I have two voices that live inside me. One reminds me of the good that I have done and the things that have worked out well. If all I had was this inner voice my life would be much better. My problems come from my other voice. I call it the inner critic.
The inner critic says things to me I would never say to someone else, always focuses on the negative and refusing to see anything good. If I spend too much time dwelling on what this critic has to say it can easily make me depressed.
After having talked to other people I have found that I am not alone in my experiences.
How can we stop the inner critic for good?
I wish I had a pill we could take to keep this creep from ever discouraging us again. If that pill did exist we would pay millions for it. There is a solution to the battle with the inner critic that will assure victory EVERY TIME.
“What is it?”, you ask.
A few years ago while reading The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, David Schwartz and Sharon Begley showed the difference in the thought process of a negative person and a positive person. I tended to think that negative people have more negative thoughts than positive people. The research has shown something different. Negative people do not have more negative thoughts than positive people. The difference comes in what both of them do with negative thoughts.
The negative person will focus on the negative thought (aka the inner critic) when it enters their mind. And what you focus on grows and becomes bigger and bigger in your mind. This causes the single negative thought to grow into something huge. It did not start big but grew as they focused on it.
Have you ever had an argument with someone that made you really upset? What happens when you replay the event over and over in your head? It gets bigger doesn’t it?
What do positive people do when the negative thought comes? The positive people refuse to give their attention to the negative thought, instead when those thoughts come they shift their focus on something positive. This keeps the negative thought from taking over your mind. As soon as it starts it is not allowed to spread its roots and grow.
With this information in mind what can we do when facing the negative critic?
Take the message that is given by the critic and shift it to something positive.
The writer of Philippians gives us some valuable insights regarding our thoughts.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Here some inner critic examples and what you can do to SHIFT your thoughts:
1. The inner critic thrives on SHAME. Failures are a part of life. Our best made plans often end in disaster. After times of failure a time for reflection and assessment is healthy. It is important to ask ourselves what we did wrong that possibly contributed to the failure. Sometimes it is easy to see what we “should have done”. Other times we have no idea how it happened or what we could have done differently. This is normal. This is life.
The problem comes when the inner critic adds SHAME to this process. The critic will say things like,”You idiot.” “What were you thinking?” “That is the stupidest thing I have ever seen.” “You never do anything right?” He does not want you to see your actions as a “what you did”, he instead wants you to see them as “what you are.”
How to SHIFT the thought: Assess your failures openly and honestly but refuse to add SHAME to the answer. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are not what you once were, but that’s not all: you are not what you are going to be. Allow failure to be a catalyst for change by offering yourself grace and forgiveness. If God has forgiven you, don’t allow the inner critic to shame you.
2. The inner critic may have gotten its voice from the other critics in your life. When the voice of the inner critic comes it may simply be the echo of the negative, shame-filled and condescending voices from across your life. We have all had people in our lives that spoke life into us BUT we have also had those who spoke death and destruction into our lives. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21
How to SHIFT that thought: When the inner critic comes, realize that he is not the voice God intended for you to follow. He may be the voice of the critics you have had in your life through the years. Don’t be afraid to name him. Does he sound like______? Often placing a name on him will diminish his power significantly. Just don’t let your family member know that you named your inner critic after him. That may cause a little conflict. HA HA!
You are not what the critic says about you. You are what God says about you. Are there things in you that God wants to remove from your life? Yes. Are there things about you than inhibit your relationship with God? Most of us have those things. Don’t allow your past voices to take the place of God’s voice in you.
3. The inner critic wants you to see the worst in everything. Ok you know the person in your life that always sees the WORST in everything? You know it is also the one that you will never ask them how they are doing? If you do you will be there a while hearing about how bad things are in their life.
The critic may begin the internal conversation by ONLY seeing the worst in the situation. He might say,
- “Look how bad _______ treated you,”
- “You did not deserve what she said to you”
- “I know you just got $$$ back in your taxes but Bill got $$$$. That’s not fair. You work harder than he does and have more kids.”
- And the inner dialogue continues.
How to SHIFT the thought: See the good in the situation and recognize what God is wanting to teach you. Are there bad things that happen in the world? Yes. Are there horrible things that have happened in your life? Yes. Do you have to be bitter about those things? No.
To live a meaningful life it is best to recognize God’s work in everything. Joseph after being sold into slavery by his brothers had a grace-filled view of his suffering. Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.” Genesis 50:20
I don’t think it is possible to stop the inner critic from saying anything at all. We can remove his power by shifting our thoughts to something else.
I want to hear what God has for me and not the voice of the inner critic.