Do you have a critical inner voice?
This can be a common trait for a lot of us, that little voice in our heads that decides that we will not achieve, we haven’t dressed the right way, we will not get through the interview, etc. This can stem from experiences early in our lives. People who don’t overthink can make a decision and that is it, they don’t then return and go over that decision again and again in their mind wondering if it was really the right choice to have made. For an over-thinker this a completely different scenario, the decision can be made, and made quite quickly but then the critical voice comes in and starts to query “are you sure about that, you know what happened last time, lets just think about this some more". The more we think the louder that critical inner voice can become leading to more negative thoughts and past negative experiences to creep in. This can be detrimental in all aspects of our lives as we are constantly questioning ourselves and the decisions we make which can lead to self-doubt and the build-up of anxiety.
Quelling that critical inner voice may not be easy but it is certainly worthwhile. You have the power to harness a kinder more considerate inner voice, one that acknowledges your achievements and thrives on the positive aspects and experiences of your life.
So how can we quieten that critical critter?
- Start to become aware of when you are hearing that critical, overthinking voice. It can feel like such a natural part of who we are that we simply accept it. If we begin to recognise when this is happening, we can start to take action by stopping the thinking spiralling out of control.
- Don’t be afraid to argue! As this is a dominant voice in our heads it is likely to ensure it is heard, however, that does not mean to say that we have to blindly accept what it is saying. Listen and allow the logical, more positive side of you to have a say. Consider both sides and use the evidence from your positive side to try and counteract the evidence that critical voice is giving. An example may be “you always fail at exams, you’re going to fail this too!" The logical and more positive side can counteract with "Yes, I have failed some exams, but I have also done really well in some and I know that I have put the work in". So, two pieces of evidence have been presented, altering the balance of what the critical inner voice has stated.
- Put your thoughts into perspective. Consider the impact of those negative thoughts; it would be frustrating and annoying not to pass exams, get that job etc, however, it is something that can potentially be changed in the future. If we can consider the bigger picture does it still have the same impact? For example, not getting a job can of course have a major impact if you are the main bread winner for the family. What we have to keep in mind is that even if something does not go as we wish we cannot afford to get into that negative thought cycle that will prevent us from continuing to try and put ourselves forward for potentially difficult situations.
- Listen to those around you who believe in you, as they are more likely to have a more objective view of you and your abilities.
- One thing that can cause us to overthink and be critical is when we compare ourselves to others; also when we strive for perfection. These two traits can be detrimental as we are potentially setting ourselves up for something we may not be able to achieve which will then feed the critical over-thinker within.
- If you can, end your day by writing down you’re your achievements for the day, and celebrate your successes! Also, plan what you need to do the next day, as this may allow your mind the space in which to process and settle your mind.
Finally find positive ways to relax. You deserve a rest from that critical voice, and the more you practice the strategies described above and find the ones that work for you hopefully you will feel the benefits, quieten the critical voice and reduce the amount of times you do over-think.
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About Lucinda Milne
Lucinda Milne Dip Couns
Awareness in Bereavement Training
Certificate in Autistic Spectrum Disorder
I have worked in the bereavement sector since 2013.
I have a wide variety of experience working with both adults and children covering a range of issues.
I have experience in working with children with additional needs.