How to Make Peace with that Negative Voice in Your Head
Maybe you should stop fighting your inner critic. Hug her. Take him to coffee.
Your inner critic speaks the truth he sees. Sometimes he’s right.
We start talking to ourselves as soon as we learn to talk. Some of us do it out loud. My wife asks me, “What are you thinking? You’re lips were moving.”
One study indicates that we can say 4,000 words a minute to ourselves. That’s 10 times faster than talking out loud. (The Atlantic)
One leader said his inner critic has two voices. Maybe you have even more.
Inner voices might sound like parents, bosses, a divorced spouse, or teachers. Add your own voice(s) to the mix and you have an angry mob with pitchforks in your head.
What if rejecting your inner critic is self-rejection?
Have a conversation with your inner critic.
Don’t simply respond, “You’re right,” when an inner critic says, “You’re a loser.” Ask a few questions.
- What makes you say that I’m a loser? Take your inner critic seriously. He may be partially right.
- What suggestions do you have for next time? Focus your inner critic on taking action.
- Who might you learn from?
Don’t say, “You’re great,” to yourself when you’re not. False confidence might be the reason you botch your next assignment. You won’t prepare adequately.
Note: Yes, there’s value in positive self-talk.
Use “you”, not “I”. There’s a difference between saying to yourself, “I screwed up,” and “You screwed up.” The former seems to define you. The latter is something you did. (WSJ)
I’ve given up trying to silence my inner critic. But I’m on to his strategies. He’s loud, confident, and decisive. He goes everywhere I go. He overstates conclusions. I’m engaging him, rather than trying to silence him.
How might leaders engage with their inner critic in positive ways?
Nice reminder, thanks Dan.
Thanks Jim. Every now and then, it’s useful to pay attention to that inner voice. 🙂
Frankly, I wish I had paid more attention to that voice during my career then sticking my foot in my mouth. Now that I am retired, reflection is truly an interesting thing to reminisce on and have the inner voice tell you, “I told you so!” Even so, I am not complaining, especially living in the high desert and looking at Pinnacle Peak from my balcony whenever I want to. You need to come visit my friend.
I love your area. I was in Phoenix a while back. I’ve also been to Sedona. Next time I’m in your area, I’ll drop a note.
It seems that paying attention to our inner voice is one way to manage our responses.
Agreed Dan, we all agree, and sometimes we need to silence our inner voice/s, temporarily, just so we can think clearly before addressing the avalanche of “helpful” suggestions and comments we throw at ourselves. A quick internal announcement that we are suspending all communications and commentary until after get the something done is a way that I have handled making that space, and it usually works. What do others do?
Thanks John. Your comment made me chuckle. Make announcement that the inner crowd is tuned out…. that cracks me up. However, it’s helpful to realize that we can manage our inner dialogue.
I’m not sure my crowd would listen to me if I told them to shut up. 🙂
For an interesting take on this subject, take a look at Al Franken’s book, Giant of the Senate. As he puts it,sometimes he just has to tell his id to shut up and go away when his SNL persona began to get obnoxious. It’s also a worthwhile read for people who’ve decided to take a really sharp turn in their career path as he did.
Thanks Dr. Virginia. I have to confess that I couldn’t imagine this post inspiring a comment about Al Franken’s book. 🙂
Actually write down what their inner critic is saying to them. It may not, mean much, make sense at the time but when pieced with other ‘inner critic conversations’, it may make sense or even inspire! 🙂
in a way, this could connect to my attempt at this ‘blogging’ phase of my life although, rather than referring to, listening to the ‘inner critic’, blogging more from an ‘inner thinker’ perspective. Therefore, rather than listening, connecting with your ‘inner critic’ only, connect with your ‘inner’, a wider spectrum. Tongue in cheek comment – is it your ‘inner critic’ talking, when a person talks to a computer screen or a pet.
Your “Mind Talk” is something you should capture ongoing chat in real time … This can be done with practice … we have talk all the time and 99% is fundamentally incorrect. If your mind says “you are a ooser” rigorously ask yourself fundamentally “is it true, false or don’t know”? … I guarantee you will find that it is false or you do not know …therefore find a way to stop beating yourself up over something that is NOT true.
Thanks Martin. My experience with incorrect self-talk is overstatement. I also find that the pursuit of excellence requires pointing out things that didn’t go well and dealing with them.
What’s surprising is my inner critic picks up on those small things that I can improve. When I talk to others about these small improvements they brush them off. “Oh, that’s no big deal.” But their response doesn’t help me. It’s those small things that make the difference.
You right on with the idea of lightening up on yourself when the inner critic is over stating, incorrect or just in a bad mood.
I’m not sure it would be healthy to completely silence that critic. But, examining his comments for accuracy is a key way to engage with him.
In a way, engaging our inner voice, rather than simply accepting it is one way to lighten up.
Understanding that your mistakes don’t define you. Failures are an occurrence in life. A lot of times, like you said, our Self talk can tell us that we personify our mistakes. “I am a failure” “I suck” “I am a mistake”. Instead taking things for how they are allow us to view those mistakes objectively and make changes for next time.
The book Inner Game of Tennis talks at length about this topic. I highly recommend it!
Thanks Josh. You bring up an essential aspect of success. It’s hard to succeed and when we identify ourselves with our failures. My inner critic doesn’t want me to notice the positive impact of my work.
I think the problem of personifying mistakes is why the Wall Street Journal I linked to suggest we avoid using the “I”.
There is a great story in the Buddhist tradition about talking to your inner critic called Inviting Mara to Tea.