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Quieten Your Inner Critic

Written by: Dr. Sunayana Nature Baruah, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Dr. Sunayana Nature Baruah

Insecurity, low self-esteem, and low self-worth are aspects of our emotional well-being that we struggle with occasionally. However, if you feel crippled by shame towards yourself, it is time to look at how you talk to and treat yourself.

Man in white long sleeves wearing eye glasses

The inner critic is the thought process we experience in constantly critiquing our own emotions, actions, and decisions. We generally absorb and internalize the inner critic from the way we were talked to and treated for a significant period in our past. This could have been internalized from parental relationships, teachers, bosses, peers, partners, etc. The inner critic is the reason for a lot of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, staying in abusive, unhealthy relationships, and in some extreme cases, the inner critic can even lead individuals to seriously harm themselves.


How to know when the inner critic strikes?


Many people I work with in my private practice ask, “How do I know if I am being critical of myself?” To answer this question, I refer to neurobiologist Sarah Peyton’s model of how the inner critic manifests in our everyday lives.

  1. Self-invalidation or self-dismissal: When you say things such as, “My troubles are not as big as people dying in a war or a famine." "I need to stop being so sensitive, what is wrong with me?"

  2. Comparison: When you use other people to measure yourself up on various life parameters, such as, "My former classmate already has been able to secure a mortgage on a house, and look at me, I am still in the process of changing careers here.”

  3. Self-blame: Blaming yourself for situations that are both in as well as out of your control. Thoughts and statements such as “It is all my fault, I can never do anything right” "If my partner is angry with me, it must be and something that I did that I am not even aware of. I am such a mess.” reflect this level of self-criticism that you are engaged with currently.

  4. Stuckness: This level is interesting because it shows up after a person has started therapy or undertaken some level of healing for themselves. Thoughts and statements such as, “I have been in therapy for three months now yet I do not feel any better. I cannot even fix myself. I am such a failure.”


As you can see, in all of these levels of the inner critic, there is an undertone of shame. This idea of us not being good enough, being inadequate, inferior, or lacking in some way or another.


How to calm it down?


If you feel like you put yourself down at every opportunity you get, it is time to take the following steps to heal your relationship with yourself:

  1. Identify the source of your inner critic: As previously discussed, the inner critic is a thought process that we absorb from an external source. Figure out who this voice in your mind sounds like. A parent? A teacher? A school bully? A boss? Or a past/current partner?

  2. Take a notebook or a journal. Make two columns. For the first column, give your inner critic a name. This could be a name from a character in a movie, a book, a game, or even a person from your life. Write this name as a header for the first column.

  3. Give the criticized part of you a name too. The criticized part would be the part of you that feels emotionally dragged down as a response to the inner criticisms. This could be named after yourself or your younger, child self or it could be any other name. This name would be the header of your second column.

  4. Now, write down your first self-critical thought under the first column in the second person as if the inner critic voice is speaking directly to you. This could look like, "You are so stupid", "you are an idiot", or "You cannot do anything right".

  5. For the second column, you can write down how you feel as a response to each of these critical thoughts such as: “I feel so sad when you call me stupid” or “You make me feel powerless when you say I cannot do anything right.” We are starting a dialogue here between the two internal split parts within you of thoughts and emotions.

  6. At this point, a lot of people realise that the inner critic serves a purpose. Perhaps, it looks out for you in a toxic way but it makes sure that you are doing things right, handling situations well, or even meeting deadlines in life and work.

  7. If the motive of the inner critic is to look after you, then we need to work on toning down the cruel and harsh nature of how it seeks to protect you. Identify what the criticized part of you needs from the inner critic. You can write this down under the second column such as, “I am exhausted by your criticisms and I need you to give me a break”, “I need you to be more understanding of me” or “ I need you to go away”.

  8. Fulfill this emotional need(need for a break etc) for yourself through regular practice of this internal dialogue also known as the inner critic dialogue. This means that you give yourself a break the next time the inner critic strikes by answering back to it mentally. Since this is a skill, it will indeed take regular mental practice.

The key is to heal your relationship with yourself so that you can heal your relationships with others too.

Follow me on LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

Dr. Sunayana Nature Baruah Brainz Magazine
 

Dr. Sunayana Nature Baruah, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Sunayana Nature Baruah or Su as she calls herself is a licensed Clinical & Counselling Psychologist working in France. She graduated from the Professional Doctorate programme in Counselling Psychology of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. She is a Chartered Psychologist with the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) and a member of the International Psychoanalytical Association(IPA). She has worked with adults of all age groups in hospitals, primary care clinics and private practices across India, Ireland and now in France. She has extensively worked with people who had experienced trauma in their lives as well as eating disorders and body image issues. Her motto: Mental health is health.

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