Shhh…quiet…listen. Hear that? No? Listen again…that inner critic you carry around with you in your head. Creating anxiety, doubt and worry. Increasing irritation, frustration or anger. Contributing to sadness, hopelessness or despondency. We all have these negative, worried, angry or critical internal messages in our heads daily. They are like an invisible but powerful force pulling and pushing us throughout the day and well into the night.
But did you know Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can silence your inner critic?
Let me show you how. What happens when we bring these thoughts out into the light of day? When we “hear” our otherwise silent self-talk and dare to speak those thoughts out loud? Let’s give it a try. How do you feel when you read the following?
- I’m not good enough. I must be thoroughly competent and adequate in everything I do. I should not be satisfied with myself unless I’m the best or excelling.
- I can’t be happy unless a certain condition — like success, money, love, approval or perfect achievement– is met.
- It’s bad to think well of myself.
- If I worry enough, everything will turn out ok.
- If people disapprove of (reject, criticize, mistreat) me, it means I’m inferior, wrong or no good.
- I should always feel happy, confident and in control.
- People won’t love or accept me if I’m flawed or vulnerable.
And how often do you use the word “should”?
“Should” is a distortions in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that you may use often. “Should” sets up expectations, damages self-esteem and puts others in a no-win position. “I should be done with this already,” creates self-doubt and produces anxiety and the resulting hurrying and rushing. How about these?… “I should know how to to this” or “I shouldn’t be making any mistakes” These “should’s” only limit our life’s choices and activities and cut down on new adventures we allow ourselves to try.
So the question becomes… How do you change that damaging self-talk? How do you ditch the “should” for good? How to you silence your inner critic? How do you change that voice inside your own head, the one causing you so much unhappiness?
It’s a process, to be sure. And a process that moves along much faster when you are engaged in the counseling process. After all, we aren’t very good at being objective about ourselves or with ourselves, and that’s where the outside voice of a skilled counselor can really help move things forward quickly. And each person’s inner critic can be a bit different, with different roots and with different daily impacts. So for that reason as well, individualizing your work with a counselor can be really helpful.
But for those of you who are do-it-yourself-er’s here are some great first steps to take, along with some resources I use with many clients:
- First, spend a day “thinking about your thinking”. That’s not a typo! Really tune into what you are telling yourself in any given situation during the day. Here’s where the “Listening softly for the messages that matter” comes into play. Then write those thoughts down. Or at least tally up the number of negative thoughts, worried thoughts or judgmental thoughts you’ve had in a day. You may be surprised and somewhat overwhelmed at the number, frequency and sometimes harshness of your inner critic. But remember, awareness is key… you can’t change what you are not aware of, so spend a few days really tuned in and listening.
- Next, do some research on CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Then find some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy books (anything by David Burns, I’ve found to be very helpful) and read your little heart out. You’ll learn a great deal about anxiety, depression and anger. You’ll discover how your thoughts create worry and anxiety, depression and anger. And most importantly you’ll learn how to change those thoughts and create more happiness in your life.
- Finally, there are also apps out there that guide you through basic Cognitive Behavioral Therapy exercises; CBTDiary and Moodnotes are two to check out. Practicing Cogntive Behavioral Therapy will be as quick and easy as opening the app on your phone!
Good luck on your journey. Give a call and set up you appointment if you need some guidance along the way.
And Listen! Hear that?
I think the voice of your internal critic is quieter already! 🙂