Take a moment and ask yourself who your biggest critic is? In the past my answer to that question would have been…me. I would have thought nothing of describing myself to others as my own worst enemy, and I was. Ironically in describing myself like that I was actually just taking yet another undeserved pop at myself.
The inner critic
Most people I speak to can relate to the concept of a voice in our head that seems to provide an internal running commentary to our life. Some people refer to this as our internal script or internal chatter and there is a school of thought that says we can change this “script” if what it contains isn’t helpful to us.
By unhelpful, I mean the voice we sometimes hear that tells us that we’re not good enough, clever enough, good-looking enough or that we won’t be able to do the thing we’re trying to do or even that we don’t deserve to achieve the things we want to achieve.
What happens when this voice goes unchecked is that we lose confidence in ourselves, which inevitably means we under perform in a way we wouldn’t if we simply believed in ourselves.
The self-defeating cycle
If I tell myself repeatedly that I’m not good enough to do something, the chances are that I won’t be able to do it or I won’t even bother trying. I then interpret this failure as proof that the self-doubt or criticism is correct which leads to further self-doubt and on-going criticism.
Silencing the inner critic
When I cottoned on to the fact that what I tell myself can, on occasion, be less than helpful, I thought I had it cracked – I told myself that if I stopped thinking negative and self-critical thoughts my life would be much better. Simple.
When reality set in and I realised that these critical thoughts weren’t as easy to stop, silence or ignore as I had predicted, what do you think I did?
Well I beat myself up of course, I said to myself things like: “why can’t you just stop being so negative” and “why do you always have to put yourself down?”
I criticised myself for criticising myself. How self-defeating is that? Very. But lots of people do it.
Kill it with kindness
It was around this time that I started to think about how I treat others. When a good friend is feeling low and giving themselves a hard time, I try and cheer them up by reminding them what’s good about themselves or helping them to see that there might be reasons for why they’re feeling the way they are. I don’t add insult to injury by agreeing that yes, they are a bad person and they shouldn’t even bother trying to do x because they would fail miserably.
This was a bit of a light bulb moment for me. If I wouldn’t do that to a friend why would I do it to myself?
It was then that I realised that I needed to give myself a break and try something different in order to break the cycle. The next time I found myself criticising myself, I stopped and acknowledged that I was being hard on myself and then I cut myself some slack, showed myself some empathy and gave myself some encouragement. In essence I was kind to myself.
For me this method works – kindness breaks the cycle and proves my inner critic wrong.
Not all criticism is bad
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go through life thinking that I’m perfect, dismissing any word to the contrary. I have my critics and I’m grateful for them, they keep me on my toes and they point out things that sometimes I need to hear, but what I’m most grateful for is that my biggest critic doesn’t live in my head anymore.
In its place now lives self-belief and what’s great about self-belief is that I can call on it whenever I do face criticism from others and it is self belief that not only helps soften the blow but also helps me to decide which criticisms are valid and which I can choose to ignore.
Who is your biggest critic? Please post your comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.