Nice Talking to Me
Quieting the Inner Critic
by Kate Siner
For better or worse, most of us have restricted some aspect of ourselves or have not fully embraced some part of our life. There are many reasons why we might hold ourselves back. We may carry memories of negative early experiences, hold hurt feelings from a more recent difficulty, or have a lack of familiarity with other more positive potentials. It may be that we ruminate on negative thoughts, experience emotional instability or come at our life with a lack of imagination.
A negative inner dialog is sometimes referred to as the “inner critic”. It’s that familiar voice inside our head that says negative things, tells us that we’re not good enough, or criticizes our every action. Our inner dialogue is shaped by our self-talk, and is composed of internalized voices from our past, thought habits we’ve cultivated, environments we choose to be in and the effects of stress and strain. There are, however, ways to effectively treat the negativity and shift our inner world towards a more positive mindset.
Voices from the past
When voices from the past fill our mind, we often confuse them with our own thoughts. Yet, if we listen closely, these thoughts are not usually in our own voice; they’re in the voices of those who impressed their view on us. When we bring awareness to what we are hearing/thinking, we’re able to name the person who is speaking to us through our thoughts. Awareness disempowers the thought, especially if it’s a negative thought about ourselves. This is because the negative thought is not actually our own. It’s a thought that belongs to someone else. And so, we can choose to let it go and replace it with an authentic thought about ourselves.
Habits of Thinking
Some habits die hard. One habit that is particularly difficult to give up is catastrophizing. This describes a way of thinking that imagines a negative outcome or assumes the worst. When we engage in this type of thinking, we’re less happy and closed off to unforeseen outcomes. When finding one’s self catastrophizing, try reframing the situation. Look for what’s going right in a given situation and examine one’s thoughts to see if they truly match reality. For example, a simple reframe would be to remove words like never and always from our thinking. This alone will create more room for positive experiences.
The company we keep makes a huge difference on our self-talk. The way the people around us talk about themselves, talk about us and act towards us has an effect on the way we think. When trying to overcome negative inner dialogue, it’s helpful to take a look around and see what the people around us are saying and doing. A choice to be happy might include the choice to surround oneself with happy and positive people.
Stress and Strain
Stress can wear us down over time. As we start to feel run down, our thinking tends to get more negative and our bad habits begin to come to the surface. Sometimes they can even take over. So, it’s important to take good care of ourselves so that we have the strength to stay positive in the face of difficulty. When thinking negative thoughts, ask, “Have I been taking care of myself in the best way possible?” If not, it might be time to make more space in one’s day for self-care.
If feeling held back in life, or craving more from each moment, check in with what’s happening between the ears. If there is a lot of negative thinking, or even just a little, take some time to apply the suggestions above to shift into a more positive perspective. These small changes will help free you up to more genuinely express your full self.
Dr. Kate Siner is an award-winning entrepreneurial and personal development mentor, speaker, author and radio show host. She has a Ph.D. in psychology and years of both clinical and coaching experience. Her passion is to help people move past whatever holds them back so that they may embrace all they can be. Siner has developed a series of successful personal development programs, newest of which is her LifeWork Community Program. Learn more at [email protected] or KateSiner.com.