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Self-criticism and Ways to Control It

Most of us often find it difficult telling the difference between our points of views (personal opinions) to our critical inner voice. You would notice that we barely take note of the negative thoughts we have towards ourselves, especially when these thoughts are happening in our head.

We often experience changes in our moods as a result of what we think about ourselves and this thought may cause anxiety, shame, and feeling of humiliation but we hardly are able to catch on or control what we tell ourselves moments before our moods take different turns.

Allowing the negative thoughts change our moods is terrible but not doing anything about it might be even worst. Taking control of the situations in our mind is the first step to addressing this issue, and you can do that by reflecting on yourself. Consider “the situation you were in before you started feeling bad” “what were you telling yourself at the time your mood changed?” “who and who were you with when certain mood changes occur?”

By doing a simple catalog of these, we can easily tell what scenarios that seem to trigger critical inner voice as well as the specific thoughts that go through our heads. Let’s take for instance people who get irritable and starts feeling unsure of themselves after having discussions with friends, family or coworkers, and it does matter what the conversation is centered on. People usually have thought that you don’t know what you’re talking about, while they are having a conversation with someone or while they are doing things with people.

They start having thoughts like, “why do I sound this way?”, “am I even making any sense?” “she can definitely tell I am dumb,” “I think I should just shut up and keep nodding my head to everything.” Some men get angry or may feel hurt when their significant other reminds them about anything.

This is because while they are being reminded of what they forgot to do or are supposed to do, they automatically switch to the voices in their heads telling them that, “she thinks you are stupid,” “do you think she feels you are irresponsible?”

“she’s definitely smarter than you” and then immediately tap into the feeling of being bombarded with criticisms and the possible immediate response is to get defensive. Let us consider some of the following ways you could control these negative inner voices;

1. Take a record of the “voices” in the second person

When we notice our inner critic trying to take charge, it is imperative to filter what the voice is saying from a realistic perspective. One way to do this is by penning down all that the “voice” says, in the second person as “you” statements, instead of “I” statements. You could merely resound the voice by externalizing your inner critic by reprogramming yourself to hearing these voices differently.

So instead of saying “I am not enough” to “you are not enough,” from “she thinks I am stupid” to “she thinks you’re stupid.” This action would be typical of what we would do when we are being attacked by an enemy verbally, rather than bluntly agreeing.

2. Approach your attacks with compassion and reason

You should respond to each of these criticisms with the reasonable and compassionate attitude you’d take with someone you are acquainted with after you must have written down your critical inner voice attacks; in the second person.

You could do this by taking what’s been written, let’s say, “she thinks you’re stupid” and change it to “I am not stupid, I am smart, I am important, and I have something to offer. Even if I am misunderstood, people still like to be around me”.

The purpose of switching from the second person back to the first person when addressing our inner voices is not so we can inflate our ego and build ourselves up but to boost self-confidence, maintain a kind and honest attitude about who we really should be and what we can achieve by just being ourselves.

3. Listen but don’t act:

One worst forms of trolling come wrapped in bitter criticism or advice from strangers, and since these people see us from their own point of view, it is easy to believe them. This makes it easy for us to believe it when people say we are doing something wrong, even if it seems right to us.

The same rule applies to our inner critic. The voices make us question our actions, and we begin to doubt our very actions. Especially if these actions requires for a significant decision, the voice might tell you to “keep a low profile”  or “people might not buy your idea” or something related to that.

You could instead of listening and do what the voices suggest,  do the direct opposite. Even if you begin to doubt yourself and how absurd doing or saying what you believe is, it’s best you don’t do what the voices say. You may have panic attacks and anxiety or even fall into depression but do not take the advice of our inner critic. Be brave enough to take risks and go for what you want, say what’s on your mind and do what you’ve always wanted to do.

4. Be compassionate to yourself:

Unlike self-esteem, self-compassion is not based overall evaluation of yourself. Instead, it is you showing yourself kindness and love void of any form of judgments by embracing yourself as you are. It is more comfortable achieving this when you acknowledge that you’re far from perfect and you are willing to love your imperfections regardless.

We are human after all, and we are not without flaws. Self-compassion is accepting a positive and mindful approach to thoughts and feelings that we experience. This method (self-compassion) attitude is useful when taking on our inner critics, allowing us to tackle long-engrained attacks with the feeling of empathy and self-acceptance.

Oluwafemi Michael
Oluwafemi Michael is an online Mental Health Therapist, Advocate for Mental Health Awareness, a programmer, and also a content creator from Edo state, Akoko-Edo LG.

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