I can’t believe I forgot her birthday! I’m such a bad, inconsiderate friend…who does something like that? She was probably so hurt…I can’t believe I am so thoughtless.
Conversations like this happen inside our heads every day. Even without our awareness, a constant barrage of inner criticism can make us feel small, worthless, and discouraged. Often when confronted with situations in which we performed less than perfectly, or made some sort of mistake, we berate ourselves mercilessly. Instead of having a positive effect and helping us avoid making such mistakes again, an overly harsh inner critic can have the exact opposite effect. Too much inner criticism can cause us to feel like a failure, paralyzed by discouragement and hopeless of changing for the better.
In fact, inner criticism is generally far more severe than any criticism we would ever level against someone else. We are usually much harsher judges of our own mistakes; and we are more willing to judge other people favorably and make allowances than we are for ourselves. Although an inner voice that helps us discern right from wrong is essential in living a moral life, harsh criticism and condemnation for being imperfect can only harm our efforts to grow. We must learn to silence our inner critic in order to treat ourselves with the same compassion in personal growth as we would others.
An inner voice that kindly redirects you towards better decisions is a truly essential tool in personal growth and living a moral life. One crucial growth process is the process of transforming your harsh inner critic into a gentler voice, one capable of speaking to yourself with compassion. Constructive criticism or guidance is still a very helpful inner voice, but can only be effective if delivered with kindness. The same way a harsh inner critic can impede growth, inner guidance delivered with compassion can galvanize you to action in your path of personal development. What is the best way to develop a compassionate inner voice and silence your inner critic? Several key actions can help you make this transformation and continue your process of growth with a happier outlook.
First, remind yourself that the purpose of an inner voice is to help you become who you want to be, achieve the goals you want to achieve, reach the heights you hope to reach. The entire function of an inner voice is to help us in this process of self-creation. Therefore, affirm for yourself that your inner voice is a useful tool, one that can prove to be an essential catalyst in your growth process. This initial recognition of the importance of an inner guide can help you in your transformation of that inner guide’s tone of voice. Once you remind yourself of your inner voice and its capacity to help you grow, the development of a compassionate inner voice will follow more naturally.
Another important component of silencing your inner critic is the ability to recognize and focus on your strengths. Seeing your own good points is a task that is remarkably difficult for many people, but it is essential in learning to treat yourself with kindness. Make a list of all your best virtues; even write down some examples of how you live these virtues. Stick the list on your desk, your fridge, your wall…somewhere that you will notice it. Whenever you see this list, remind yourself that you are special and you have many good things to offer the world. Memorize some strengths you wrote down, and review them in your mind whenever your inner critic pops up.
The way to combat feelings of failure or discouragement caused by your inner critic is to strengthen the voice of inner kindness, that reminds you of your good character traits. Going through this list of personal strengths can help to reinforce the idea that you have the ability to change areas of imperfection. Focusing on your strengths does not negate the areas that require improvement; on the contrary, reminding yourself of your capabilities can catalyze personal growth and inspire you in your quest to progress.
An additional helpful idea to use in silencing your inner critic is to discuss your struggles and shortcomings with a trusted friend. Choose a friend who you know will not denigrate you or shame you for being imperfect; choose someone you trust implicitly who is committed to being a compassionate support in your life. Talk with them about your efforts to grow and your struggles with mistakes. Your friend will likely be a source of inspiration and encouragement who can help you see your strengths.
Discussing personal growth with a trusted friend can offer advantages that internal “pep talks” cannot. A friend’s encouragement can go a long way in terms of reminding you of your strengths and helping you see yourself the way your friend sees you—with kindness and compassion. Your friend likely recognizes that you are not perfect; but because they focus on your virtues, they are able to see you as a strong person capable of growing past any shortcomings. Speaking about your growth process with such a friend can help you begin to see yourself in the same kind light, and silence the harsher voice of your inner critic.
The voice of the inner critic is a challenge that most of us deal with on a regular basis. Remind yourself that everyone is imperfect, and that denigrating the less-than-perfect parts of you only causes unproductive feelings of shame and worthlessness. Learning to speak to ourselves in a kind voice of guidance can help us soar to new heights in our personal growth. True growth and change can only happen when we speak to ourselves with compassion, the way we would for anyone else who was trying to grow and fix mistakes. By reframing our outlook on our own strengths and weaknesses, we silence our inner critic and hand the microphone to our inner teacher – encouraging, kind, and helpful in our future of personal growth.