Quieting Your Self-Critical Voice
Have you realized there is one voice in your life that constantly brings you down? Is it a total nag, harping on everything you do, never to be satisfied? Is that voice your own?
We are often our worst critics and rarely does this harsh self-criticism help us reach our goals. Rather, it can lead us to feel depressed, anxious, angry, or to engage in self-harming, self-sabotaging behaviors. These negative thoughts often become self-fulfilling. They can push us further away from how we’d like to feel and act, while giving us more evidence to believe these thoughts— it can become an exhausting self-defeating cycle.
Here are some steps to help diminish that inner voice and disrupt that cycle:
- Start to check-in when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Be aware of that voice and take note of its go-to lines. Are your thoughts reflecting rigid demands of yourself or others? Are these thoughts overgeneralized, personalized, and catastrophized? These are some of the biased thoughts that can paralyze us and get us stuck in a vicious cycle of distress and inaction.
- Ask yourself- Are these thoughts absolute? Are they going to help me? Is there any evidence against these thoughts? Would I say that to a friend or to a child in a similar situation?
- Think of more flexible thoughts that will result in feeling able to take positive action. This will help dial down the intensity of the negative emotion elicited by that self-critical voice. Consider alternative explanations, external variables, how your strengths will help you cope, and other possible outcomes when formulating a replacement thought.
- This is one of the most important steps- vigilance is key! Try not to engage with the negative thoughts, letting them pass by without judgement. Visualization can be a helpful tool here. Changing these thoughts can take time and practice, so continue to be patient and gentle with yourself as you try a new way of talking to yourself.
Therapy can be a place to explore where and why these thoughts originated, to learn more ways to recognize and adjust unhelpful thoughts, and to be reminded when and how to be kind to yourself. Setting aside time for a weekly therapy appointment can be the first step in practicing self-care and self-compassion.