Welcome to my letter N post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today I want to talk about dealing with negative thoughts coming from your inner critic.
You know what? Just because you think something, doesn’t make it true. Your thoughts and feelings are not fact. See my post on cognitive distortions for some examples of how our thoughts can deceive us.
One way of dealing with negative thoughts, is to engage them in a challenging conversation. It may help, in this case, to name your inner critic. Literally give it a name. Then look at it like you would to a really annoying person you meet, who however has little to no authority over you. It may then be easier to ignore or shut up your inner critic.
For example, let’s assume you call your inner critic Donald. (That’s what Anna Borges suggests and I do wonder whether she bases it on some orange-faced creature currently leading the world’s most powerful nation.) If your inner critic were to say you shouldn’t do something because you presumably can’t, you can then call him out on his bullshit, like this.
Inner critic: You’ll not get the job you want, so don’t bother to apply.
You: Shut up, Donald. You don’t know shit.
In this conversation, you’re purposefully keeping your comebacks to Donald brief. After all, you know he’s ignorant and insensitive and yet he doesn’t have the authority over you that requires you actually listen to him.
Another approach to your inner critic, particularly if it originates in childhood trauma, is to see your inner critic as a punitive parent. Then you can create a nurturing parent in your mind to help you challenge the punitive parent. After all, you most likely do generally feel you need to obey your parents more than you need an annoying acquaintance, even though really as an adult you have no such obligation.
Remember, naming your inner critic still requires you realize it’s part of you. Don’t go about blaming others for your own negative thoughts. Even when your inner critic is a reflection of your parents, it’s still your responsibility to deal with it.
As a side note, having a name for your inner critic can, in my experience, also help you see its function. For example, one of my more critical alters emerged as a named inner critic I thought should just shut up. Later on though, I realized she had a function beyond just being an inner critic or punitive parent. For this reason, I do feel engaging your inner critic can really be more than just telling it to shut up.