It doesn’t matter what you have achieved, how successful or beautiful you are, or how hard you have worked to increase your self-esteem and self-confidence: if you have a negative and nasty inner critic who constantly criticizes you or dismisses your achievements at all times, your self-esteem will always be low.
Your inner critic has many functions. It is that negative inner voice that:
1- Blames you for things that go wrong, regardless of whether it is your fault or not.
2- Compares you to others, especially their achievements and abilities, and considers you insufficient.
3- Sets impossible standards of perfection.
4- Demands that you be the best at everything and, if you are not, treats you as if you were nothing.
5- Keeps track of your failures and shortcomings, but never reminds you of your many accomplishments and strengths.
6- Exaggerates your weaknesses by using words like “always” and “never”. You always screw up at work. You never finish what you start.
Most of us experience the inner critic as the “voice” in our head, and most of the time we are not aware that it is there. We usually only “hear” our inner critic loud and clear when we are about to try something new, when we make a mistake, or when we are in a stressful situation.
When you make a mistake, you may hear your inner critic say something like “But you’ll be silly!” or “There you go again, screwing up like always. Can’t you do anything right?”.
Before you give a presentation at work, you may hear “You should have prepared more. You’re going to make a fool of yourself in front of all these people.”
Have you ever experienced this?
The first step is to start being aware of your inner critic and what he or she is telling you. The hard part is that even when you become aware of your inner critic, it seems like a natural and familiar part of you and its vicious attacks seem reasonable and justified.
With each negative judgment, your inner critic undermines you and destroys any positive feelings you have about yourself. Your inner critic often appears as your own voice and you may feel that it is simply your thoughts playing tricks on you. But make no mistake. You were not born with an inner critic. It was programmed into you, unconsciously, in your early childhood and you have carried it over into your adult life.
There are several techniques to quiet our inner critic by learning to love and respect ourselves.
One of the most powerful ways to silence your inner critic is to literally talk back to it.
You may feel uncomfortable when you talk back to your inner critic, but just as you shouldn’t let another person mistreat you, you can’t let your inner critic wear down your self-esteem.
The Mirror Technique
Here’s a simple and fun exercise to help overcome perfectionism. Take a post-it note and write the phrase “I am enough” on your bathroom mirror, in your bedroom, in your planner, on your cell phone screen. Over time, looking at this phrase repeatedly will condition your mind to believe that you are enough…enough to be loved and accepted just the way you are.
When your critical inner voice arises, after silencing it, think about what you would say to your best friend if she had these critical thoughts about herself. Now say it out loud and let it sink in. Thank yourself, knowing that you are doing the best you can right now.
Keep doing this until this warm, nurturing voice is louder than your inner critic.
Don’t let others demand perfection from you either
If you are with someone who constantly complains that you don’t get things done or that you never do enough, realize that it is that person who has the problem. This person is never going to be happy no matter what you do.
Get in touch with your dark side
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean doing anything wrong, morally wrong or evil. It simply means that you know that, like every human being, you have more positive qualities than others, light and dark, as the dual beings that we are. The important thing is to accept this and work to improve these qualities.
1. List all the qualities you dislike in others.
2. List the 5 qualities you dislike about yourself.
Allow yourself to be imperfect
Pay close attention to how often you control and censor yourself and how intensely you focus on being “good” and “perfect”. Learn to be flexible with yourself.
– If you’re a workaholic, escape work early or take a day off and go do something fun.
– If you’re a health nut, allow yourself one treat a week. Maybe buy that chocolate you’ve been craving or eat something you’re craving that’s not on your diet plan.
-If you’re constantly monitoring your spending, loosen up a bit from time to time and indulge once in a while.
And most importantly, if you’re always cheerful and sweet on the outside, even when you don’t feel that way on the inside, start letting people know how you really feel.
You don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of love. You don’t have to be perfect to be an amazing, strong, successful person.
So stop trying to be perfect and start embracing and accepting yourself, both your flaws and your positive attributes. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself, learn from it and move on, instead of obsessing over it.
Equally important, don’t let anyone else constantly obsess about your mistakes or demand perfection from you.