We all have that inner voice that tells us we’re not quite good enough. Its purpose is twofold: to push us to accomplish more, or prepare us for feeling hurt. This critical voice is strengthened every time it compels us towards a desired behavior and we meet its standards, or it prepares us for a letdown before something negative happens. For some, this inner voice is so critical that all they hear is that they are worthless and to blame every time something goes wrong. This impact on the self-esteem is destructive and can cause that individual to lash out at others or retreat inside themselves in an act of self-preservation.
Silencing the inner critic is essential to building the injured self-esteem back up. Its voice is so natural to us that to detect it, we must recognize its style.
- It uses words like “you always” or “you never” so that you feel inadequate at everything.
- It labels you with names like “useless” or “weak”.
- It only hears the negative, and brushes off a compliment.
- It interprets you as either a saint or a sinner, while comparing you to others.
- It blames you for everything so that you are constantly apologizing to others.
- It makes you feel like everyone is watching you, and waiting for you to make a mistake.
- It makes you believe that if you think you are stupid, others must think the same.
- It makes you want to control everything, because it will reflect back on you if it isn’t perfect.
- It can also make you take no control, because you feel completely hopeless and unworthy.
- It makes you believe that you are what you feel – I feel inadequate so I must be inadequate.
When we hear these thoughts and recognize them as lies, we can talk back to our inner critic, and stop its power to tear down our self-esteem.We can refute the inner critic with the truth.
- Use non-judgemental statements about yourself with no labels attached. “You are not an ignorant office rookie, you are new and inexperienced.”
- Use specific statements to address the problem and do not overgeneralize. “Everyone in the office is not ignoring me; my co-worker just has a lot on his mind.”
- Use balanced responses that include positive and negative facts about your situation. “I may have messed up on one report, but I did the other five before that one correctly.”
By taking control of our negative thought patterns and recognizing our worth, we will be less defensive and more trusting of others.Our self-esteem will be strengthened as we view ourselves through a more realistic lens.Finally, our actions will be less motivated by the need to prove ourselves, and we will be free to simply live.
Comments shared in this article were inspired by the book ``Self-Esteem`` by Matthew Mckay, PH.D. and Patrick Fanning.
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