My best advice for quieting your inner critic so you can go for your dreams.
When I was little, I wanted to be an archaeologist. Nothing was going to stop me and I 100% believed I would do it. (Until I realized I don’t do great in heat and am not the biggest fan of dirt.) Back then, there was no fear, no little voice in my head telling me that I wasn’t good enough or that it wasn’t worth “going through the trouble.”
Today, I struggle to hit publish on a blog post because my inner critic tells me I’m not a subject matter expert, my post is not well-written, or someone has written something similar before so why bother. When I think about doing or trying something new, there’s always a voice in my head saying I won’t be good enough or I won’t succeed. That little voice holds me back, keeps me from trying, and really (if I’m being frank) pisses me off.
I recently launched a new business venture with this blog (check out Life Well Wandered Travels here!) and it took me about two months of working with a coach to silence my inner critic long enough to hit the publish button. And even still, I have to silence that little voice that appears, catching me off-guard, to tell me that I won’t be successful or that I’m not good enough to do what I’m actually good at.
So how do you quiet or silence this inner critic?
How do you quiet the little voice that pops into your mind every time you want to hit publish, start a new venture, change your career, or put yourself out there in some way? These are just some of the strategies that have helped me silence my inner critic.
1. Name your critic
I don’t have a name for mine. Mostly because it definitely changes depending what it’s critiquing me on. Fun, right? But in all seriousness, naming your inner critic can help you humanize it. Put a name to it and keep reading below.
2. Be kind to yourself + address it directly
Would you talk to someone the way your inner critic talks to you? I didn’t think so.
When that inner critic comes to play, address it with kindness and strength and tell it that it is NOT real or accurate. Your inner critic has been shaped by years of societal expectations, personal circumstances, and past negative experiences. It is NOT a true measure of your value, strength, nor is it a predictor of future success.
Example: If you need help figuring out how to address your inner critic, this is something along the lines of what I’ve said before: “Listen, Bob (I chose a random name this time around), I know you’re just looking out for me. You don’t really want me to fail. You just want me to be safe. Which I get. But I am not a failure. I can succeed at this. Just because [insert challenge here] is new doesn’t mean I will fail. In fact, just by doing [this thing], I am actually pretty awesome and brave. So I’m not gonna listen to you today.”
3. List your accomplishments
How can you prove your inner critic wrong when it’s telling you that you won’t be successful? Show it how successful you’ve already been.
Make a list of your accomplishments and put them somewhere you can see them regularly. I recently created a little Post-it note wall in my apartment when I was having trouble silencing my inner critic when it was giving me trouble with my venture. What did I learn? I had already accomplished the biggest challenges of my venture. The hardest parts were behind me and I hadn’t even realized it!
Your list of accomplishments can be specific to a project in your life that you’re struggling with in order to show your inner critic (and yourself) how much progress you’ve already made. If it’s more of a general inner critic, make a list of all of your accomplishments big and small to show your critic that you’ve succeeded in the past so you will surely succeed in the future.
Once you visualize your accomplishments and successes, talk to your inner critic again. Share with it what you’ve already done to be successful. Even if it has nothing to do with what you are working toward in the present moment.
Example: Say something like, “Look Bob. I know you’re out for blood and whatever, but I already am successful. Just look at all these Post-it notes on my wall. I actually started a business. In fact, I put myself out there that one time and it went superbly. I made new friends this year. I am, can, and will be successful and you can’t stop me!”
4. Get real with your inner critic
I like having conversations in my head. They help me figure my life out. I also like writing out my thoughts in a stream of consciousness manner to figure out stuff. (This post is a small manifestation of this habit.) It just depends on my mood. If your inner critic can’t be silenced, take some time to write to it or talk to it. Try to get to the root of the critic. My inner critic changes depending on what I’m working on or trying to do.
If my inner critic wants me to stay in bed all day and not shower, I know it’s because I’m probably starting to feel a little depressed. When this happens, I address it compassionately, acknowledging that yes, staying in bed and watching 12+ hours of TV is the easier option, but I know from previous experience that as good as it sounds in the moment, I will feel worse at the end of the day. I tell it that I accept it and know that it just wants to keep me and my fragile mind safe but that I need to get up, get out, and connect with humans, even if I don’t really want to.
If my inner critic is really coming at me for more career/hobby/life-based items, I try to figure out what’s really going on. I make a list of why my inner critic thinks I won’t succeed and try to get to the root of the problem. What am I really afraid of? Failure? Rejection? Setbacks? Feedback? Usually one or more of those apply and I’m able to get a better grasp of what’s going on when my inner critic strikes. From there, I can use specific past experiences to show my inner critic that I have succeeded before and can succeed again.
Example: When I was terrified to publish my blog post on depression, my inner critic was very vocal about how it wasn’t great; it wasn’t written well-enough nor was it necessary to publish. After some reflection, I realized that I was really scared of judgment and rejection. People on the Internet can be mean and what if my friends and family judged me or saw me differently or no longer wanted to be friends? But I was able to show my inner critic that putting myself “out there” in the past had actually led to more support and new connections, so while its points were valid, I needed to take them with a grain of salt.
6. Find a mantra or two and repeat it to yourself daily
For a while, one of the only things that could get me out of bed was the mantra, “She believed she could so she did.” When I could feel my inner critic waking up, I would pause, repeat (out loud, if possible) the above words and give myself a little pep talk. As corny as it sounds, it actually helped! Figure out what works for you – is it a mantra? A pep talk? A combo? Something else? – and practice it daily. You’ll get stronger and more self-confident and your inner critic will learn to stay quiet.
5. Talk to someone
Your inner critic is loud. It is also hard to silence. After all, how can you silence a voice that only exists in your head? If your inner critic is really holding you back from taking that next step in your career, taking that chance, or making that big move (whatever it may be), talk to a counselor, coach, or even friend to get some perspective and learn some more strategies for coping with it.
You got this.