Having a private conversation with yourself can be a powerful stepping stone to reaching your goals. But if that dialogue is filled with negative predictions, those thoughts can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy that dooms your efforts before you even begin. Thoughts greatly affect how you feel and behave. Sadly, many people are overly critical of themselves. However, there are ways to squelch that inner verbal abuse and turn it around to be a more productive internal dialogue.
Acknowledge Your Thoughts
It is easy to get so used to hearing your inner thoughts that you become oblivious to what is being said. Prevent your inner critic from hijacking your thoughts by paying attention to what you are thinking and acknowledging it. Tell yourself that it is just your inner critic talking and take a few calming breaths. Realize that just because you think something, doesn’t mean it’s true.
Turn Off the Rewind in Your Head
When something bad happens or you have a lousy day, it often plays over and over in your head. Ruminating on a negative experience gives it power, makes you feel miserable, and doesn’t solve any problems. Telling yourself to stop thinking about it often keeps it in your mind. The best thing to do to forget about it is to distract yourself with an activity. Get up and go for a walk, cook something, clean out that pesky junk drawer in the kitchen, or put on a favorite show and get lost in it. This helps to stop those critical thoughts from spiraling out of control.
Play Worst Case Scenario
When that negative dialogue won’t quit, try playing worst case scenario. Exaggerate your imagination to amplify the critical thought. It can be absolutely ridiculous. For example, if your efforts failed at a certain task, tell yourself that as a result your partner will leave you and you will be alone for the rest of your life with no friends. Or if you binged on some Halloween candy, tell yourself that you will never fit in any of your clothes again. By doing this, it helps you to realize that your inner critic is not realistic and you can then put things into a true perspective.
Being more compassionate to oneself is a good way to convert an overly pessimistic thought to a more caring and realistic one. For example, if your inner dialogue is saying “Why couldn’t I get my act together today and accomplish something?,” counterbalance it with a more compassionate thought such as, “I did the best I could today and will focus on working on the most important tasks tomorrow.” This retrains your brain to be kinder to yourself and avoid that merciless dialogue. Injecting some humor can also diffuse your inner critic. Some people give their critic a name and poke fun at things it says.
Acknowledge That You Can Improve
When that voice is telling you that you are not able to handle social situations well, you can acknowledge that it is true, but at the same time also acknowledge that you can improve. You can focus on that weakness and work to become better at it. Accept your flaws and strive to become better.
Remember Your Loved Ones
When all else fails and that inner critic has you feeling down, remember there are people who love you. Just looking at a photo of a close friend or family member can help soothe that inner voice and remind us that you can turn to them for emotional support. Knowing someone is there for us can help stop the constant ruminating in our heads.
By shifting your mindset and practicing to tame your inner critic, you can coach yourself in a productive and helpful manner. Stopping that inner judge in its tracks can prevent it from wreaking havoc on your mental state in both your personal and work life.