8 Ways To Work With Your Inner Critic
We all have one, that scathing voice inside your head. She knows exactly what buttons to press to make you feel worthless, always judging and chastising you.
Her voice is one you’d never use on anyone else.
Maybe she sometimes takes over your voice box and even speaks aloud. Mine does!
If you’ve not guessed yet, I’m talking about your inner critic (IC).
As women, we’re often much harder on ourselves - we can be our own worst enemies and, if we’re not careful, our IC feeds off this.
Why you should work with, not against, your inner critic.
Now hold up, I’m not saying you should trust or believe a word of that nasty voice which loves to tell you how useless, dumb, pathetic, or ugly you are - because everyone (else) knows you’re not any of those things.
Take it from Dr. Joanna Martin, Founder of One of Many, that underneath all the drama, your inner critic “wants to keep you safe from hurt and rejection” before anyone else can hurt you. “She always knows when something isn’t to the highest standard.” But she wants you to excel, not fail.
And, guess what? Working with your inner critic is actually good for your business life as well as personal life.
So how exactly can we do that?
1. Accept their existence
The first, most important act on this 8-rung ladder is acceptance.
While I’d love to be able to say “don’t worry, the broken record in your head can be made to magically disappear," I can’t. Because that’s a lie. For the vast majority of people, we will always be stuck with our inner critics.
However, accepting this (often overbearing) part of you doesn’t mean she has to rule over you.
2. Personify your inner critic
Imagining your inner critic as character - child, adult, monster - can be a helpful way to distance yourself from negative emotions and bring in the rational side of your brain.
Think of it like an alter ego but, rather than releasing your inner Sasha Fierce like Queen Bey does, putting a face on your inner critic is more about giving yourself a break.
Rather than imagining a horrible villain or evil creature, try imagining they’re a scared child. One who’s hurting, bad and lashing out at you.
3. Give them love
I’m all about deep, intuitive listening and I knew there had to be a different, better way, which was why I was so pleased to come across Dr Joanna Martin, who introduced me to the idea that you should love your inner critic.
You’re probably wondering why on earth you should love your inner critic when all she does is bring you pain.
It’s really just another way to boost your self-love. If you wouldn’t talk to your best friend like that, you’re less likely to talk to yourself that way.
Joanna encourages you to become aware of your triggers and “try to identify that little child in you who’s just been bullied to hell, step into your Mother archetype and tell her she’s loved.”
Don’t hate your inner critic - imagine they’re a scared, bullied child - love them instead!
As women, we’re often much harder on ourselves - we can be our own worst enemies and, if we’re not careful, our inner critic feeds off this.
4. Ask your inner critic questions
You can take the personification a step further and disrupt the flow of negativity by asking them questions, like “What are you so worried about?” and “Why?”
Once you’ve got to the underlying reason and understood her motivations, according to Joanna, you can say “Thank you so much for looking out for me. I really appreciate that, and I’ve listened to you. I’ve got this now.”
Some folk create a physical representation of their IC, like a sock puppet or sketch to have this conversation. It can feel silly (even without the puppet!) but it honestly works wonders to pull you out of that downward spiral.
5. Don’t enforce silence - listen (and respond)
When searching online, almost all I could find was about how and why to silence that hateful voice. Although that’s appealing, it’s not very realistic, is it?
As well as Dr Joanna Martin’s article above, I also came across an interesting interview on the Harvard Business Review’s IdeaCast blog where I discovered Tara Mohr for the first time.
Listen to the tone of your inner voice, if it’s “…very repetitive and like a broken record …very black and white in its thinking… If it’s talking to you in a way that is harsher and meaner than you would want to speak to someone you love, you’re hearing the inner critic.”
Then, rather than argue with it, “allow it to be present, but not run the show… saying thank you for your input, but we’ve got this covered, other parts of us. And you’re allowed to be here, but you’re not allowed to make the decision about what we do or don’t do.”
6. Use your experience to relate to others
Fear is often at the core of the inner critic, whatever that fear is of - rejection, controversy, failure. And those types of fears are universal and get wrapped up in self-doubt.
Don’t stay quiet - tell us what you’re going through. Share your journey and you’ll discover so much human kindness out there. And, as a business owner, you’ll build more trust with your audience by sharing your truth - the good, the bad, the lessons from dealing with the very real fact that no one’s “together” all of the time.
7. Your inner critic can inspire creativity and problem solving
While your internal criticizer sounds repetitive, critical thinking seeks solutions. It’s more rational and practical and encourages curiosity.
I believe one of the reasons creative people can be ravaged by our inner critic is because we are always trying to improve, change or adapt our work. It’s all about iteration, so the lines between the IC and critical thinking can become blurred.
Yes, it’s challenging, but it can open the floodgates to breakthroughs, inventions, more refined products &/or services...
You can evaluate, scrutinize, distil, review, iterate, clarify or improve to help your business flourish, such as your:
products, services & offerings
systems and processes
goals and targets
communication strategy & content
marketing and promotional activities
For example, as a writer my inner critic is essential for editing. The first part of the process is a joy - the spellcheck is turned off and I just let it all flow. Then comes several rounds of editing fun - picking the text apart, weaving it back together, making sure the grammar and punctuation don’t interrupt the cadence. It’s a completely different (and authoritarian) headspace!
8. Stem your flow of ideas and get to work
Finally, you can use your inner critic for restraint. You will have to push through perfectionism for this one, but if you get swamped with ideas all the time (yeah, me too!) then your IC is your new friend here.
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to pull yourself out of old habits but, if your inner critic get excessive at times, do give these a shot - I’d love to know if give any of them a try and hear your results.
Download a free, no opt-in worksheet to guide you through most of the exercises.
written by Jeda Pearl
Jeda is an intuitive writer + content strategist. She helps heart-led creative entrepreneurs & changemakers navigate their stories with compelling, magnetic language, so they can make deeper connections with more of their ideal clients. Visit her website.