When I first started to write again, a flood of negative thoughts came into my head. “You don’t have anything interesting or unique to say” and “ you’re too old to start writing now.”
You know that voice? That mean, evil-spirited voice that gets in the way of enjoyment, creativity and action.
Oh yes, everyone has experienced this critical voice at one time or another. This is the voice of the inner critic.
This voice gets in the way of creative, bold and innovative people; and we need to put a stop to it. The cost of self-doubt is enormous. Think of all of the unshared ideas, businesses not started, and talents unused. Right now, more than anything, the world needs creative solutions to our most challenging problems.
The problem is many of us are not always able to tell the difference between the inner critic voice and our own true voice that is more realistic and calm. We are so used to listening to this harsh, criticizing voice that most of us don’t realize it could be otherwise.
One of the most impactful things about mindfulness – being aware in the present moment – is that we can learn to decipher and be aware of all of the little ‘voices’ in our head.
Mindfulness encompasses both moment-to-moment awareness and skillful interventions based on what is observed. We can be aware of and identify the inner critic voice from other thoughts in our head. Then, we can decide what to do next.
Here are two steps to help you take action even in the face of self-doubt:
Step 1: Identify that the loud, mean voice in your head is the ‘inner critic’ talking.
-The inner critic voice critiques us harshly. If you hear a voice saying things you would never say to another person, it’s the inner critic. You would never talk this way to a friend or loved one.
-The inner critic voice repeats itself. If you are plagued by the same thoughts over and over, not really thinking but rather hearing a broken record, it’s the inner critic.
-The inner critic voice is binary; a black and white thinker. You are either awesome or pathetic. When your inner critic speaks, there is not any room for gray. The inner critic makes definite pronouncements about the situation without evidence.
Step 2: Don’t try to silence the inner critic. Instead, make a decision to not take direction from it.
Have you ever noticed how trying to banish thoughts of fear and doubt, only makes those thoughts stronger and louder?
I’m tired of all of the advice saying – “silence your inner critic.” – This advice is just a waste of time.
Why? Well, the interesting thing about the inner critic, much like fear, is that it is the part of us that wants to stay safe from potential risks – it’s the safety instinct that is hardwired in us from birth.
The safety instinct inside of us uses the inner critic as a strategy to avoid risk and potential danger. This was very helpful when we were running for our life from wild animals, but not so helpful today.
Getting you to avoid risk is the only aim of the inner critic.
In fact, the closer you get to moving out of your comfort zone – the louder the inner critic voice will become.
So instead of trying to silence the inner critic, we need to be aware of, acknowledge and name the inner critic.
Then, we simply need to learn how to live with the inner critic and not be held back by it.
We can decide to not take direction from it. We can move forward and take action in the face of self-doubt.
So, the next time you hear the loud, critical, self-doubting voice in your head – Stop. Take a moment to be aware. Notice that you are hearing the inner critic voice.
Acknowledge and name the voice and then say – “I know this is not the voice of reality or truth, and I choose to not take direction from it.”