Have you ever wondered why sometimes you just cant get that critical voice out of your head. Y’know the one that tells you how useless you are and how you will never get anywhere in life?
Somebody once described it as having their own inner assassin that would murder any positive thoughts he had and replace them with doubt and fear of failure. This would prevent him from trying new things and forming new relationships. So who is this assassin, and what are they repeatedly whispering to you?
To understand this concept and break it down we need to identify what messages were passed on to us through significant people in our lives growing up like parents, teachers, siblings etc. Were they positive or negative? What impact did they have on us as children that have left a lasting imprint in our hearts and minds? Also we need to examine what we think of ourselves, do we like who we are, or are there aspects of ourselves that we dislike and if so how does this manifest itself.
It feels as if I have been writing a series of questions without providing any answers to help understand the issue. So in keeping with the person centered approach to therapy, here is my humble view on the matter. As young children we are hugely influenced by the significant adults around us and what they say has a lot of value and weight. We believe them, we internalise their views and thoughts of us until we form a concept of ourselves that is socially acceptable and pleasing to others in order to be liked and approved of. Sometimes this ‘self concept’ (public persona) is close to our ‘authentic self’ (true personality) and sometimes it is very different. The greater the difference between our true self and our constructed self the stronger the disharmony and inner conflict. So if you grew up being told you were stupid, ugly and useless by significant people around you- chances are they formed part of your critical inner voice as you internalised those negative views. Often our critical inner voice is mistaken for our conscience but it is not- the difference is our conscience is a moral guide and doesnt bully us, it reasons with us. The critical inner voice is always negative and hurtful, defensive and cruel to us.
It is the part of us that is turned against ourselves. The negative part of our personality that is against our personal development. The voice is highly judgmental and encourages self defeatist thoughts and behaviours. It revels in making us feel unworthy, unloved and have low self esteem. It sneers at us and sows seeds of doubt in our capabilities encouraging us to have a cynical and pessimistic view of the world around us. Teaching us not to trust others and keeps us in a state of conflict, anxiety and disharmony. We all struggle with our critical inner voice to varying degrees but if we “listen” to its destructive points of view and actually believe what it is saying to us, then we will fail to challenge it and instead will act on it. This process often has seriously negative consequences on our lives.
So how can you challenge your critical inner voice? You can take back your power when you become conscious of what it is telling you. Self awareness is key here, know yourself enough to understand when the voice is destructive – you can stop it from running your life. The challenge is to identify and eliminate this toxic internal dialogue. To do this, be mindful around times of sudden mood changes, upset and anger. Think about what caused this shift, what triggered this reaction and most importantly, what did you start telling yourself after the event? The fact that your mood shifted from feeling positive or relaxed to feeling upset or frustrated is probably an indication that you are interpreting the event via your critical inner voice.
Once you have identified that it is your critical inner voice that is advising you, reflect on what it wants you to do. If those actions would cause pain, hurt, upset or destruction then understand that you have a choice to not act on those instructions but take control over your critical inner voice. You can consciously decide to take action against its suggestions and do what feels right and better for you and your personal development. Its catching the thought as it tries to becomes a negative action and directing it towards a more positive goal acting in your own interest. For example- you are about to go out on a blind date- you look in the mirror and your critial inner voice pipes up “you look awful- you cant go out wearing that, you dont have anything to wear that looks nice, and anyway who would look twice at you- once they get to know the real you they will dump you anyway. Dont even bother trying its not worth it.” Imagine that was you- what would you do next? Could you recognise that was your critical inner voice or would you succumb to its toxic whispers?
Remember that you do have a choice and can choose not to be controlled by it just take your time, have some self compassion and patience to slowly undo those years of conditioning to become the person you want to be. What better time to start than a new year- make 2017 your year. If you liked this article or have any comments please share below..