Quieting Your Inner Critic

If you’re human you struggle with it from time to time. That little voice in the back of your head telling you-you can’t do something or you’re not good enough or you don’t look right…the list is endless. It can happen when things are going great… “this can’t last,” it says. And, of course, when things aren’t going so great our inner critic gets louder: “You’re going to fail, just give up.” “There’s no point in trying.”

Our inner critic can make us feel like we are walking in quicksand, reminding us how imperfect we are, holding us back from life, and telling us we need to be someone happier, gentler, more robust, smarter, more beautiful, in better shape. Without these traits, plus a million more, our inner critic tells us we’ll never do what we strive to do. Ridiculous since no one could fill all needs. We all make mistakes, and we all succeed. The important thing is not to let fear and that inner critic keep us from trying everything we want.

Luckily there are things we can do to silence the critic swirling in our head from time to time.

First, it’s important to realize you don’t have to believe the thoughts that pop up telling you ‘you can’t’ or ‘you’re not good enough.’ We all have those thoughts from time to time and it’s perfectly normal. We have to know that “not being good enough” at something is totally fine and ‘Good Enough’ at the moment. Pema Khandro Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddist and writer in Lion’s Roar, tells us that our fears of imperfection don’t need to stop us from being ourselves and acting for the benefit of all people.

She goes on to write, “being mesmerized by limited self-concepts presents the biggest obstacle to altruistic action. Every great Buddhist practitioner knew their limitations and acted for the benefit of all beings anyway.”

Elizabeth Menneh explains in Busted Halo, how these self-criticisms often come from abusive partners or parents who are insecure and self-judging, temporarily soothing their own inadequacies by pointing out those of others. If we’ve gotten critical self-talk in this way it’s simple to change as well. Try reframing the negative self-talk. When you hear yourself say, “I can’t,” pause then tell yourself, “I don’t know yet if I can do this but I can definitely try!” “I’ll give it my best!” or just, “Yes I can!” Before you tell yourself something critical ask yourself whether you’d say the same thing to your best friend. Most likely you wouldn’t would you?

Remember, we are a continual, beautiful work in progress. Try to laugh at your insecurities, learn from them, grow from them, and then move on from them! Enjoy the porcess, love yourself, your failures and successes, and always try to lift up others in their struggles for self-acceptance too!