Ever wonder why you can be extremely productive in some areas while you find yourself stuck in others? The underlying reason is one of the biggest roadblocks you’ll ever have: Your inner critic. You are your biggest critic. While that can be helpful at times, in most cases your method of critique doesn’t work. You need to find ways to tame your inner critic. When you train your brain to only respond in helpful ways to these negative thoughts, it will increase your productivity in a huge way and also give you the ability to keep moving even through the tough stuff.
Use Your Mind
There is no question that self-doubt holds you back. Research has found that negative events or emotions stick in our brains more than positive events or emotions. In other words, you will remember the time you got cut from a team more vividly than if you had made the team. It’s scientifically proven that your brain holds onto the bad moments more intensely and this causes aversions and mental blocks that hold you back from succeeding.
Self-doubt also gets trapped in your head through repetitive, destructive thoughts. The inner critic can wreak havoc in your mind and diminish your ability to progress in certain areas. By better understanding your inner critic and learning how to tame it, you can train it to help you rather than a hindrance.
Stop Giving Your Inner Critic Power
We are often our own worst critic and tend to let the inner critic hold too much power. It’s easy to find reasons to not do new things or to continue to work on something when we already have convinced ourselves it won’t work out. When you allow the critical part of your mind to overrule the creative parts of your mind, you will give up on projects before you finish them. You won’t even give yourself a chance to fail.
Do Something About It
In order to not let the inner critic inhibit you, it’s necessary to actively recognize and respond to it. This approach is not about eliminating self-critique. Rather, it’s all about understanding if it can help you or not and how to handle it.
Here are some practical steps that help you become more intentional about what critical thoughts you listen to:
When a critical thought comes up, recognize it. Then take a few moments to understand it. Why do you REALLY feel that way? Take each critique on a case by case basis and evaluate them as they come. What prompted that thought?
Did you oversleep for the 3rd time in a row and call yourself a failure? Think about the action and the response and if that response is helpful to moving you forward. It doesn’t matter if you think the critique is true; simply focus on if it’s helpful. Although you really might think of yourself as a failure for sleeping in, letting that critique take root in your mind will not help you.
When you internalize a negative thought, you will often beat yourself up mentally, have a rough day, not sleep well and then continue the cycle. Now that you’ve noticed this critique and that it isn’t helpful, your next step is to be intentional about how you deal with that critique.
Now that you’ve noticed your first negative internal response, you can then deal with it in an intentional and constructive manner. At this point you can discredit the response as being unhelpful. Train yourself to recognize what isn’t useful. Feel free to vocalize that it isn’t moving you forward and then challenge yourself to find a better response.
A better response is one that is honest, yet moves you towards progress. You can determine that you won’t let your accidental snooze ruin your day. Even better, make an action plan by scheduling time that day to look up techniques to not oversleep or find better alarm apps. These steps will ultimately leave you feeling hopeful rather than defeated, and THAT is helpful.
The power in recognizing and replacing unhelpful self-criticism lies in repetition and consistency. You got yourself into the habit of negative and unhelpful responses so you’ll have to put in the time and effort to build new habits to override the old ones. One thing you can do now to tackle this is to set a reminder in your phone every morning. Journaling on a regular basis is a very powerful tool that can help you move forward.
Remind yourself to be aware throughout your day and this can help guide you away from any bad thought patterns. If you don’t have time to evaluate your negative and critical thoughts on the spot, you can jot down each individual instance and reaction as they come up and then tackle them later. Use a convenient note-taking app on your phone like Evernote or even your phone calendar, then set a time to check those notes. You won’t always have time to stop and analyze in every situation so take notes to ensure you’ll remember to evaluate them later.
Of course, not all self-critique is bad. You aren’t completely evicting your inner critic, you are house-training it and teaching it some manners. Well constructed critique can help you make progress and get through challenges. This isn’t about denying that you fail and refusing to accept critique. You are simply trying to make better use of your inner critic by limiting its power to only things it can be helpful towards.
Don’t shut down all self-critical thoughts, just the unhelpful ones.
The goal is to avoid that feeling of defeat that useless critiques give you. This feeling is all too limiting and can discourage forward motion in many areas of your life. If you’ve been hung up on a project, goal or decision for a while and can’t seem to move forward, chances are, your inner critic is to blame. Don’t let your inner critic keep wasting your time, set up daily reminders right now and start observing and evaluating. Train your inner critic to transition from self-defeating to motivating and you’ll find that you make much more progress in difficult areas of your life.