We all have an inner critic. It is completely natural to have one, but the problem is when it starts to hinder our growth.
In a society strongly marked by consumerism, we often have the tendency – in some instances, an exaggerated one – to compare ourselves to our friends, colleagues, etc. This unhealthy habit can lead to our inner critic being particularly destructive to our growth.
Similarly to other behaviours that we have, we begin to develop the unhealthy habit of comparing ourselves to others in the early childhood. We often learn this from our parents, grandparents or educators when they compare our actions to those of other children.
Then we grow up and go to school, where the whole system is based on comparison: “Other students got a better mark than I did”, “X is better at math than I am”. All these thoughts feed our inner critic.
How Our Inner Critic Sabotages Our Growth
Comparison is one of the unhealthiest components of our lives. Yet, unconsciously, we use it as a motivator. We see what others can do, the places they visit, the lifestyle they create and somehow we feel that can also do it, so we set up a goal and aim to reach it.
Unfortunately, using comparison as a motivator only produces frustration, which leads to unhappiness. And from that moment on, misfortune begins to settle.
The more frustration we experience, the unhappier we will be. Whatever we do, whatever we get, whoever we are, it will not be enough. When we cannot enjoy what we have or who we are, we cannot know what a peaceful life means.
How Comparing Yourself to Others Feeds Your Inner Critic
Psychological studies have shown that the human mind is more prone to remembering negative or neutral information than the positive one. This tendency seems to influence our way of acting.
As such, when we compare ourselves to others, we only tend to see our flaws or failures, ignoring all our achievements or the positive aspects of our lives. Consequently, we start setting rigid and unrealistic standards for ourselves. And when we fail to fulfil them, our inner critic gets too tough, judging or ironic.
Also, self-criticism implies the idea that there is something wrong with us and that we have one or more negative characteristics that cannot be changed. So we excessively focus on the negative parts that we perceive in ourselves, be it behaviours, performances, personality traits, intelligence, physical aspects, thoughts or emotions.
The fact that we do not succeed in something important to us (for example, relationships, work or school) can be painful. As a result, these negative experiences can threaten the way we perceive ourselves and the way we want to be. This tendency can negatively influence our self-acceptance, trust in our abilities and knowledge, the way we set our goals and form relationships with others.
How to Stop Your Inner Critic from Ruining Your Life
1. Monitor Your Thoughts
You are very accustomed to what you say and to the thoughts that come to your mind. For this reason, it can be hard to see when you use self-criticism.
With all those countless thoughts that we make every day, we have multiple chances to think rationally or irrationally. Learning to identify and manage your thinking patterns is essential if you want to control the way your thoughts affect your life.
2. Stop Negativity
When you see that you have entered that process in which you overanalyze yourself and your behaviours and recall every mistake you made, it means that it is time for you to switch the course of your thinking.
Otherwise, you will intensify and prolong your negative emotions and reinforce this harmful habit of listening to your inner critic.
3. Embrace Your Mistakes, Your Failures
There is a major difference between telling ourselves that we are not good enough and telling ourselves that some aspects of our lives need improvement. Acceptance involves the acknowledgement of one’s own qualities and flaws.
Acceptance comes from the fact that we have certain things that we do not like about ourselves at this time, certain abilities we want to develop and certain information we want to gain. But it is also about embracing the fact that we are humans and, therefore, we are prone to making mistakes.
It is important to accept ourselves as we are and at the same time, to make a commitment to improving certain things that we like less.
4. Practice Self-Compassion
The alternative to self-criticism is self-compassion. It comes along with understanding and accepting our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. It is about recognizing the challenges and all the factors that can influence us and our self-confidence.
Give yourself time to grow. Do not pay attention only to obstacles and failures but also on what you have achieved so far. I am sure there have been many difficult moments that you successfully overcame. That needs appreciation!
5. Write Down Every Positive Thing/Event
We find it easier to focus on negativity than positivity. As such, all the good things that happen to us and all the good people we meet often remain forgotten. In order to stop your brain from throwing away all the good memories, write them down in a journal.
Write down your achievements and qualities along with everything that makes you proud of yourself and your life. At the end of every month, re-read your journal and remind your inner critic of the great person that you are.
Whatever you wish to achieve in life, remember that self-love is the first step towards success.