Critics! They are everywhere around us. From our own try-too-hard Ghanaian version of American Idol’s, Simon Cowell – Mark Okreku Mante of TV3 Mentor fame to your critical mum, whining stepmom, best friend, girlfriend and terribly annoying supervisor. Bizarrely they seem to have developed an acute sense of spotting flaws to the neutron.
Some of them, we’ve come to love. From the Angry Joe’s of the Gamingdom to the Piers Morgans of this World. And some we’ve seen first hand to be frauds!
Now, let’s piss some Man Utd fans off! Remember legendary English fullback, Garry Neville? He was the loudest tv pundit we’ve seen. He just had the superhero sense of detecting flaws in every Manager’s tactical acumen. Dude couldn’t win matches to save his life at Valencia. Fraud!
But hey let me introduce you to the most biased worst critic in the world- Yourself!
THE DEFEATING INTERNAL VOICE
Do you find yourself in an intense battle to overcoming the small voice in your head that keeps reminding you of your shortcomings? Reminding you of how unlucky you are to be picked among the world’s population to have a rare disease. Do you keep trying to silence that voice that keeps reminding you of how much of a loser you are for failing your exams, losing your job, why you have small boobs, hell, why your friends are so happy excelling at their jobs, while you keep turning up to work late and on the verge of being fired?
You are a fucking loser, it screams.
Why are your friends, so happily married and blessed with kids, while your marriage is at the brink of being blown apart with no children after several years of expecting?
That nasty, degrading, biased voice in there is your “Internal Critic”. And it has the power to drain and crush your soul. Only if you let it…
The Internal Critic: The beginning of chaos
Several years ago before the internet came into existence, or worst social media came to be a global phenomenon, life was relatively “better”. It was easier to excel in a particular domain. Take a small town, and you only had a very good plumber, one farmer who produced most of the food, you had one amazing chef who churned out epic recipes for the whole town. Everyone had the opportunity to be good at one particular thing when we lived in small groups cut off from a what-could-be-world on the other side.
Then, technology said screw that! In walks social media and the Internet, that would connect us to several other 7 billion people around the world. If you live in Ghana, you basically now know about another prima donna’s life virtually in the far east of Asia. We became interconnected, and this was the beginning of chaos!
We became one in a 7 billion and our levels of accomplishment shot into the limelight and became ruthlessly compared to others.
An uncomfortable truth will come to bear – no matter how good you are at something, or how much you have accomplished, there is someone out there in the 7 billion who makes you look incompetent. If you are a star chef in your home, log on to Instagram, and you will see recipes you swear not even the Angel of Light would give revelations on.
Your wedding was attended by 200 people? How incredible! Someone just released a pre-wedding photo shoot that featured 10000 people. Claim you have the prettiest girlfriend? Someone just shared his on your Facebook feed- with a perfect 35D boob job and a gorgeous surgically accurate sculptured ass. Your awesome job makes you Ghc1000 a month? Someone is making $60000 a month. Your spouse is as good in bed until you watch a Twitter video that shows perfectly orchestrated backflips that end in a reverse cowgirl. Soon, your career looks boring and pointless, your marriage dire. You are now fatter than your gym fit friends, and your life sucks ass.
Dwelling inside us is the critical internal voice that has seen all that goes around us and knows all this to the minute detail.
HOW THE INNER CRITIC WORKS:
In his book, “12 Rules For Life”, celebrity clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson comments on one of the ways the nasty inner villain works:
“First, it selects a single, arbitrary domain of comparison (fame, maybe, or power). Then it acts as if that domain is the only one that is relevant. Then it contrasts you unfavourably with someone truly stellar, within that domain. It can take that final step even further, using the unbridgeable gap between you and its target of comparison as evidence for the fundamental injustice of life.”
This holds much truth, take a look closely at your life, and you will realize when the inner critic is on its rants, it is always pointing out someone who has what you “lack” or good at what you suck at.
It’s lurking in the shadows waiting to always rob you of your joy and undermine your achievements.
HOW TO SILENCE YOUR INNER CRITIC:
Imagine you had a magic wand and a few Harry Potter spells down your sleeves, wouldn’t it be liberating to cast “Silenté, Vamos o Critique Internale” and have the inner critic gone forever? Well, the bad news is, the inner critic is a part of our subconscious minds and that means it’s here to stay forever. The good news is, you can learn to tame it!
So a bunch of self-help gurus, psychologists and your local preacher devised a mechanism to short-loop this default sense of worthlessness to give people a short burst of euphoria and control.
They recommended positive illusions- “tell yourself you are a conqueror! You are the best student even though you are failing miserably in school. Tell yourself you are walking in power and miracles! You live a life of favour, o dear child of God. Rinse and repeat every Sunday, and all too soon, the internal critic will see it’s a farce!
