How to Silence Your Inner Critic & Move Confidently Forward in Your Life
[This Q&A was originally featured in my weekly column in Cosmopolitan Magazine. If you have a question for me you can e-mail or tweet me. You can also receive my free audio course, designed to help you move from stuck to success. ]
Q: Hi Athena, I’m really unhappy at the moment. I have everything going for me – loving girlfriend, good job and my health but here’s the thing; I don’t enjoy any of it because my thoughts are really dark and critical. I always think that something bad is going to happen. I feel bad most of the time because I think all these terrible thoughts which leave me feeling depressed. Here are some examples of the things that I think about: ‘She’s going to see the real you and leave you’; ‘how could anyone love someone like you?’; ‘you always fail’. Those are just a few thoughts that plague me, they often spiral and worsen. I am so exhausted and I think it’s because I’m fighting myself all the time – what can I do to feel better? Thanks, Ilse.
It sounds like you are having a really tough time at the moment.
From the way that you’ve worded your question, I can see that you have a level of internal, self- awareness around what is happening for you.
Do you often fear that people will abandon or reject you?
Or is this just with your current partner?
If you generally think that people are going to hurt and leave you, you may have a fear of rejection and/ or abandonment that will need to be worked through with a trained psychologist.
You can also read the work by relationship experts and therapists Harville and Helen Hendrix , who are the authors of multiple books on love and familial origins of love patterning.
You may find their book, Receiving Love: Transform Your Relationship by Letting Yourself be Loved, to be particularly helpful for what you are going through.
That said it is clear that you are suffering from low self-esteem and a cognitive distortion called All-or-Nothing thinking (i.e. thoughts that only border on either extreme, for example: all good or all bad).
The voice inside your head A.K.A your inner critic can really hamper your mental well-being and quality of life- if you allow it to.
So it is up to you to not give it so much power. You cannot however defeat your inner critic by defending against it.
You have to first understand who it is mimicking. It could be a very unkind or harsh sibling, parent, caregiver, family member or lover from your past.
Usually these demeaning thoughts (spewed out by your inner critic) are a replay of what was once said to you.
Or they are a replay of what you were once made to feel at some point in your life.
Shame and guilt are often preserved and motivated by a harsh inner critic that spews out thoughts that have no actuality or basis in reality.
These thoughts keep you in a state of fear and lock you in pain.
If you can learn to identify these thoughts (easily done if you work with a trained therapist) you can move from a knee-jerk reaction to a place of psychological understanding & emotional integration.
Your critical voice will then have less power over you & when it does rear its head you can match it with kindness as opposed to psychological defenses ( such as repression – which can result in exhaustion).
I’m offering free webinar training on this which you can sign up for here.
I also highly recommend that you work with a qualified and licensed professional who can further facilitate this for you. You do not need to go through this alone.
P.S. Did Ilse’s question resonate with you? Is so , leave a comment below.