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Integrated, solution-focussed therapy

Managing Self-Talk – What's your inner critic called?

23. Feb. 2018 by Valerie Walker

Woman asking herself a lot of questions

Self-talk is something we all have. It's that running commentary you have in your head which can be a conglomeration of observations, instructions, general moans and groans, expressions of happiness or excitement and much, much, more.  It can take many forms, from one single voice, to a babble of several, often conflicting, voices.   It starts from childhood and stays with you throughout your life and, as annoying as it might seem at times, it is actually there to protect you and help you survive. 

Your self-talk is shaped by the filters you apply to the world around you, which in turn are formed by past and present influences, both internal and external which includes; parents, teachers, friends, your values, your upbringing, work, the language you speak and even the physical environment you find yourself in each day.   It is not only an incessant stream of your conscious thoughts, but also includes your unconscious beliefs and assumptions.  Consequently, your self-talk is inextricably linked with your self-esteem and can have a huge effect on how you feel as a person and on your confidence.

The good news - you put it there...and that means you can change it, you just need to know how!

The first thing you can do is to take the time to listen to your inner voice and acknowledge the impact it has on you.  Notice whether it is making you feel good about yourself, or if it is having a negative impact on how you feel and how you behave.   It might help to write it down, so you can see any trends or recurring themes.  

Positive self-talk will make you feel good about yourself and the things going on around you.  It will lift your spirit, give you motivation and let you see the bright side of life.  

Negative self-talk can be helpful sometimes, but too much will pull you down, make you feel bad about yourself and your life and generally leave you feeling like a bit of a failure.  If you notice that your self-talk is predominately negative, then it's time for you to take action. 

Talk back to it!

Start talking back to your inner critic and challenging it.  If a friend or colleague spoke to you like that, would you let them off with it?  Get tough - let it know when you don't agree.  You can use some simple challenges like:

  • Always?
  • Compared to who or what?
  • In what way?
  • Everybody?
  • Never?
  • How do I know that?

Give it a name!

Try and distance yourself from that negative inner voice by treating it as if it was a 3rd party.  You can give it a name (the funnier the better) and chose a character or form that seems amusing to you e.g. a cartoon character, a monkey, a parrot. 

Change the tone

When you say something in your head you tend to say it with confidence.  Try changing the tone and notice what effect it has.  The same few words, said in a different tone can turn a compliment into a criticism.   Try giving that pesky inner critic the voice of a cartoon character or whiny voice, such as Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny or one of the Haribo advert characters.  You'll find it much harder to take it seriously when it has a squeaky voice!  Go on, try it now and see just how easy it is!

Turn the volume down.

Remember you are in control of your inner critic, so if you find it just won't let up, try to imagine you have a volume control that you can turn down and even mute completely if necessary. It can be a button, a knob, a slider or digital numbers, whatever works for you.

Practise Positive Self-talk

Start by pledging not to say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say out loud to someone else.  Then, make a list of the positive traits you have, the more you do this the more you will find the list grows.

Practise gratitude, by finding at least one thing to be grateful for every day and you will be surprised at how this can start to change your outlook on life.  The more you practise positive thinking and gratitude...the easier it becomes.

Finally, if you recognise that you do have had a tendency towards more negative, pessimistic self-talk, then don't be too harsh on yourself and expect to become an optimist overnight. Creating more negative self-talk about being negative won't help! However, if you start to practise and follow some of the tips above, you will gradually begin to find it becomes more natural and you become less critical of yourself, and even the world around you.

If you are struggling and need more help to get you there, then NLP, Hypnotherapy and BWRT can all provide that extra boost to get you back in control of your inner critic and find your inner champion.  Have you found yours?