How To Make Friends With Your Inner Critic
Every perfectionist I work with fights a daily battle with their inner critic. That little voice inside your head that constantly second-guesses your every move and tells you that you're not good enough is exhausting and downright debilitating.
The more we assume this voice spews facts, the more power we give it. The louder it gets until pretty soon, we stop ourselves from trying anything where failure is a possibility.
Many people think that the only way to take your power back from this voice is to crush it into submission. But you don’t need to white-knuckle it through the tough times or never let it see the light of day again.
In my experience, the real medicine that perfectionists need is compassion, understanding, and—ironically—a little bit of imperfection.
By befriending your inner critic, you begin to slowly turn the volume down on that negative voice. You become more self-aware and start to see the situations where your inner critic is most likely to rear its ugly head.
And, over time, you develop a more compassionate relationship with yourself—which is something every perfectionist needs more of.
Ready to make that inner critic your new BFF? Take these four steps.
1. Acknowledge its presence
The first step to making friends with your inner critic is acknowledging that it exists. This may seem like a no-brainer, but for many of us, our inner critic is such a part of our daily lives that we don't even realize it's there.
Start paying attention to the things you say to yourself on a daily basis.
Are you constantly putting yourself down?
Do you find yourself comparing yourself to others and coming up short?
Do you beat yourself up for not meeting your (perfect) expectations?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you've got a pretty strong inner critic. And that's OK! Everyone has one. The important thing is to become aware of its presence so you can start to make a change.
Take it a step further and write down some of the negative things your inner critic says to you. This will help you to see just how often this voice is speaking up and the kinds of things it typically says.
2. Give it a name
One of the best ways to disarm your inner critic is to give it a name. This may seem like a silly exercise, but it's actually quite powerful.
By giving your inner critic a name, you take away some of its power. It's no longer this faceless, all-powerful voice in your head. It becomes something you can relate to and even empathize with.
So, what should you name your inner critic? Anything you want! Personally, I think a silly, sweet, and disarming name is best. Something like "Ethel" or "Bertie." You can even name it after a person you love or admire to help soften the blow, like a favorite pet.
3. Get to know its triggers
Now that you've noticed and named your inner critic, it's time to get to know its triggers.
What sets your inner critic off? Is there a certain situation that always seems to bring out the worst in it? A particular person? A time of day?
Getting to know your inner critic's triggers is crucial because it allows you to be proactive instead of reactive. Once you know what sets it off, you can begin to take steps to avoid those triggers or at least be prepared for them.
Start by making a list of some things that trigger your inner critic.
4. Make it your ally
The final step to making friends with your inner critic is to start seeing it as your ally instead of your enemy.
Remember, your inner critic is trying to protect you. It's not intentionally trying to make your life difficult.
So, the next time your inner critic speaks up, ask yourself what it's trying to tell you and what it’s trying to protect you from.
Fear of making mistakes, for example, is often what brings out perfectionism that causes us to be so hard on ourselves. But making mistakes is an essential part of life and the only way to learn and grow.
So, the next time your inner critic pops up, think of what a best friend would say instead. For example instead of, “You suck at this. You’re never going to do it right,” reword it as, “It’s OK. This is new and you’re still learning how to do it.”