10 Tested Strategies to Manage Your Inner Critic

10 Tested Strategies to Manage Your Inner Critic

THE QUESTION:

How active is your inner critic, and how do you manage it?

THE INSIGHTS:

Most of us are quite familiar with the inner critic. It’s those nagging thoughts and the negative self-talk that tells us we’re not good enough, makes us spiral into self-doubt and undermines our progress.

The voice is usually very harsh and uses words that you would never say to another person. It’s also very repetitive. The inner critic tends to get stuck on a thought and keeps replaying it over and over again, even when the thought isn’t based in any truth or reality.

In fact, the self-critical, repetitive patterns of thinking that the inner critic uses, are known in psychology as cognitive distortions.

They are habitual ways of thinking that are often completely inaccurate and negatively biased. Researchers have identified 10 common distorted thinking patterns that many of us fall into. What we need however, are actionable strategies that we can turn to when we are in the grips of these inner critic thoughts, so we can remain confident and take the action that moves us forward.

THE STRATEGIES:

Here are the 10 common cognitive distortions from the research, and 10 strategic tips for how to manage them. We have tested that these work with thousands of women and we know they can work for you too.

1. All-or-Nothing Thinking
You see things in black or white, with no room for the middle ground. “I have to be perfect, or I’m a complete failure.”

Tips to manage it: Actively look for the middle ground in situations. Swap the word “or” with “and”, i.e. “I had some wonderful wins this week and some failures that were difficult.”

2. Overgeneralisation
You come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or single piece of evidence. The words “always” or “never” are frequently used.

Tips to manage it: Treat each incident as a singular event. Remind yourself that this has only happened once. You can do this by removing the words ‘always’ or ‘never’.

3. Filtering
You magnify the negative details and filter out the positive aspects of a situation.

Tips to manage it: Keep track of the positive aspects of a situation by writing them down. This could be in the form of a gratitude journal.

4. Catastrophising
You expect the worst to happen.

Tips to manage it: Deliberately flip your thinking and ask yourself, what is the best case scenario? What could go right? Focus your energy on visualising that outcome.

5. Disqualifying the Positive
You ignore or invalidate good things that you’ve achieved and compliments you’ve received.

Tips to manage it: Keep track of your achievements by writing down 1 to 3 wins every day. Also create a folder and every time you receive a nice email or positive feedback, pop it in there.

6. Jumping to Conclusions
You assume you know what other people are thinking or feeling without them saying so and you make judgements accordingly.

Tips to manage it: Practice catching the story by asking is that true? Brainstorm 5 other possible explanations for what just happened.

7. Emotional Reasoning
You believe that whatever you’re feeling is automatically true without questioning it.

Tips to manage it: Pause and take 3 deep breaths. Research shows that intense emotions take 90secs to move through the body, so allow yourself time for the emotion to pass.

8. Should Statements
You attach yourself to rules or expectations about how a person should behave.

Tips to manage it: When you catch yourself using the word ‘should’, ask yourself whose expectation this is. According to who? What action do you actually want to take based on who you want to be?

9. Personalisation
You take everything personally and often assume responsibility for external factors outside of your control.

Tips to manage it: Focus on cultivating your growth mindset when you make a mistake. Be compassionate and ask yourself what you have learnt from this? Make a list of the things that are actually in your control in this scenario.

10. Double Standard
You hold yourself to a higher standard than everyone else.

Tips to manage it: Picture a good friend and ask yourself what standard you would hold them to in this scenario? How would you speak to them or treat them? Then turn this inwards to cultivate self-compassion and drop perfectionism.

REMEMBER THIS:

• When you can identify your own cognitive distortions, you can address them, make new choices and develop your inner ally - a kind and compassionate voice that encourages you to take action.

• When it comes to being an inner ally or an inner critic, think about why you aren’t worth the same kindness, concern, and support you’d show a good friend – of course you are – which is where self-compassion and kindness comes in.

Studies have found that far from being self-indulgent or soft, the deliberate use of self-compassionate talk is an effective means of enhancing your confidence, your motivation, and your performance. It also seems to help you to generate more positive feelings that balance out your self-doubt and fears, leaving you feeling more joyous, calm, and confident.

To get more tools and strategies to manage your inner critic, download the Women Rising Taming Your Inner Critic guide.

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