We all have nagging voices in our heads: they’re our inner critic and often they talk to us in a way that we wouldn’t tolerate from anyone else.
At a minimum, your inner critic is negative about anything new or different you decide to do. It will come up with all sorts of reasons why it won’t work and why you shouldn’t even attempt whatever it is you’re aiming to do.
Sometimes the inner voices are even worse and stop you in your tracks, preventing you from doing something you’d actually rather enjoy and might even be good at.
Answer your inner critic back
The voice is in your head but that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate it.
It’s probably best to do this in the comfort of your own mind as otherwise people around you might start to wonder about your sanity. But if you’re in a place where you can actually yell at your inner critic and tell it precisely what it can do with its opinions then that works very nicely as well.
The thing is, deep down your inner critic is actually trying to protect you. But it’s making its ideas and feelings known in a way that’s not really productive.
Inner voices have a nasty habit of sounding convincing (after all, they’re in our own heads) and can do their work in quite loud ways.
They get under your skin – literally – and pop up at the most inconvenient times.
Sometimes that nasty voice can cause self doubt. The hesitation that stops you from going ahead with whatever it was you’d decided to try.
But answering that critical voice back works very well.
Because like all bullies, it’s actually quite scared of any opposition and will likely retreat and back down, especially if you answer it back in the same kind of tone as it’s attacking you.
That can mean coming out of your shell sufficiently to do this.
If you’re the kind of person who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, it’s worth starting at the lower levels of nagging rather than going for the great big ones that are always buzzing around your head.
Something that your inner critic is almost nervous about criticising but – because it’s on a roll – it has the confidence to tackle.
You’ll probably know where your critical voice has the least power. It’s almost certainly the times when you often go ahead and do whatever it’s not happy about. You adopt a “what the heck” attitude and go ahead and do the thing anyway.
Tackling the seemingly insignificant levels of criticism first works well.
Your first instinct (and maybe the “that will never work” thought that popped into your head) is that these small doubts and criticisms are too small to matter.
But that’s not the case.
Chipping away at the edges of almost any problem is a good solution. It’s a bit like felling a tree – even in the most fictional movies he starred in, Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t fell one with one hit. It took time and that’s exactly the same when you’re dealing with those critical inner voices.
And just like it was always the weak kid at school who got picked on, you should pick on the weakest nagging voice. Except this time it’s not bullying – by tackling and eliminating the weakest voice, you’re also weakening the power the stronger voices have over you.
Change and move the inner critic’s voice
This sounds very much like something out of a science fiction plot.
And if it involved a real voice, that would be true. Only ventriloquists seem to be able to do that reliably.
But the voice we’re talking about is only audible inside your head.
No-one else can hear what it’s saying, the tone of voice it’s using or how loud it’s shouting.
At least not unless you tell them what’s happening and even then it’s you telling someone else, not the voice itself.
So have some fun!
The first thing I like to do is change the voice completely. Instead of a booming, authoritative, voice, I often give it a Mickey Mouse voice.
Disney Corporation take Mickey seriously – or at least the profits he generates for them from movies and merchandise – but it’s hard for anyone else to.
Those squeaks just don’t have the same impact.
If you’ve got a different voice that you almost laugh out loud when you hear the person’s name, choose that instead.
Most cartoon characters are up for grabs here and they’re easy to visualise.
So if your nagging inner critic has to take the time to raise a Muttley laugh after each sentence, there’s a good chance you’ll take what’s being said a lot less seriously.
You can also shift the location of the voice and its volume.
There’s absolutely no rule that says your inner critic has to be perched on your shoulder yelling at you through a megaphone.
You could just as easily make a case for that voice to be coming from under your big toe (and yelping with each pace you take as it gets squashed).
Again, the only rules are the ones you’re making up.
Turn this into a game and you’ll be rewarded with less hassle from your inner critic and a slightly quieter life.
The other thing that’s fun to do is put your inner critic inside a catapult.
Remember – this is your imagination here.
So the catapult can be nice and powerful. Its aim can be precise. And the distance it can send its missile (your inner critic) can be as far and as fast as you like.
Even if every time you’ve used a catapult in real life the missile ended up going backwards.
I quite like to send my inner critic on a fast voyage to the centre of the Sun.
Again, this is pure fiction so the journey doesn’t take 8 minutes. It’s over in seconds and I can hear the “oh no’s” as they happen as well as the satisfying sizzling noise once my inner critic reaches their final destination.
And if I miss, intentionally or otherwise, who cares?
The universe goes on near enough forever and I can imagine my previously nasty voice hurtling through the voids of empty space.
The next time you have some anti-social voice inside your head, nagging you, yelling at you, experiment with some or all of these ideas and notice the changes that happen.
Yes, I know, affirmations are a bit new-agey.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t work.
Affirmations are a really powerful way of changing how your mind thinks and reacts.
They should preferably be spoken out loud – some people even recommend yelling them out loud.
