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3 Tips for Turning Your Inner Critic Into Your Inner Cheerleader

Everyone has that little voice inside their head. You know the one: It whispers that you messed up. Says you don’t know what you’re doing. Makes you feel as if you’re not good enough.

That voice has a name. It’s called the inner critic — and it’s part of being human. Theories abound as to why; some experts say it’s the brain’s way of protecting us from making mistakes, while others say it’s a learned response to criticism received during childhood.

Whatever the reason, the good news is that you can learn to train your brain to judge yourself less and be open to trying new things, reaching out to more people along the way. Read on for simple tips to try now.

You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.

– Louise Hay, Author of You Can Heal Your Life

Try Self-Distancing

It may feel strange to talk to yourself in the third person, but this subtle grammatical switch to your internal dialogue can work wonders.

Here’s how self-distancing works. The next time you criticize  yourself or feel something is all your fault, take a moment to talk to yourself. Not out loud — just in your head, or you could write down your thoughts.

For example, if you think something like, “I’m such a failure. I’m always messing everything up,” PAUSE. Then switch the pronoun to your name: “Susan is such a failure. She’s always messing everything up.”

Stepping back like this helps take away the power of a negative thought. Chances are you wouldn’t judge someone else as harshly as you judge yourself, so reframing the criticism puts you in a position to treat yourself as you would a friend.

Practice Self-Affirmation

The first step here is to label the whispering voice you hear as your inner critic. When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, say to yourself, “Oh that’s my inner critic talking again.”

Some people find naming the inner critic to be helpful, calling it “The Judge” or “Shoulda” or the name of a judgmental character they’ve seen in a movie.

Once you’re able to recognize that it’s your inner critic talking, you can present evidence that conflicts with the criticism.

 

  • When you think something like

    “I never know what to say in these situations. I’m a mess.”

  • Pause and counter with something like

    “That’s not true, Miss Judgy! Just last week you chatted with your neighbor for 10 whole minutes.”

  • Then follow up with an affirmation

    “I am a kind and thoughtful person who is taking steps to build relationships. That’s something to be proud of.”

To counter your inner critic even more, make affirmations a daily habit, either when you wake up in the morning or are about to go to bed in the evening. Use a positive phrase that describes how you want to be, such as:

  • I am confident socially and enjoy meeting new people.
  • I am grateful for everything in my life.
  • I am getting better and better every day.
  • I am having a positive impact on the people I encounter.
  • I am rising above thoughts that make me feel afraid.

The more you can practice affirmations, the more you will be able to detach yourself from the fault-finding tendencies of your inner critic.

Befriend Your Inner Critic

Blue skies and rain overlappingWhile none of us can silence our inner critic for good, we can develop a relationship with them. After all, the inner critic can offer us valuable information as we learn and grow in our lives, especially when it comes to connecting with others.

Your inner cheerleader is the yin to your inner critic’s yang. If the inner critic is the judge, then the inner cheerleader is compassion.

Befriending the inner critic means approaching your thoughts with kindness, treating yourself as you would a friend (or someone you’re hoping becomes a friend).

Try talking back to your inner critic:

“I know you’re only trying to protect me from getting hurt, but I’m a human being who learns and grows from new situations. Instead of judgment, could you offer some empathy and encouragement?”

This simple reframing of the inner critic’s “job” may be all you need to regain the confidence to keep reaching out to others.

For more about transforming your critic into a nurturer, watch this Tedx Talk, “Teach Your Inner Critic a New Story.”

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