Have you got an inner critic that keeps putting you down? That little voice that undermines you at every opportunity?
Self-critical thoughts, or, for want of a more apt description, “stinking thinking” has the potential to undermine all good feelings, lower self-esteem and chip away at self-worth. This inner critic can get in the way of close relationships and achieving life goals. Negative self-evaluations such as, “I’m not as good as others,” or “I couldn’t possibly do that,” very often limit the things we try, because we do not feel good enough and expect to fail. In my work as a therapist I see many people with deep insecurity stemming from childhood, perhaps, driven to overcompensate with a need to succeed in order to placate the inner critic. The voice that constantly tells them they are not good enough or need to do better.drives them to strive for perfectionism, an impossible task which will ultimately see them fail. In so doing, reinforcing the belief that they are not quite up to it or should try harder.Many are deeply unhappy, knowing that life could be so much better if only they could cast this critical inner voice aside.
The roots of self-criticism very often go back to childhood, perhaps we were subjected to a critical parent or overly harsh teacher, maybe we were told we were not good enough or had strong moral or religious teaching that shaped our outlook. Wherever the seeds were sown, you can bet that self -critical thoughts surface when you don’t want them, probably when you are feeling vulnerable, low in mood or insecure.
So how can you overcome self-critical thinking? Well, it won’t happen overnight, firstly you need to be more compassionate towards yourself, more accepting. Then with a detached non-judgemental stance begin to listen for themes and identify the messages. Ask yourself, “Who do these voices or statements remind me of?” Respond and quietly challenge, for example saying, “Its OK to make mistakes, that’s how people learn.” Resist all temptation to chastise yourself, don’t say things like, “Don’t be stupid.” Try to understand how such messages shape your behaviour and then try to change self-limiting behaviours. Learn to ignore the negative inner voice, just let it chatter away as if it was an advert on a radio station in between songs, just let it go.
Most psychotherapists can help with self-criticism and low self-esteem. Contact the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies – babcp.com for details of CBT practitioners in your area or you can contact us on – steveclifford.info.
Here are ten tips to help you to overcome self-criticism:
- Never, never, put yourself down. Instead talk to yourself with compassion as you would to a child.
- Ask yourself, “Have I had similar thoughts before? What happened then? Is there anything different this time? What can I learn from previous occasions?”
- Try to focus on your strengths not your shortcomings.
- Build your self-esteem and worth by reading books on positive thinking daily.
- Don’t mock yourself, don’t ever call yourself “stupid” or similar again. Mocking this way will erode your self-esteem and worth.
- Look for evidence that disproves your thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is there an alternative explanation. Are there facts that I am overlooking?”
- Ask yourself, “If my best friend had this thought what would they do?”
- Forgive yourself, you are human after all. Being human means that you will make mistakes. Celebrate your the fact that you are human and embrace your mistakes for mistakes are part of the human condition and it is only through them that we learn.
- Free yourself from “should’s, musts and ought’s,” replace them with “could, might and maybe.”
- When you hear that critical inner voice, say to yourself, “There is that voice again, I don’t have to listen to you, you are the voice of yesterday, not today.”
Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.