Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny. - Patrick Overton
Have you ever performed or presented in front of a group of people? If you have, you know that you are never alone on the stage. Right there beside you is someone saying, “you’re not doing a very good job;” “that last performer was better than you;” “why would anyone be interested in what you have to say;” and so on.
In fact, this “inner critic” attacks all of us at some time. You don’t have to be on stage to deal with negative self-talk. You might be second guessing a decision you have to make; preparing an article to post to a blog; trying to show the real you to friends; or much more. Most anything we do can get sidetracked by our self-critical thoughts.
In the “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People “, Stephen Covey talks about the scripts we get from parents, society, cultural influence, friends, co-workers etc. How other’s perceive us and our behaviour shapes that inner critic. When we buy into other’s perceptions our inner critic perpetuates the perception
How do you silence your inner critic? I’m not going to pretend that there is any easy way to silence the voice. Depending on how you have let self-criticism grow in your life, it could take years of hard work to overcome years of negativity. Quieting self doubt is not a quick fix.
There are three things that I try to keep at hand when self-doubt creeps in.
- Awareness of my inner critic – I don’t try and completely ignore the inner voice. The more I am aware of self doubts, the more I can work to overcome them. Write them down in a journal. Identify the source(s) of the doubts and perceptions. Look for concrete ways you can counter the doubts.
- E.g., if that inner voice is telling you your blog posts are not well written, commit to taking a writing course to bolster your skills and confidence
- Personal affirmations – Counter the negative talk with positive. Have a routine where you regularly work to boost your self confidence. Carry the affirmations with you in a notebook, journal or on index cards. Take time to review them, particularly when self-doubt is hammering away at you.
- Action – Just do it, as the Nike slogan exclaims. I often find the best way to overcome my inner critic is having to do something. If my boss says I have to give a presentation next week, my determination to avoid being fired overcomes my self-doubts.
- Sometimes, I just have to plow ahead and ignore the voice telling me I’m not good enough. It’s surprising (and maybe it shouldn’t be) how often the end result is of good quality.
As I said, there is no quick fix for silencing the inner voice. However, if you determine to take the step to overcome the doubts, that voice can become a faint whisper or silent altogether.