Photo credit: Gift Habeshaw
Have you ever taken part in a sport activity and you did not receive a medal? Then, you feel bad about it and say to yourself, “I am a failure, why did I take part when I am not good at it”.
A mother cooks a meal for her family and for the first time her family noticed it is salty; she says to herself, “Why can I not get it right? I don’t deserve the right to cook for my family! I have failed as a mother”.
A doctor lost a patient to the covid-19 pandemic despite everything s/he did to make the patient live. The doctor says to him/herself, “I don’t deserve to be a doctor, I caused my patient’s death”.
You went for a job interview but did not get the job; you tell yourself, “I knew I won’t be picked, I do not deserve the job”.
You were picked by your organisation as the best staff of the year and you say to yourself, “I am a bad person; I don’t deserve the award”.
As a student, you got the second highest score in an examination, but you still feel unsuccessful. You believe anything lower than the first is failure.
You went to the supermarket to get some outfit for yourself, after trying the outfits that caught your attention; none could fit you and you say to yourself ”I am fat and ugly, I hardly get my size of dress whenever I shop”.
You were about to go for a quick jog, but your inner critic whispered, ”Do not bother, you will never look like those fit people; you are weak ”.
We all have different voices inside us. There are two voices: The first voice is soothing, and this voice brings self-compassion & encouragement; it lifts our spirits. The second voice is the critic; this voice tells us when we are wrong. Most times, the critic goes to the extreme of shaming, blaming or condemning us even before we start what we set out to do. This voice wears down our moods. It is important we identify this critic and do away with it. If we keep on listening to our critic, we won’t go far successfully in life, because we will always assume we cannot. If it is a situation, it is our friend or family criticizing us; it is easier to give a distance, but when the criticism is coming from you, it is impossible to distance yourself from yourself. You need to identify this critic and learn to challenge your negative thoughts.
The inner critic is experienced as thoughts in our head; it can affect our self-confidence. You may ask; where do critical inner voices come from? These inner voices come from early life experiences which shape our thoughts about ourselves. These negative voices could be from teachers, parents, guardians, or a significant person in our lives. As parents, the way we talk to our children becomes the inner voice that shapes them. If a child comes to you to help him solve his puzzle and you tell the child, “Why can’t you solve a simple puzzle when your mates can? You are dull!” such children would pick up on the negative comment(s) which form(s) as a critic as they get older. Apart from parents, guardians or teachers, these inner voices also come from peers, siblings or adults.
The inner voice leads us to make unhealthy decisions because the voice comprises negative thoughts, beliefs, attitudes that oppose our best interests. Most times, when opportunity comes, we tend to analyse the situation more than necessary and we eventually say to ourselves, “I can’t do it”.
How did we become victims of this inner critic? We became victims because we listened to the negative voices and believed what they were telling us. Instead of challenging this voice, we acted on it.
To let go of your inner critic, you need to identify and challenge the voice that says; you are not good enough or worthy of happiness or love. To free yourself from the inner critic, you need to know the root of that voice and disengage its negative influence on you. How can you identify and challenge the inner critic? (To be continued in the next post).