We’re all familiar with that voice in our head telling us we aren’t good enough and undermining our confidence and self-esteem. Whether it’s when you look in the mirror or going to try something new, that voice might be the first thing that speaks to you, whispering doubt and fear into your thoughts. Well, that’s your inner critic.
Critical Inner Voice
We all possess an inner critic or critical inner voice. This voice is a negative internal dialogue inside your head. Common thoughts that come from our inner critic include:
"There's something wrong with you."
"She looks way better than you."
“You’ll never be good enough.”
Sound familiar? While everyone has this inner voice, yours may be getting louder and maybe it has taken over your thoughts and affected your behaviour. If you struggle with emotional eating and body image, chances are you’re listening and believing everything your inner critic is saying. The good news is that we can overcome and quiet our inner critic and free ourselves from constant negativity. The way to quiet our inner critic is with self-compassion.
Think of how easy it is to be kind to the people we care about in our lives. We let them know it’s okay to be human when they fail. We reassure them of our support when they’re feeling bad about themselves. We comfort them when they’re going through hard times. Most of us are really good at being understanding, kind, and compassionate towards others. But how many of us offer that kind of compassion to ourselves?
When our inner voice hounds us with criticism and negative thoughts we end up feeling worthless, incompetent and insecure. This may lead to negative cycles of self sabotage such as emotional eating. However, when our inner voice plays the role of a supportive friend, we can feel safe and accepted enough to get perspective and make inner or outer changes for us to be happy.
Self-compassion refers to being caring and understanding with oneself rather than being harshly critical or judgmental. Instead of being harsh and cold, self-compassion is soothing and offers comfort to your self. Self-compassion also involves recognizing that all humans are imperfect, fail and make mistakes. It connects our flaws with the human experience which gives us greater perspective of our personal shortcomings and struggles.
To quiet your inner critic, try to re-frame the observations made by your inner critic in a friendly, positive way. If you’re having trouble thinking of what words to use, think of how you would speak to a friend (compassionately) about the same thing.
For example, if you just ate an entire box of cookies and then start beating yourself up and your inner critic hounds you with criticism, here’s how you may respond with self-compassion. You may say something like “I know you ate that box of cookies because you’re feeling really sad right now and you thought it would cheer you up. But you feel even worse and are not feeling good in your body. I want you to feel better, so why don’t you go for a walk and then take a hot bath?” When you practice supportive self-talk and start acting kindly and with compassion, you will start to feel truly nurtured and cared for!
Creating and practicing a self-compassion mindset is how we can slowly and gently quiet our inner critic. Because compassion should be extended towards ourselves and not just to others! We all make mistakes and no one is perfect. If we put this into perspective, we don’t have to listen to our inner critic and believe everything it says. So, the next time you hear your inner critic, instead of believing it and letting it affect you negatively, thank your inner critic for its efforts, then try the strategy of giving yourself some compassion instead.