Shh! Stop that, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Oh hey, guys! Sorry about that.
That was just my inner critic. You know, that nagging voice inside all our heads…yes everyone has an inner critic…telling us we’re not good enough, we’re not this enough and that enough. Yada yada yada.
In this lesson, I’m giving you strategies to help quiet the inner critic inside your head, so grab a warm beverage and let’s get into it!
Alright back to negative self-talk. I don’t think it needs much more introducing. We are all familiar with it and know it holds us back. It drains our brainpower and discourages us from doing things outside our comfort zones.
I think it’s fair to say we’d all love to give that self-critic a kick in the rumpus. Let’s look at some strategies to do just that.
(1) Answer Back
You heard me, talk back to that voice and tell it why it’s a bunch of baloney! What will help is to name the critic. Eric Baker, from Barking Up the Wrong Tree, calls this “naming the brain”. In fact, he named his inner critic Lefty. And in his book A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters, Dr. Steven Hayes says: “If your mind has a name, then it is different from ‘you’. When you listen to someone else, you can choose to agree with what they say or not, and if you don’t want to cause conflict, it’s best not to try to argue the person into agreement with you. That is the posture you want to take with your internal voice.”
So now’s the time to name your brain and tell it why what it’s saying is patently false. Don’t do this in a bellicose way. Be kind but assertive. Thank it for taking the time to look out for you but tell it you have the situation under control. Dr. Hayes says that we should be sincere and show gratitude. He says not to speak to our mind facetiously or be dismissive because it’ll continue trying to problem-solve. To remedy that, we have to be frank and politely stand our ground.
(2) A String of Sounds
Realize that whatever mean or hateful thing the inner critic tells you, it’s really just a string of sounds, or phonemes. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound. In English, we have 44 phonemes, meaning 44 unique sounds. So if you repeat the word or phrase a bunch of times, say 50 or 100 times, the words stop making sense. They become almost nonsensical because you’ve reduced them to phonemes. That’s what’s going on with your inner critic. It’s just a string of sounds with no real meaning.
(3) Get Moving
Research shows that body movement can lower anxiety and increase the secretion of our happy hormones.
Movement is really anything that gets you moving. And it really comes down to preference. Ever heard the phrase: “the best kind of exercise is the exercise you do”? Right. So it’s super important to choose a form of movement that you’ll actually do and adhere to. This could be light movement like a low intensity steady state or something like tai chi or gentle yoga. But it could also be movement where you’re exerting yourself. It could be dancing with music, bench pressing, doing the elliptical, rowing on the erg machine, whatever gets you out of a stationary status quo.
Kelly McGonigal, who has an amazing TedTalk about the upside of stress, has a book called The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage. On a podcast interview, she talked about the science behind “hope molecules” which are chemicals that our muscles release into our bloodstreams during exercise in order to help protect our brain from stress.
So the hope molecule literally changes our brain. As Kelly McGonigal puts it: "You can think of exercise as an intravenous dose of hope."
And those hope molecules zap the inner critic and make room for more positive, encouraging thoughts.
(4) Turn to Nature
Another way to take your mind off your mind is through nature therapy. The best part is that you can self-administer it and it’s 100% free! Just get your tush out the door and surrounded by trees.
It’s been proven that even brief exposure to nature has therapeutic properties. Our mood is measurably enhanced when we see leaves, and smell the forest, and hear birds chirping.
Now, if you don’t live in or close to nature, then try to get some green plants and place them around your living space. You could also save photos of nature and make them your desktop background and look at them ever so often. Perhaps even close your eyes, play a nature soundtrack, and meditate for 3 minutes, imagining you are walking down a forest path. In fact, there are some neat YouTube videos that allow you to do just that!
(5) Create Something
One surprising way to silence that inner critic is to create something. Sounds counter-intuitive because usually the inner critic is telling you not to do that. But that’s probably a sign that you in fact SHOULD be doing it.
You see, when you’re using your brain to create something, it doesn’t have time to ruminate and complain. It’s also great for getting you in the flow state, which is a concept put forth by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975 to illustrate a state of being fully focused and in the zone. You have undivided concentration… which in our age of social media and notifications, is hard to come by.
Creating something could look like making music, painting, writing, cooking, doing some graphic design… these are just a few examples. The more passionate and engaged you are with the activity, the less likely it is for the inner critic to intrude upon your thoughts.
(6) Rebel Against Your Inner Critic
Now it’s time to tap that inner rebel, the one that might have gotten you into a bit of trouble when you were a kid.
Sounds kind of fun, I know.
With this exercise, you’ll see just how much your mind can trick you and how you won’t let defeatist talk get to you. The goal here is to create a situation where you contradict your inner voice.
Here’s an example.
First, skip around your house. Do this a few times. Skip. Just skip. After you’ve done this a few times, continue to skip while telling yourself: “I cannot skip around the room!”
Sounds weird right?
But what’s going on here is that you are proving that your inner voice isn’t the boss of you. It’s telling you to stop, yet here you are, continuing to skip as you please! That inner voice has no authority over your actions.
Go ahead and try this out with other contradicting things. Brush your hair and then mumble “I cannot brush my hair.” Easy peasy.
And the next time your inner critic says “you cannot get that job” go and get that job! Rebel against those thoughts, contract those words, and trounce the inner critic.
Alright, there you have it. Six proven strategies to squash that inner critic.
Let’s quickly recap:
- Thank your inner critic for their concern and let it know you have the situation under control.
- Reduce the inner critic to a meaningless string of sounds. Those sounds can’t hurt you and they don’t shape your reality or future.
- Move your body to jolt it out of a trance of inner criticism. Anything that gets your heart rate up will do the trick
- Get into nature and let its natural healing properties sooth your noisy mind.
- Create something to trigger the flow state, which will leave no room for the inner critic.
- Prove that your inner critic has no authority by doing something your mind says you can’t.
Now as you’ve probably realized, these strategies don’t change our thoughts. Instead, they change our relationships to our thoughts.
And that’s the goal here. The inner critic will pop up every now and again, but once we understand that these thoughts are not reality, and that they can’t actually prevent you from doing what you seek to do, we gain the power to overcome them and stay the course.
So whatever your inner voice said you’re not good enough to do or be, prove it wrong. Because those are just thoughts. Figments of your imagination that wield no real power.
Also recognize that quieting your inner critic comes with practice. It may not be easy at the start.
But the more attuned we become to our negative self-talk, the more capable we become at silencing it.
So now that I've shared our thoughts, I would love to hear about your experiences with your own inner critic. What has it prevented you from doing? What strategies can you think of to quiet the negative self-talk? Share that with me and the Explearning community in the comments below.
And, if you loved this lesson, please be sure to let me know. You can give this video a thumb’s up on YouTube and if you haven’t done so already subscribe to join our tribe of Explearners, so you never miss a lesson. If you ring that bell, you’ll get notified about new lessons and our weekly live streams.
Email this video to a friend or coworker who also wants to supercharge their social skills.
While we’re at it, feel free to also share it with your Facebook and Twitter friends as well!
And remember, the writeup of these lessons are always available on our blog at explearning.co/blog.
With that, have an awesome week, Explearners.
Thank you so much for joining me and I’ll see you next time for your next Explearning lesson.
Happy Explearning ⚡