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After a personal success or win do you tell yourself, “Yeah, but anyone could’ve done that.”?

Do the words “couldn’t” and “shouldn’t” intrude on your thoughts?

Do you often focus on your flaws or mistakes?

Has second-guessing yourself become second nature?

These are signs that you have an overbearing inner critic.  The first step in quieting your inner critic is identifying the thought patterns that your it uses to pick you apart.

Identify your thought pattern.  Many individuals have an inner critic that follows an identifiable pattern (or maybe several).  The more common thought distortions (ones that are inaccurate or often completely untrue) the critic in your head relies on are minimization, overgeneralization, disqualifying the positive, “should” statements,  personalization and control fallacy.

  • Minimization – An inner critic who uses this pattern sounds like: “Anyone could’ve done that…” or “it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
  • Over-generalization – One failure becomes a negative “always” or “never” statement about you. “You never use your time wisely.” “You always procrastinate.”
  • Disqualifying the positive – This type of critic will find an alternative explanation for your success other than your own behavior. “They had to compliment me in that situation.” “I only won that award because I have a friend on the committee.”
  • “Should” statements – These are easy to recognize. “I should have handled that better.” “I shouldn’t have made that comment.”  For many people the bar they set by these “should” statements is often very high, very inflexible and very good at generating guilt when it is not met.
  • Personalization – This is when the critic expects you to take full responsibility for things that you couldn’t completely control. “It’s all your fault you lost your job.” We’re in the middle of a pandemic and millions of people are out of work.  But your critic thinks you could have prevented it.
  • Control Fallacy – When you believe that you have full control over yourself and the things around you including the thoughts and feelings of others. The inverse of a this, that you have no control, also exists but not that often with the inner critic crowd.

Once you have identified the thought patterns your inner critic uses the most you can start to work on the developing the rational rebuttal to those common patterns.  I’ll explain this process in part two of this series.

The other important part of what you are starting to work on in this identification process is separation from your inner critic.  For many people their self-criticism is so consistent, pervasive or engrained that they may not even realize how much it is activated.  It’s as if you own a radio that you did not realize had a button to change stations.  You just assumed that one station was your only option. Increasing your awareness of this critical voice is like realizing there is a button to change the station on the radio.  There are other options for you to choose as your internal voice.  You are starting to create the space between the inner critic and yourself so that other these other voices or station options can emerge.

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If you have any questions or would like help with your inner critic, please contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation.