How loud is your inner critic? We all have messages in our mind that saying judgmental, sometimes cruel things to ourselves making us believe we aren’t good enough in some way, shape or form, or we should be farther along somehow, or we’ll never make it. These messages are a very well grooved path in our brains and create anxiety. Someone once said, it’s like a 12 lane highway compared to the unworn foot path of nurturing messages. We all would prefer the supportive and kind messages that encourage us to keep going, or to just be with who we are and what’s showing up in our lives, but it’s quite the battle with the loud critic. It’s like David and Goliath.
Where did this negative, critical voice come from? Lot’s of sources including our parents (and their own inner critic), teachers, friends, older siblings and our culture. The critical voice most likely helped us to survive some very difficult circumstance when we were children. It kept us in line to give those around us what we thought they needed to then keep us safe. Over a long period of time When we are bombarded with these negative messages from inside ourselves, it can manifest into anxiety in our daily life. Of course, right, if we have someone on our back all the time being hyper vigilant and critical about what we do we’re going to feel pretty anxious. And much of the time we don’t even know we are telling ourselves these messages, at least not consciously.
So what do we do? The first step is to become aware of the inner critic. Listen to what you are saying to yourself, build awareness and give the voice a name so you can refer to him or her in the moment to remove yourself one step from it. This takes practice, and requires some slowing down. A few good things to watch for are what are you thinking about other people. We tend to project this critical voice out onto people, places and things. If you notice you’re doing that you are probably thinking similarly about yourself. Also, when you are feeling anxious, down or overwhelmed, listen to what your saying to yourself. If we take time to check in either by journal ling, talking to a good, safe friend or sharing in a group where others are struggling with inner critics we can begin to hear ourselves and what we might be saying to ourselves.
Once we recognize the beastly voice inside, what do we do? Get to know it, tell it to back off and begin replacing it’s comments with affirmation and validation for ourselves. This takes practice too, most likely we aren’t used to hearing the positive messages that we need to feel good about ourselves and where things are in our life. It helps to be around others who are treating themselves well, and it takes acting as it. Listen for the gentle loving voice of your heart. Think of it like learning how to walk, or building muscles at the gym. Repetition, repetition, repetition. At first the positive messages can bounce off of us and it can feel unbelievable, but I promise over time it can begin to soften your heart towards you. Look for positive messages in the world around you, they are there waiting for you to notice.
Overtime this will help lessen the anxious feelings and improve your relationship with yourself and the world around you. It’s a life long practice and one well worth it, you’re worth it and you matter.