We all have it. That nagging, whining—sometimes yelling—voice in our head that tells us we’re not good enough, we’re doing it all wrong, and we’ll never get it right. I’m willing to bet that even Einstein heard that voice from time to time.
Because if you’re a human who is trying to achieve something cool, that critical little voice will definitely show up.
What makes the critical voice so challenging to deal with is the way we confront it. Most of us adopt one of two stances when the voice starts talking. We either try to beat it (with counter-arguments) or join it (by helping it in the process of tearing us down). Neither approach works.
If you have begun working toward the practice of self-love and self-acceptance, you most likely will try to beat the voice by resisting it. You might try to convince that critical voice that it’s wrong, or you might try plugging your ears and ignoring it. Both are forms of active resistance, and active resistance only feeds it.
It’s like when someone tells you not to think about a white elephant. What’s the first thing you’re going to think about? And what’s going to play in the background of your thoughts for the next hour while you try to think about other things?
What you can do is move outside of the beat-it-or-join-it mindset and bring in a really cool new perspective that can be incredibly helpful in silencing the critical inner voice.
The key is to gently redirect the flow of your thoughts.
The next time your critical inner voice shows up and starts haranguing you with: “You can’t do that. You’re not good enough. You won’t be successful.” You can listen to the voice respectfully and then respond with: “That’s an interesting viewpoint. I’d like to find out for myself though. I’m going to try it just to see what happens.”
The trick is to treat your inner critical voice as if it were a four-year-old child having a temper tantrum. Because the truth is that the critical voice just doesn’t have the tools or the knowledge to understand that there is a more effective way to go about things. It honestly believes that its job is to protect you from getting hurt—and that means it has to block you from taking creative risks.
If you want to take this exercise even further, you can listen closely to the critical voice and try to identify whose voice it is. Sometimes it’s a parent or an aunt or uncle we felt never accepted us. Sometimes it’s an old teacher we clashed with in school. And sometimes it uses our own voice as a mask.
However your inner critical voice shows up, take the time to thank it for trying to protect you and then gently redirect the flow of your thoughts into a more playful, open mind space. This is a constant practice and it will get easier over time. It’s also part of being human, we all go through it.
You can start today. When your critical inner voice shows up, give it a pat on the head and then—gently—show it the door.
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