As children we hear lots of negative messages that tell us we are “not good enough.” They come from many sources: bullying, teasing, comparisons, and a lack of words of praise.
Over time these accumulated messages from our past can form tapes that are constantly being activated that program us to behave in certain ways and do things only one way.
These tapes have been rehearsed and repeated so long they become a habit that form an “internal critic” who constantly reminds us of how useless and unsuccessful we are.
Our focus remains on what we haven’t done right instead of all the things we have done right and can do.
Instead of analyzing problems, look at pros and cons, learning from mistakes and applying that learning in a positive way, we are instead sabotaged by this critic that says we aren’t capable of doing anything right.
An internal critic can only repeat what it has learned from the past. It will be triggered whenever we face problems today. It pronounces a judgment and predicts future outcomes. It affects all our thinking and becomes an automatic response to whatever is happening.
“I am stupid, therefore, I won’t be picked for this job.” or “I never do anything right so why try.” or “I’m not good enough, smart enough, etc. etc. etc.”
There are no positive tapes. They are always negative and critical.
Unless challenged and stopped, we will not be able to make conscious, informed decisions that are right for us.
When our critic is in control, we are not consciously making decisions based on the here and now.
If you have an “internal critic” that is constantly sabotaging your efforts to take that “next step” in your life, here are some things you can do.
Remember the critic is from our past – it has nothing to do with our capabilities and competence and doesn’t want to recognize any progress we have made. Instead, it constantly downplays our achievements.
How do you stop this internal critic so you can make meaningful corrections and find appropriate solutions?
When you become aware that your self talk resembles a critic that only points to the bad and never rewards you for doing things well, it is time to take drastic action.
Unless you do, this critic will continue to beat you up instead of building on what you have done well.
Each of us is capable of so much more than what we can imagine. Don’t let doubts keep you from accomplishing all of your potential.
Here are some steps to take when your internal critic is persistent:
- Give your critic a name. It can be male or female or whatever. Its easier to talk to something when it has a name.
- Tell it in an authoritative voice that you have heard his/her message many times and you do not intend to keep listening to the same thing over and over again.
- When you hear your critic’s voice, tell it to sit down and be quiet. Be assertive. You may even have to tell it to shut up. You are through listening to demeaning and useless comments.
- The messages from your past are taped – the critic is the voice. Visualize holding a remote control with a huge stop and play button. Whenever the play button has been triggered, visually see yourself pushing the STOP button. You are in charge – not your critic.
- The taped messages and critic have been around for a long time. You may have to be very forceful. If you are alone, say out loud, STOP. I do not intend to listen to all that negativity. Say STOP forcefully in your mind.
An emptied space needs to have something positive to put in its place. Replace what was just negative with positive affirmations that confirm your ability to think and make appropriate decisions. We learn to make better and better decisions as we go through the process and learn from those that didn’t turn out so good.
- I am not my past – I am me in the present
- I am becoming more competent every day
- I accept myself unconditionally – both my strengths and my weaknesses
- I am capable, competent and discerning
- I look for solutions to my problems. There are solutions to all our problems.
- I am pro-active and my efforts make a difference
- I am discovering more of my special talents and abilities every day
Affirmations are positive statements of something you are affirming in yourself. When we replace negative statements with positive affirmations we allow ourselves to live and learn from our mistakes.
We are not perfect. Nobody’s perfect. But we can affirm our ability to make new choices that are important for us and those around us. As you affirm your worth, you will be able to affirm the worth and value of others.
Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC
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