right now, it may be using unpleasant tactics, but we’re going to change that!
Reprogramming The Conversation
If your inner critic is getting too… well… critical, it may be time to have a heart-to-heart. While it may love you, it needs to know that you are perfectly capable of handling life’s decisions. Now that you are an adult, you no longer need the same input you did as a child. So, your inner critic needs to know when its advice is welcome and when it needs to settle down.
However, this is easier said than done. Since this part of your psyche will always want to protect you, the habits it has formed will not change overnight. But, as you become more aware of what your critic is saying, you can reprogram it!
Understand where the fear is coming from
The first thing you want to do is identify the underlying fear. There is a perceived threat that your critic is trying to alert you to. When the voice creeps up, it is trying to get your attention to protect you from something it fears will harm you based on the stored information. So, you want to ask, “What is my critic trying to protect me from?” “What is my critic trying to prevent me from doing?”
Imagine the worst-case scenario
Once you’re comfortable acknowledging the fear, it’s time to ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen if I don’t listen to this advice?” Consider, is there a life-threatening consequence to your actions?
As a child, we didn’t have the resources to answer questions like this, so we had to trust the information given to us. As adults, we’ve gained the experience and wisdom for this kind of discernment. The fears we had as children do not hold the same power over us as adults. You are now mentally equipped to handle the outcomes.
Acknowledge the external attacks
Let’s get real here. Criticism and attacks don’t just come from the inside. We’ve all experienced the sting of knowing we don’t have the support of someone we were counting on. People in our lives can be very critical, whether it’s because they don’t understand your vision or feel they are somehow protecting you. (And sometimes, criticism can mask jealousy!)
Have you ever noticed people in your life who criticize you, your family, or the things you want to create? We often create an environment for others to feel they can have a say because we let our inner critic have the driver’s seat. By opening up this space, we also give that same permission to the world around us.
Recognize your inner critic’s voice
Sometimes, an inner critic sounds like someone from your past. This voice could be an authority figure, a parent, or a bully from adolescence. Often, they remind you of people who found fault in you, no matter what you did. The memories of being criticized for not measuring up in school, being talented enough, or looking a certain way are also stored to protect you from harm. The problem is that the messages get mixed up because your psyche believes those messages to be true.
Those are the comments you want your critic to throw away! These are the limiting beliefs that become the lies we tell ourselves. But now, it’s time to let your critic know, “That is not serving me! I will no longer allow the bullying voices to speak for me, holding me back from doing what is important in my life.” We will stop the rapid fire of someone else’s judgment from having any say in what you believe. It is time to stand up and let it know that you are in control!
Enter Into A Partnership With Your Inner Critic
Remember, freedom from your inner critic doesn’t mean shunning it. Instead, you’re going to enter into a mutually beneficial agreement. Have you ever noticed that when your little voice tries to get your attention, you also experience mental fatigue? That’s because the duty of protecting you is an exhausting process for your psyche. That’s why, instead of anxiously safeguarding you from every harm, your inner critic needs to learn to teach. And in this partnership, you should be willing to listen.
Once you are willing to listen, you never know where the journey will take you. It may be as simple as learning to dig deeper into a new endeavor or letting go of a past experience. As you grow, make sure you bring out reminders of the good in you and the things you do well. Give your inner critic information on the strengths you now have as an adult. When you do, you become less vulnerable to the “attacks” from the critic that no longer serve you.
Setting Boundaries Is The Foundation To Taking Back Your Power
Are you ready for freedom from your inner critic? When you listen to unnecessary criticism in life, it immediately has control over you! Just like no one else’s opinion should hold more weight than your own opinion, criticism should never outweigh your accomplishments. You have nothing to prove, and it’s time your inner critic knew that. Are you ready to take back your power?
I can teach you the techniques and skills to quiet your inner critic. However, it will be truly up to you to follow your instincts and honor your sacred ideas and values. If you want to live the life of your design, you will need to break away from those defeating thoughts. Sometimes this means setting boundaries with some of your external influences. Just remember, this will be an opportunity for you to grow!
It’s necessary to keep all things in perspective. Not everyone will approve of the direction you choose to take, but think of the incredible loss if you limit yourself to someone else’s beliefs! Having admirable people and respectable mentors in your life is an extraordinary gift. Just be careful not to allow them to diminish your capabilities by telling you that you cannot attempt what you want in life!
And know that your opinion matters too.
Learn To Trust Your Inner Critic As A Guide
Your inner critic is not going to go away! At least, not entirely! The good news is that you can teach your inner critic to speak to you in a more confident and constructive way. Doing this will allow you to make choices based on authentic judgments as the person you are now.
Listen to the voice when it calls out. Your inner critic is there to pay attention to what is happening in the world around you. If it is speaking out, acknowledge that it is telling you something. It wants to let you know that there is a possibility for pain, humiliation, or shame about to happen.
That is where you get to stop to reassess. Does making this decision honor who you are, and is it for your good? Listening to your inner critic is not about allowing it to prevent you from living your life but about receiving vital information to make wise decisions.
Isn’t that empowering?
How To Take Back Your Power From Your Inner Critic
Here are the five steps that guide your inner critic through the process of letting go of the past from which it has been trying to protect you. Use this process as support when that little voice gets you down and you forget how gifted and fabulous you really are.
Notice when your inner critic is most active. Is it when you are alone? Or with other people? Is there a specific time of day? Any particular events or seasons?
Stop the automatic tendency to believe your critic’s message! Our first response is typically to trust what the critic says to us. Instead, if you understand that it is saying, “Help! I am scared!” you can take control of those thoughts!
Find the small pieces of truth hidden in your critic’s message. What is it warning you about? What truth is hidden in what it is saying?
Turn your critic into the helpful advisor it was meant to become. Train it to speak to you in a more beneficial way. Such as: “Kimberley, take a look at this because I am not sure this is the risk you meant to take.”
It’s incredibly impactful to recognize your efforts in quieting the negative criticism by making choices from a place of awareness. Create a reward system that keeps you aware and encourages your new, lifelong pattern.
Simple ideas such as creating a star chart can work really well. When you have 25/50 starts, you can reward yourself with a treat, like a hot bubble bath or a small gift. Whatever it is, make sure your reward system honors who you are.
You Are Your Best Ally
Remember that your inner critic is there to serve you. Even though its purpose is to protect you from harm, you are responsible for choosing how you want to be spoken to. Creating boundaries is difficult, but when you start with yourself, you will learn how to create boundaries with others in your life effectively.
As your inner critic becomes your inner ally, you will also see a ripple effect of positive benefits in your external environment.