When The Inner Critic Speaks Too Harshly

Most of us have the ability to look at our actions and who we are as people, and be our own critic. And this is good. This is really good, because none of us is perfect and being able to critically look at ourselves every once in a while helps us improve. However, it is incredibly easy that this voice starts coming in unhealthy doses and occupies our well-being, the way we look at ourselves, the way we feel about ourselves and the way we make decisions.

Our inner voice starts talking when we’re very young

...and it usually sounds like something your parents, teachers, care-takers or classmates would say to you. When we are young and impressionable, we lack the ability to look at ourselves for who we truly are, and often times we grow into this becoming adults with a very distorted image about ourselves. To some extent - no one can escape this, but in some cases, children grow up being so criticized and judged about who they are that their inner voice is a replica of their abusers. This can cause serious problems and mental health issues that last a lifetime, which is why it’s important that we, as models to our children, always talk about the bad things gently, reasonably and in a mature way. This will not only help them become better towards themselves - but to other people, too. We need to make sure that we separate the inner critic from ourselves to a safe distance that it doesn’t become the only voice we hear. Because that is really bad.

When you are too harsh with yourself, your brain tries to defend you - but if you do it too much - it may also adapt

When we are criticizing ourselves and putting ourselves down about something we’re not happy about, our brain responds on a neurological basis. Your system of flight or fright activates causing a rush of adrenaline and a chain of irrational thoughts that keep coming - and on the other side, our care-giving system that developed as a result of us raising our youngsters is trying to be your friend and tell you “hey, take it easy, this is not good for me” (something like the angel on one shoulder and the devil on another). But, if you keep being too harsh with yourself, your brain will eventually just learn to put up with it. At least in a manner where this becomes the normal pattern for the brain. What you’re going to experience from this normal pattern is nothing normal, really. You’ll experience frustration, lack of ability to perform, and with that - a ton of mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Too much criticizing will exhaust your brain, and when you do it, you’re really up to no good.

But I’ve always been to harsh with myself..about everything..there’s no way I can change that

Well, there is a way, it just doesn’t happen overnight. As we explained above - this is just a pattern that your brain is adjusted to. For you, this simply became a normal state of mind. However, you still feel the discomfort of bashing yourself like you’re your worst enemy (and you probably are), and you know that it’s wrong. Recognizing that you’re being too mean to yourself is a good enough step.

While it may take a lot of time to get out of this vicious pattern, it is definitely not impossible. Here’s what you can do to help yourself:

Work on identifying when the voice of your inner critic is loudest

What triggers you the most? Is it failure? Fear of failure? Is it being around certain people? Is it being alone? When do you find yourself being the most harsh to yourself? Identifying this situations will help you understand that they are triggers, and if you can possibly avoid them, then that is even better!

Listen to your inner critic, but beg to differ

It takes time to understand that when we’re in the mood of criticizing ourselves for something we’ve done wrong, we’re really not listening to all the good stuff we’ve done. You don’t have to shush those negative thoughts, but you should practice being mindful and accepting of them. Let them go through and know that they won’t crush you. Understand that they are coming from a certain place that isn’t very rational and is fueled with adrenaline, fear and fog over your rational mind.

Talk about how you feel with someone you trust

Your friend, your therapist, your partner or a family member - whoever you feel comfortable with. Don’t let the inner critic only talk to you but let it talk through you. Explain how you feel about it to someone that you trust, and listen to what they have to say. You’re not as horrible as you think you are, so you’re not always right when you think that you’re the worst person in the world. That’s why there’s other people. To give you the perspective that your inner critic is trying to take away from you.

Don’t kill the inner critic - but teach them how to articulate

We need to be self critical. Without it we’d turn a nation into an epidemic of narcissists. Sometimes, being harsh to yourself in a healthy dose is just discipline. But being too harsh is bullying yourself. Teach how to criticize yourself with the right, rational words. Be mindful about it and practice with every situation that comes in your way.

Remember that we all make mistakes and have setbacks, it is important that we embrace and accept them before we act upon them. Hear yourself out. Do it twice. When you’re overwhelmed with feelings, and when those feelings settle. Give yourself the time to properly experience how you feel about yourself, and remember - it is a learning process. When we are too self-critical we end up debilitating ourselves and this is nowhere near healthy. It can lead to mental health problems like depression, anxiety, distorted image of ourselves and inability to properly cherish our achievements and performance.

Be good to yourself!

Emma V.