Confucius once said, “The more man meditates upon good thoughts; the better will be his world and the world at large.” As Confucius points out, what you think about consistently affects your whole world. The problem is, instead of thinking about the good things in life, many people listen to their inner critic, the voice that tells them all the things that are wrong with them and their life.
Since this inner critic affects so many of us, today, let’s take a look at what your inner critic is and how you can tame it.
Your Inner Critic
We all have an inner critic, and this internal voice is always with you. It’s that soft, nagging voice that keeps popping into your head reminding you of all your faults and failures.
The problem with your inner critic is, unless you do a lot of work, you can’t get it to stop nagging you. A bigger problem is it often comes back at the most inopportune times and when you least expect it.
You want to banish your inner critic, but you can’t.
To soften its effect, you might try distracting yourself. You attempt to change your thoughts by focusing on something else. But, no matter what you do, those unwanted thoughts and feelings keep coming back, sometimes even stronger than to begin with.
Your inner critic is simply negative self-talk that you have learned to habitually say to yourself. Over time you have learned to accept what it says without question.
So how can you get rid of your inner critic? While you can’t completely purge your inner critic, there are methods you can use to take control of it.
Taking Control of Habitual Self-talk
Most of your daily activities are habits. Think about it for a minute. If you drive to word, do you think about every second of your drive? How about when you brush our teeth, do you pay attention to every stroke of your toothbrush?
Of course not! If you’re like most people you do these things, and most other similar things, automatically or habitually.
The same goes for your negative self-talk. Once triggered, your inner critic pulls thoughts out of your subconscious mind, thoughts that can cause you to think negatively about yourself.
Your thoughts and feelings are neither positive nor negative. It’s the label you put on them that makes affects you one way or the other. This labeling is a result of the emotion you attach to your experiences.
Here’s an example. Your boss comes to give you feedback on a project you are working on. Right before she came to speak to you, your office mate told you a joke, so you are in a good mood.
Your boss says, “Overall I like what you are doing. I just need you to take another look at this part” as she points to something on her tablet.
You smile and tell your boss you’ll get to it right away.
Now, let’s say everything is the same except right before your boss comes to see you, your coworker tells you that someone told him that your project isn’t going very well.
Now your boss appears, and says she wants to speak with you and says, “Overall I like what you are doing. I just need you to take another look at this part” as she points to something on her tablet.
Because of what your co-worker told you, your answer is a timid, “Okay boss,” and you wonder if you’re going to get fired.
Same experience, different labels. These labels result in a different experience and completely different feelings. They gained meaning when you attached thoughts and feelings to them.
The problem is, when the feeling is negative, you get stuck with that association and this association can quickly become your belief.
What is Real?
Reality or what you think is real, is a result of your beliefs. Your beliefs come from feelings about your experience.
But as you already discovered, your beliefs aren’t necessarily true. They are what you have associated with an experience. So, if you have associated negative feelings with an experience, those negative feelings can appear again when you are triggered by a similar experience.
Beliefs also tend to distort your “reality.” Your mind will search for evidence that supports your beliefs. It will also reject anything that does not support it.
Again, think back to the example when your co-worker tells you that someone told him that your project isn’t going very well. How do you react when your boss gives you the feedback?
You react negatively as your mind swiftly searches for all the reasons your boss might not “like you”” or evidence of how she’s been critical of you in the past. Your mind will look to find confirmation for your negative feelings, even though there is none.
NLP has processes that you can use to help tame your inner critic. That’s what we’ll be talking about next.
Changing How You Look at the World
In my book, Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives: The Convergence of Mind, Body and Spirit, I introduced what I call the Five-R process.
The way I defined the five R’s are recognize, record, remind, replace and repeat. Using this process, you can learn how to take charge of your inner voice and get it to work for you instead of against you.
In the first step, I teach is that to change your thinking you must recognize what you are thinking. This means you must pay attention to your thoughts.
This is because the only way you can change anything is to become aware of it.
Next you need to record what you’re hearing your inner critic telling you. You can write it in notebook, on a piece of paper or record it on your phone. Then, when you get home at night, you’ll be able to analyze what you’re hearing.
You’ll also be able to start to uncover what triggers these negative thoughts.
Once you’ve analyzed your what your inner critic is telling you, you can start to look for counter arguments to what you’ve been telling yourself up until now. These counter arguments are designed to help you realize these negative thoughts are not true.
Next, you’re going to use the evidence you found in the remind step to create a replacement phrase or affirmation. This affirmation is used to break the connection between the thoughts and feelings you have attached to your triggers.
This is the final part of the Five R process and is how you can take back control of your inner voice – once and for all.
The moment your inner critic starts talking to you, you say your replacement phrase. This interrupts your negative self-talk, and, after a while, your mind will begin to think differently because your affirmation has replaced what your inner critic used to tell you.
Practicing the Five R Process
One way to use the Five R Process is to practice in advance.
When negative thoughts occur, it can result in anxiety and fear. This can make it difficult to use your replacement phrase the moment your negative thoughts appear.
So, you’ll do what martial artists do. You’ll start practicing in advance. Rather than waiting for a negative thought to arise, you can choose to intentionally call up the thought.
As you deliberately think the unwanted thought, associate into it. See, hear and feel what’s going on in your body. Now repeat your replacement phrase. Practice this exercise at various times during the day.
This is how to use practice to tame your inner critic.
Begin Using the Five-R Process to Tame Your Inner Critic Today
Begin using the Five-R process today. What you’ll find will, at first, seem amazing.
As you practice, your brain starts to learn that your thought is something that you can control. You can switch it on or off at will. It is no longer automatic, out of your control. Instead, your replacement phrase will become automatic.
Now instead of having the negative, pessimistic thought, your optimistic thought will appear. Now you know how to banish your inner critic, once and for all.