On silencing your inner critic

"What makes you think you deserve to earn? You don’t. You don’t deserve what you have. People just like you because they feel bad for you. Everyone thinks you’re stupid. What’s the point of having such big dreams? We all know you’re a failure anyway. You’re not going to make it anywhere in life, don’t you think you’re expecting too much out of yourself now? You don’t work hard enough. You don’t love your family enough. You don’t show up for your friends enough. You’re just not enough.”

Most of the time, the only person who makes me feel like a bad human being for simply existing, is me. While it starts with a single thought, it soon begins to spiral out of control, and then the self- blame and criticism never seems to stop. On some days, I feel so burdened with responsibility towards everyone but myself – to please other people, take care of other people and show up for other people, often by putting myself and my feelings on the back burner – that I can physically feel its weight on my chest.

After feeling like this for years on end and feeling emotionally exhausted, I decided to read into why I feel this way and what to do to make it stop. What I found was almost groundbreaking for me.

We all have an Inner Critic: Some are meaner than others:

I discovered that not only am I not alone to feel like this but also this harsh inner voice actually develops out of childhood experiences. While the severity of your inner critic differs from person to person, we all have the tendency to be unreasonably critical of ourselves. As children, we learn to relate to ourselves in the way we are treated by our primary caregivers.

The inner critic makes us hypervigilant, and sense danger where there is none:

Therefore, whenever we sense that we are losing our parents' approval, face emotional neglect or are easily dismissed, or even grow up in an abusive household, our brain wants us to feel safe and turns to hypervigilance. The vigilance is toward criticism and judgement. This makes us feel like we are always on guard, thereby making us cautious of any mistakes that could break this bubble of safety. These patterns continue into adulthood and we continue to perceive danger (“I am not good enough”, “I am stupid”, “I am dumb” etc) even when there is none. Our inner critic is born through the messages our brain perceives from our environment while growing up.

Silencing the inner critic requires self-awareness:

While the situation seems bleak, there are actually things you can do to silence this inner critic and feel empowered. By simply catching yourself while you rethink negative scripts like “I am not good enough”, “I am a failure”, “I don’t deserve anything” and the like, we can challenge these core beliefs. Transforming your inner dialogue by trying to find the truth behind these statements can also help you to think more rationally. Another helpful strategy would be to speak to yourself like you would speak to someone you love – become your biggest cheerleader, emotional support, and confidante.

Self-compassion is unconditional self-regard:

Self-compassion is key, and while this may take a lot of deeper work and require dealing with a lot of uncomfortable emotions, it is essential for you to be able to relate to yourself differently; with love and kindness. The most important thing to remember, however, is the way you treat yourself is the way you give others the permission to treat you, so it’s never too late to begin the journey of self-love and acceptance.

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