CHAMPS Blog: How to silence your inner critic and welcome your inner cheerleader
You know that voice in your head – the one that tells you you’re not good enough and whispers words of self-doubt and criticism? Well, that’s your inner critic.
If your inner critic is especially loud or active, it can take a toll on your emotional wellbeing and self-esteem. Learning how to quieten your inner critic and, instead, raise the voice of your inner cheerleader is crucial for elevating your wellbeing.
Exploring the inner critic
The idea that we all have an inner critic isn’t anything new.
The origins of the inner critic can be traced back as far as the 1970s. American psychologists Dr Hal and Dr Sidra Stone were some of the first people to discuss the inner critic in their book “embracing your inner critic”.
The inner critic concept refers to a subpersonality that is deemed by characteristics of self-doubt, judgement, and criticism. It’s similar to Freud’s superego in his structural model of the psyche.
The inner critic is an internal voice that produces negative thoughts and feelings of low self-esteem, self-doubt, shame, worthlessness, or guilt.
The purpose of your inner critic is to protect you. It may sound counterintuitive but the inner critic tries to protect you by voicing all these negative thoughts about yourself before anyone else can. It can also voice negative thoughts to motivate you to do better. An inner critic that calls you stupid, for example, might motivate you to try harder.
With all that said, the inner critic isn’t your best friend. It can be damaging for your wellbeing. A harsh inner critic leads to negative self-thoughts that can impact your mental health and cause emotional lows. If your inner critic is too loud, it can be debilitating.
Learning how to silence your inner critic is pivotal for improving your self-thoughts and wellbeing.
Strategies to silence your inner critic
Thankfully, there are strategies you can put in place to keep your inner critic in check.
The first step for silencing your inner critic is to be aware of when it speaks up. Techniques like cognitive reframing, practising mindfulness and self-compassion, and getting comfortable naming and externalising your inner critic are all helpful ways to quieten those negative self-thoughts.
Identifying your inner critic
If you want to silence your inner critic, you first need to hear it.
Your inner critic is built through your experiences and beliefs. It’s likely that the words your inner critic says have come from the experiences you’ve lived through. It can be helpful to think back to when you first heard that voice and when you formed that belief.
Someone whose inner critic berates them for being lazy might think back to a time they were first told they were lazy as a child. That experience could have been the first time they were made to feel that way about themselves – laying the foundation for their inner critic.
As well as identifying when your inner critic first started and where those beliefs originally came from, it’s also helpful to recognise whenever you hear your inner critic. Draw attention to how often your inner critic is vocal. Notice if there are any patterns in what it is saying or when it happens. You might, for example, find your inner critic is especially loud when you are outside of your comfort zone.
Being able to identify your inner critic and recognise when it’s speaking, is the first step to learning how to silence it.
Cognitive reframing challenges negative self-thoughts by shifting your mindset to view the situation from a different perspective. It’s a great technique for changing how you process and perceive things.
Whenever you encounter negative self-talk at the hands of your inner critic, find counterevidence for why your inner critic’s logic is flawed. If your inner critic tells you that you’re going to fail at something, find the evidence for times where you have previously succeeded. By seeking counterevidence, you can fight your inner critic’s unfounded feelings with facts.
Whenever your inner critic speaks up, use that opportunity to replace your negative self-talk with more positive and realistic thoughts.
Practising mindfulness and self-compassion
When it comes to silencing your inner critic, don’t overlook the power of practising mindfulness and self-compassion.
The art of mindfulness is centred around bringing your attention to the present moment, free from evaluation or judgement. You simply exist in the here and now. While it may sound easy, mindfulness can be a tricky skill to hone.
By practising mindfulness towards your inner critic your awareness of these negative thoughts will increase. In turn, you will realise how unhelpful they are and how those thoughts make you feel. A mindful approach can reduce your likelihood to ruminate on negative thoughts.
Be gentle with yourself when negative thoughts arise and counter your inner critic with thoughts of self-compassion and kindness. Being compassionate towards yourself and remembering you don’t have to be perfect can be a helpful strategy for overcoming your inner critic.
This mindfulness and self-compassion helps balance out the negativity of your inner critic.
Naming and externalising your inner critic
Giving your inner critic a name and backstory can be a useful strategy for silencing its voice.
Visualise your inner critic as an external character or object. This visualisation exercise helps you see your inner critic as being a separate entity to yourself which, in turn, makes it much easier to detach from its influence. This externalisation helps you see your inner critic as a “third person”, rather than perceiving it as being part of you in the “first person”.
Your inner critic’s name might be entirely fictional… or it may be based on someone you know, be it a disapproving relative or yourself as a child. Creating a backstory for your inner critic also helps you identify its origins.
When externalising your inner critic, don’t forget to name it. Giving your inner critic a name lets you take power over your inner critic. Shirley, for example, calls her inner critic Doris! Whenever Doris (Shirley’s inner critic) speaks up, Shirley can talk back to Doris, thank her for input then put her back in her rightful place.
Shifting to the “third person” and engaging in conversation with your inner critic can be freeing.
Welcoming your inner cheerleader
Now that you’ve learnt how to silence your inner critic, it’s time to make room for your inner cheerleader.
Your inner cheerleader is the opposite of your inner critic. It encourages you to do better and is kind to you if you take a backwards step. Your inner cheerleader is centred on supporting you through life and encouraging you to be the best version of yourself.
Honing your inner cheerleader is a helpful strategy for fostering greater self-belief and resilience.
Welcome your inner cheerleader by following the above strategies for silencing your inner critic. Make a conscious effort to be gentle and kind with yourself, embrace who you are, and be your own biggest cheerleader.
Reciting positive affirmations can be a great way to build your inner cheerleader. Self-belief and resilience doesn’t come naturally to everyone. It is a muscle you need to develop and flex.
By leaning into your inner cheerleader, you can strengthen your positive self-talk.
Join us for our inner critic workshop
Get ready to wave goodbye to your inner critic and welcome your inner cheerleader with open arms. We’re hosting an Inner Critic workshop in September 2023 that will teach you the strategies and tools for dealing with your inner critic.
This Inner Critic workshop is being delivered as part of our CHAMPS For Change Thrivership Coaching Programme. The workshop will be complimentary to our Thrivers and Coaches. However, it is open for anyone to join for a £5 donation.
View our upcoming events to find out more and sign up for the Inner Critic workshop.