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Harsh Words: Dealing with that inner critic.

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Do you ever find yourself experiencing negative self-talk and critical thoughts?

This might be a fleeting insult, or internal argument or a stream of consciousness that crescendos from finger pointing to hurtful internalized comments.

Alongside these thoughts, you will experience unwanted feelings that manifest themselves in symptoms such as churning stomach, tight chests, lump in the throat, prickly skin, palpitations, panic, headaches, or stiffness in your limbs to name a few.

Examples of that critical self-talk might include:

  • Negative beliefs around your physical appearance.

  • Self-doubt around your abilities (even if you have done things previously)

  • Being hard on yourself.

  • Telling yourself you are unimportant to others.

  • Putting yourself down or dismissing praise from others.

  • Talking yourself out of doing something.

There are a few ways that negative self-talk can impact you, here are some of the most common:

  • Stops you from doing stuff.

  • Makes you withdraw

  • Steals your confidence and self-esteem.

  • Makes choices and decision making more difficult.

  • Increases feelings of anxiety, worry, or embarrassment.

  • Reacting differently “out of character” to others (such as snapping, evading, or over-compensating)

  • Tires you out often leading to increased physical ill health.

  • Leads to low mood and even depression.

It might surprise you that such fault-finding is a common experience. Various research indicates that we (as humans) have a bias towards negative thinking, with some suggesting up to 80% of us will be hijacked by our downbeat commentator. Researchers suggest that scoping for negativity is part of our innate survival mechanisms keeping us on high alert for risks that could impact safety, security or protection needs. In our modern life, a fear of failure or embarrassment might be the equivalent of coming across a sabre tooth tiger in our cave man times.

Acknowledging to others, that you indeed converse with yourself, might be something you feel less comfortable discussing on your latest zoom call, or team meeting?

Many people feel apprehensive about admitting that critical self-talk. Negative stigma and crass, outdated, media coverage of mental health may be a reason for this. Conditions, such as Schizophrenia (a diagnosis in which some people experience delusional beliefs and hear voices/messages and other directives that blur the lines of their reality) are often purveyed to insight fear, leading some people to worry about disclosing the normality of our inner talk.

Negative self-talk is usually something we learned to do, through experiences when we were young. Feeling shame, embarrassment, or guilty about something you did, belittling yourself for it. This can also be a strategy we develop in response to being perpetually insulted or rebuked by someone else like a parent, authority figure or bullying peer. Over time you can master this pattern, of bullying self-narration, until your critical guru becomes a part of your life.

Some of the other aspects that increase our inner critic include:

  • Unresolved conflicts such as in work, family, or relationships.

  • Negative life experience(s) in which you feel guilt, shame or responsibility.

  • Neglecting self-care/Unhealthy habits – avoiding strategies to enhance well-being or taking part in destructive behaviours that impact health and happiness.

  • Negative/toxic social circles- spending time with other critical people.

  • Ignoring or suppressing unhappy/negative feelings – bottling up or over simplistic approaches that do not deal with the root cause of your beliefs.

  • Isolation and loneliness – spending too much time in your own head.

  • Super-hero thinking – believing you must do everything yourself and avoiding asking for help, only to “fail” at some tasks.

Ultimately, it unsettles and hijacks our plans.

I will talk in future blogs about the way in which our negative self-talk. How it leads to a strategy of avoidance and getting stuck and share the perspective of how disruptive habits like critical self-talk are set down as a peculiar self-care strategy.

But for now let’s look at some of the ways you can begin to help yourself with that critical self-talk.

  • Acknowledge and understand the emotion attached to the self-talk, avoid behaviours that simply suppress the feeling.

  • Re-frame the belief.

  • Prioritise self-care strategies.

  • Surround yourself with supportive people and reduce isolation

  • Build confidence and self-esteem with activities, learning and healthy habits.

  • Learn long term strategies that help you coach your own mind.

  • Seek support & guidance.

  • Explore self-love and self-worth goals.

  • Measure progress in goals and tasks.

Check out this video from The School Of Life on “Overcoming Bad Inner Voices” for more perspectives on handling that niggling natter!

To book your discover call and explore how therapeutic coaching can help you put mind over matter email:

Picture Source: Unsplash - Rober zunikoff & Aylsha Rosly

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