That’s because we tend to believe what we hear more than the things we think (which is probably for the best).
Affirmations can be as short or as long as you like.
Some people like to keep them short and snappy so that they’re easily memorable.
Other people prefer longer affirmations that are long paragraphs or even close to being an essay.
Whether an affirmation is right or wrong is up to you.
I’d suggest that it’s written in positive words – most of the time our minds struggle to process negatives.
A lot of people suggest that you write your affirmations in the present tense, as if whatever it is you’re manifesting in your affirmation has already happened.
That can work.
But it can bring up barriers (that dastardly inner critic again) and reduce the power of the affirmation.
If a particular present tense affirmation grates with you or raises too many nagging voices, change it.
When this happens, I like to change the affirmation slightly so that it includes the words “I allow” instead of “I have” or “I am”.
That seemingly small shift is very powerful.
It’s a lot harder for your subconscious and your inner critic to counter that – all you’re saying is that you’re prepared to allow whatever it is to happen. So unless you’re affirming something detrimental to yourself (unlikely, I hope) then there’s not much to resist.
Affirmations need to be repeated, preferably out loud.
My personal routine is to read them (out loud) first thing in the morning. That way, life doesn’t get in the way and I don’t put off this vital part of my self-help routine.
Sometimes I’ll also read them during the day and sometimes last thing at night.
Do your best to get into a routine with your affirmations.
I usually find the quickest way to write a new one is to modify an older affirmation – either one of my own or one that someone else has written.
They don’t have to be word perfect but they should convey the intention of whatever it is you want to achieve.
And they’re not set in stone – you can (and almost certainly should) modify your affirmations over time.
Repeating affirmations sends signals to your subconscious mind and, in turn, that helps send the “shut up” signals to your inner critic.
Distance your critical inner voice
Most of us can tune out things we don’t want or need to hear – background noise, ticking clocks (do they still exist?), cars outside the window, even the chirping of birds can be tuned out by our minds.
That’s mainly because there are just too many things happening for us to be able to give everything we encounter our full attention.
The thing is, you can do the same with that nagging inner voice.
You already know how to do it. But you’re probably not applying the same logic because the voice is happening internally rather than externally.
But think about that statement briefly.
Unless you’re out of breath, you probably don’t notice your lungs filling and emptying with air.
And unless you’ve just had an adrenaline rush, chances are you don’t really listen to the sound of your heart pumping blood around your body.
Both of those are internal noises.
They also have the benefit that other people can verify their existence.
Which is a lot more than can be said for those critical words that keep coming into your brain. Maybe we’ll find a way to scan people’s brains to find out what’s happening and help reduce it. But my guess is that’s not likely to be any time soon.
So they’re actually the adult equivalent of your childhood imaginary friend. Except that you probably don’t talk out loud to them.
Distancing yourself from your inner voice takes a bit of practice. Which isn’t really surprising as it’s been with you in some shape or form most of your life.
Maybe it’s secretly a crutch that you’re holding onto – that goes back to the idea of protection that I mentioned earlier.
But the time has come to take charge of your life again and one way to do that is to distance yourself from those irritating thoughts that keep popping into your mind.
Like the other techniques, this probably won’t be an overnight thing. It takes time to chip away at it and break what’s likely the habit of a lifetime.
But you can do it.
Take the time to nip the thoughts in the bud (or as close as you can get) and don’t admit defeat.
Will you catch all of them and send them away?
But over time you’ll catch more of them and their detrimental effect will begin to lessen.
Use hypnosis to silence your inner critic
Hypnosis is one of my favourite techniques to get rid of things that I no longer want in my life but that stubbornly refuse to go away.
The problem starts with our subconscious mind.
It’s really in control of almost everything we do because our conscious mind would be overpowered by the millions of small details that our subconscious happily takes care of.
If you had to tell your heart to beat or your eyes to blink or the individual hairs on your arm to grow, there would be no time to do anything else.
All the maintenance and housekeeping work in our bodies is done by our subconscious mind.
But it also deals with quite a lot of higher level stuff as well.
That includes keeping us safe and within our comfort zones.
In turn, that comes back to the inner critic – it’s almost certainly shouting at you because it wants to help you stay inside your comfort zone.
Hypnosis works with your subconscious mind and helps it to change the things you want to change but that have stubbornly refused to obey you.
It helps your subconscious mind change the things it’s thinking about and shift you in the direction you consciously want to go.
You’ve got a couple of choices with hypnosis:
- Find someone local to you and book an appointment
- Go down the “self service” route and download a hypnosis MP3
Almost every time, I find the self service route works fantastically well.
Partly because any decent hypnosis download has been created by a trained professional.
Partly because it’s on-demand rather than booking a session and then making your way to the appointment.
And partly because it can be played more than once if you find your inner critic getting a bit louder again.
Not to mention that it’s a fraction of the price of a personal session.