Do you have an inner critic that works overtime? An inner critic is that little voice in your head that tells you that you have not accomplished enough, are not good enough, and will never be all that you want to be.
It may tell you that you are too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too poor, too materialistic, and the list goes on. An inner critic can be like a radio or television left on that is always going in the background. Sometimes this critical voice has been there for so long, that you have come to believe its negative propaganda.
As we reach adulthood, the inner critic can grow into the saboteur. Not only are we down on ourselves, but we have such little belief in ourselves that we will not even try the things that might give us a better sense of ourselves. Trying to move forward with an inner critic in the background is like trying to run in quicksand. Not only does one not get anywhere, but we find ourselves being mired deeper and deeper in our own negative view of ourselves.
Ironically, the critic can be just as dominant in highly successful people as in those who have achieved little success. Clearly, it does not have much to do with reality. Many highly successful individuals suffer from the “impostor syndrome”. Despite having proven themselves many times over, they fear that one day everyone will see that they really know nothing. They may not maximize their potential, for fear that the next upward step will reveal to all the world that they have been “faking” it all along.
Clearly, that critical inner voice can wreck havoc with our lives, both personally and in our work life. If it continues to spin out of control, an individual may begin to suffer from depression and/or anxiety.
What can we do about this? Think of the critical voice as an old program that is running, and that no longer serves you. With a computer, if you want to stop a program from running, you can disable it. This is what we have to do in our own minds. It is not quite as easy as with a computer, but it can be done. We must first maintain an awareness of when the critical voice is speaking, and then refuse to listen. Imagine just turning it off. Each time it starts, turn it off. In time, you will find it becomes weaker.
At the same time, you can begin to empower a positive voice. Give yourself encouraging messages. Be an enthusiastic coach to yourself. After years of emotional battering, your spirit will welcome the change.
Gwen Randall-Young is an Alberta author and award-winning psychologist.