I’m noticing that the voice in my head isn’t very nice. Can I change my internal narrative and silence my inner critic?
It doesn’t help that we often start our days by scrolling through our social media newsfeeds. Eyes barely open, we carefully examine the photos and posts of our contacts. Sometimes, it’s nice to see what our friends and family are up to. But more often than not, we end up comparing ourselves and our lives to the “perfect” images we see online, and we often feel like we don’t measure up. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and compound any voice inside our head that tells us we’re not good enough. Read on to learn how to silence your inner critic.
A quick survey of my social media newsfeeds suggests that I should be drinking celery juice every single morning, weight training while practising yoga and doing cardio, meditating, eating vegetarian and ultimately becoming vegan, eliminating gluten, getting rid of sugar and drinking eight litres of water a day. I should also be journaling, adopting a gratitude practice and making sure to prepare a wholesome (and carb-free!) meal for my family to sit down to together every night and have a jar of questions available to stimulate engaging dinner conversation. My life will, apparently, be further enriched if I get rid of most of my possessions and fold the rest into tiny rectangles that inspire joy.
It’s no wonder that I’ve often put down my phone, feeling terrible and inadequate. To reprogram my negative internal narrative, I’ve made a few (simple) changes to my routine. I make a concerted effort to start my day by reading a few pages of a book rather than checking social media. Exercise also plays a role in triggering endorphins and making me feel good about myself. Finally, I end my day with a positive mantra, reminding myself that I am doing my best and that I am good enough. Not sure how to create your own signature affirmation? Here’s how to get started.
Negative self-talk is one of the most common issues I see in my private practice. My female clients, in particular, are notoriously hard on themselves and quick to focus on their perceived shortcomings and weaknesses. Unfortunately, that harmful inner voice isn’t helpful: it can ultimately trigger stress, low self-esteem and even depression.
What’s important to remember is that your negative thoughts and feelings about yourself usually aren’t true. What’s more, the more you repeat this critical inner dialogue, the more likely you are to actually start believing it.
One strategy that has worked for my clients is to practise self-compassion: Treat yourself – and speak to yourself – as you would to a dear friend. Practising gratitude and refraining from comparing yourself to others can sometimes break the cycle of negative self-talk. Gratitude journals are also a great activity to help you silence your inner critic.
Finally, I encourage my clients to embrace the idea that none of us is perfect and that it’s OK to feel badly about ourselves sometimes. Vulnerability allows us to be in our most honest and authentic state of mind, which can be the springboard for positive change.
Elizabeth Wiener is an educator who lives with depression and anxiety. Lisa Brookman is a clinical psychotherapist based in Montreal. Together, they form WiseWomenCanada.com