If positive illusions don’t work, what works then? Here are 5 ways to silence the Internal Critic:
1. Accept Your Inner Critic:
This is the most vital skill you will ever learn on this blog. Ever! You can’t escape from the Inner Critic’s negative energy. It’s a part of you! The very moment you try to suppress /fight it, the stronger it becomes.
“What you resist will persist.” – Buddha
Whenever you are caught in a negative thought or emotion, accept the emotion or thought and let it go. This is a branch of clinical behavioural analysis/ form of counselling used in psychotherapy called “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy(ACT)“.
If your Internal Critic makes you feel terribly nervous about walk up to a girl. Try this: ” Thank you, Inner Critic, for feeling nervous, I like that you think this girl rocks my world. Thanks for reminding me. Then move.
Express gratitude towards negative emotions and thoughts and soon, you will take the sting out of them. This is a skill and will require practice. Sounds crazy enough? Don’t fight it!
2. Personalize and Externalize It
This is an amazing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT) technique that is highly recommended in dealing with the Internal Critic.
Now, this is the crazy part. You have to personalize your inner critic and externalize it. What this means is you have to see your inner critic as a separate entity from yourself. Sounds brilliantly stupid enough? Bring your inner critic to life by creating a visual image of it. Personalize it by making it small, ugly, dirty and stupid; a small ugly sickly monster. My internal critic looks like a porcupine in a green bandana with ugly torn shoes. It’s so laughable, I don’t even look twice at him.
3.Recognize it’s arrival:
Next important step is to learn how to spot the Internal Critic. It appears mostly in times when we are on an emotional low, hurt, disappointed, and also in response to stressful events such as when meeting someone you find sexually attractive, when being criticized, dealing with challenging people and worse, when trying to mind-read how people are perceiving you. In moments like these, you have got to be primed for the idiot’s arrival.
4. Recognize it’s chatter isn’t wisdom:
In 2008 when I was diagnosed with IBS, I spent a chunk of my life listening to the voice in my head telling me I was an unlucky person. That I won’t reach my dreams with my constant diarrhoea and even if I try hard, things will never be different. It kept on mocking me- no one will ever love a guy who can’t hold a fart.
10 years later, I am a medical doctor and have had incredible relationships. Who was the liar here?
Think back to a time, when the Internal Critic spat out a ton of depressing crap, which didn’t turn out to be true. Well, it’s so full of shit, you will be damned to believe everything it says.
The internal critic is full of biased short-sided bullshit not wisdom.
5. Thoughtstop It and Develop a Rebuttal Mantra:
With good foundations on how to accept, externalize our inner critic and most importantly recognize when it pops up, now it’s time to truly silence it.
When you recognize your Inner Critic in action, we need to “thought stop” it and talk to it with a rebuttal mantra.
Here are 5 rebuttals you can use to K.O the Inner Critic (Credit: tinybuddha.com) :
1. So what?
You will never be good enough!
Rebuttal: So what if you think that? That doesn’t mean it’s true.
2. Who cares?
You are a failure!
Rebuttal: You think your judgments means something to me? They don’t!
3. Why not?
Give up already! You can’t do it!
Rebuttal: Why shouldn’t I do this? You’re telling me I can’t? I won’t? I’m not worthy of it? Why not? I’m going to continue doing this anyway because I can! No matter what you say, I’m going to just keep diving in.
4. Stop this nonsense!
5. What if it doesn’t matter if I am __________________ or not?
(Fill in the blank with your own rebuttal statement).
Feel free to develop your own rebuttal mantras.
DEVELOP YOUR INNER CHEERLEADER:
The opposite of the Inner Critic is the Internal Cheerleader. The soft voice that fills you with confidence, encourages you to take a step regardless of fear. That is the voice that needs nurturing.
Practice good self-talk:
If you ever make a mistake say spill wine in a white cloth. Instead of allowing the Inner Critic to call you a “careless piece of ****”, kick it out of the way and voice out your Inner Cheerleader:
Hey maaaaan. Don’t worry. It’s only a little mistake, these things happen. It isn’t the end of the world. Just relax, it’s fine. Just clean it up.
Learn to reward yourself.
You were able to complete a task your inner critic said you wouldn’t be able to do? Time to get yourself a treat be it ice cream, hitting the movies. Whatever works for you. This positive reinforcement will not only keep in you high achievement mode, bursting with confidence, but it will also punch holes in your inner critics bullshit.
- The world is moving so fast we barely listen to our Inner Cheerleader. Why is that? Well, maybe it’s about time stop watching terrible things on news, letting go of toxic friends, opting out of disastrous relationships. Anything that fuels your inner critic you should distance yourself from.
I know you probably might be kicking your self, saying this sounds ridiculous and childish. That could be your Internal Critic talking.
Perhaps the beauty in this is the childlike simplicity. It’s effective, works tremendously, and I am typing this ignoring my Inner Critic who is telling me, people will laugh at this.
“Who cares I respond!”
Go ahead try it, and don’t forget to drop a comment if you found this helpful.
Cheers, your favourite crappy writer, DrC.