“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.” ~ John Wooden
If you constantly tell yourself you how much you suck, how not pretty you are, how much smarter you should be, and how much more you should be doing, you are not alone. Every one of us has an inner critic, and success depends on breaking up with her and getting into bed with your true inner voice.
My inner critic shows up often and uninvited. Already, this morning, it told me I haven’t gotten enough work done yet (as I write this article), and that I should have had a healthier breakfast (when it was already healthy enough).
For most of my life, I believed the voice when it said I wasn’t smart because I didn’t go to college. I believed the voice when she said I wasn’t pretty or lovable enough, and that resulted in my getting into bed with men so that I could feel pretty and loved.
I never felt good enough, so I never celebrated my successes: moving from Canada to NYC with $700, getting a GED, developing deep, meaningful friendships and a great career, moving to San Francisco, building another successful personal chef business. None of those accomplishments mattered because all I could hear was the negative chatter of not having done as much as everybody else.
The truth is, unless you learn to master this voice, you are never going to be satisfied with your life. This can lead to downright emotional exhaustion. You can become a doctor, earn millions of dollars, but if the voice inside tells you it’s not enough, you’re going to want to get another shiny degree, or become a billionaire and you still won’t be any happier once you get there.
Here are 5 ways to drown your inner critic and let the real you shine through.
1. Make a list of all your positive traits and successes
List 30 things that are positive about you. Then, list another 30 of your major successes. Keep this list close to you. Refer to it when your inner critic rears itself. Focusing on the positive qualities and successes helps you feel better about yourself, and feeling better about yourself makes you more productive, happier, and healthier.
2. Keep an inner critic page in your journal
Awareness is the key to beginning to curb your negative thoughts. Pay close attention to when your mind starts to trail off. Write down the thought in your journal so that you can begin to decipher thinking patterns and begin to shift them. A negative thought pattern may sound like “Gosh, I’m stupid. I’ll never do anything right. I can’t get it together. I’m a mess. I’m scattered. I’m not as good as she is. I’m a bad hostess.” Once you’ve got a list going, proceed to the next step.
3. Use thought rebuttals
We’re prone to making blanket statements about ourselves that aren’t true, hearing only what we want to hear when others compliment us, taking things personally, blaming ourselves for not being enough. We use ‘should’ and and ‘never’ without thinking of whether these things are true. Next time you write a negative thought in your inner critic page, ask yourself if it’s true? It most likely isn’t, so write down what is true. Learning to get in touch with reality will help your true voice come out.
4. Create 3 positive mantras from your list of positive qualities
Choose 3 positive qualities from your list. Create 3 positive affirmations you can recite to yourself. Or write them down on post-it notes and leave them on your bathroom mirror, in your car, or in your purse. Having a visual aid will help remind you there are some wonderful things about you even when you’re not feeling it.
5. Visualize a time when you felt successful
Think of a time when you felt successful. Be it a college graduation, running a 5k, or becoming a big sister, close your eyes. Recall the smells, colors, and feelings you felt that day. Visualization is a surprisingly powerful tool that helps reconnect you to a specific feeling, and the more you can connect to that feeling, the more you begin to see yourself as perfect the way you are.
It’s easy to disregard the good parts of you and minimize your accomplishments. But the more you can make space to find the positive, the more you grow, thrive, and become the human you were meant to become. Breaking up with your inner critic and learning to listen to your inner voice isn’t easy, and takes real effort and work, but doing the work and breaking free is the most powerful thing you can do to become your best self.