As creative entrepreneurs, and many of us solo small business owners, our inner critic often gets a bigger say than we’d like. It’s a noisy little poppet, that needs to be recognised and quietened, often.
To help with this we’ve invited Dr Jacqueline Baulch, a clinical psychologist and the director of Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology (and one of our kin) to share with us some tips on managing our inner critic.
Jacqueline truly believes in the value of therapy not only for addressing mental health issues, but also for self-development and enhancing wellbeing. So, over to Jacqueline to arm us with the sledge hammer to fight our inner critic.
How did you speak to yourself the last time you had ‘one of those days’?
You know, those days when from the moment you open your eyes you sense that it’s going to be a slog.
Simple tasks, like packing your lunch, feel like an ordeal.
More complex and demanding tasks, like work or taking care of the kids, feel insurmountable.
You struggle through, feeling irritable, indecisive and overwhelmed.
The impact of your self-talk on days like this cannot be overstated.
Even on regular days what you say to yourself and the tone in which you say it has a profound effect on how you feel about your relationships, your past, your future, the world around you and most importantly, how you feel about yourself.
So what’s your inner commentary generally like?
When the going gets tough do you speak to yourself with kindness and compassion? Or does your inner critic come out to play, beating you up and judging you from every angle? If you’re unsure, be curious over the next little while.
- What are some of the phrases that you repeatedly say to yourself when your inner critic is in the captain’s seat?
- Are there any changes in the tone or volume of your self-talk?
- Do you notice any changes in your body as the inner critic becomes louder?
- What sorts of things does your inner critic tell you that you can’t do? Or shouldn’t do? Or aren’t capable of?
- What sort of person does your inner critic say you are?
- What does your inner critic have to say about how other people see you?
- What about your future, what is your inner critic’s opinion on that?
- How does your self-talk compare with how you speak to family or friends?
- Does your inner critic remind you of anyone you’ve known (past or present)? Perhaps a parent, a teacher or a bully?
What about those times when your inner critic seems to be working for you?
It’s worthwhile unpacking those times and examining them a little closer.
- Are there concrete, tangible ways that this sort of self-talk benefits you or does it just feels like it does?
- Do you fear that without your inner critic you’ll become unmotivated?
- Even if occasionally your inner critic does seem to motivate you, is this the kind of relationship you want to have with yourself?
- Is there a way that you can still be firm and disciplined with yourself, without being harsh and punitive?
Maybe after observing your inner critic for a while, you genuinely feel it has a motivating quality.
If this voice really is your inner critic though, chances are you’re also feeling judged, attacked and trampled while being ‘motivated’. On a really tough day you might even feel belittled and shamed by this type of self-talk. So your inner critic might be motivating you, but at what cost to your self-worth?
Perhaps you’re reading this blog thinking to yourself, “I’ll work on my inner critic later”…once your business has become more established, or once you feel better about your parenting, or once you’ve found a partner, or once you have a certain amount of money.
The longer the inner critic is allowed to run the show unchecked though, the more entrenched and habitual this voice becomes.
Does your inner critic really stop once you tick off goals (usually goals that your inner critic said you couldn’t achieve in the first place)? Chances are you’ll notice it doesn’t. Chances are your inner critic pipes up and says something along the lines of
“okay, well let’s raise the bar higher then shall we”?
While you to continue to toil away, the inner critic remains, relentless in it’s insistence that you need to do more and be more. Quietly (or sometimes loudly) reminding you that the person you are right now is not enough.
Old habits die hard
The inner critic is likely to come out when you face difficult periods in your life. This is when we tend to go back to habits, old behaviours that we learned a long, long time ago. Behaviours that sometimes feel etched into our brain.
The irony is when the going gets tough the last thing you need is a bully whipping you into shape, depleting and diminishing you with all it’s demands.
Instead you need compassion.
- What does your compassionate voice sound like? Can you bring to mind the tone? What sorts of words or phrases come to mind when you think about being compassionate with yourself?
- How does your compassionate voice compare to your inner critic?
- What gets in the way of you being more compassionate with yourself? Do you fear that you’ll let yourself off the hook completely? Do you worry that if you’re compassionate with yourself you will become lazy, unmotivated or undisciplined?
Compassion is not the same as passively giving in. Compassion is being firm and accountable to yourself, while also being kind and accepting.
Chipping away at it
The suggestions in this blog are not intended to be magic bullets for demolishing your inner critic. Your inner critic didn’t appear overnight. It’s been gaining momentum your whole life. At certain times it may have even served you well.
For most of us our inner critic will be around in some shape or form for the rest of our lives. It’s apart of who we are. Truly harnessing our inner critic involves accepting this reality, while persisting with efforts to try to shift it’s impact on how we feel about ourselves.
Dr Jacqueline Baulch, Director, Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology
Together with my team of wonderful psychologists I have created a client-centered practice that empowers people to improve their mental health, wellbeing and satisfaction with life. We believe that help-seeking is brave and something to be admired, not judged. We believe that meaningful conversations about mental health are an important part of shifting this stigma and endeavour to contribute to this movement through actively engaging in social media and blogging.
Our warm, compassionate and experienced team work with children (12+), adolescents, adults and the elderly with a wide range of issues including generalized anxiety, depression, perfectionism, social anxiety, panic attacks, stress management, OCD, complex trauma and PTSD, grief and loss, adjustment to life changes, eating disorders and body image, living with cancer and school-based issues.