Chattering away inside the heads of most human beings is an internal monologue that goes on and on at about 45,000 words per day. It consists of a variety of voices—the cheerleader, the worrier, the taskmaster and a whole gallery of others, some uplifting and cheery, others nagging and mean. Sadly, for many people, chief among this cast of characters is the Inner Critic.

The Inner Critic’s voice may be loud or hushed, shrill or whiney. Its primary characteristic, however, is the negative quality of its messages. You’re not good enough. Who do you think you are? You can’t do that. And, oh, the name calling: You’re stupid, you’re lazy, you’re dumb. On and on, in a litany of criticism and judgments that can cause shame, anxiety, depression and sheer exhaustion. If we heard someone talking to another person the way our Inner Critic talks to us, we might be tempted to intervene.

The Inner Critic never lets a mistake go by unnoticed and, like the celebrated elephant, it never forgets. With never-ending commentary, the Critic has an opinion about nearly everything we do, think, feel and say.

The Inner Critic is the chider that drives us to perfectionism. It is the compulsive comparer that constantly judges and measures us against images in magazines, on television and in movies, our friends and co-workers, even strangers on the street. It is also the collector of negative comments about us by others. The flawless editor, marking out any compliments, and holding onto only the criticisms which it reiterates in a “see, I told you so” voice.

Hal and Sidra Stone, co-authors of Embracing Your Inner Critic, compare the noisome voice to a radio station playing inside your head that broadcasts a running monologue of self-critical statements.

The Voice of the Inner Critic didn’t spring up overnight. Like weeds in a garden, it’s been insinuating itself over a period of time. Its roots go deep. There is no quick fix or magical cure for silencing this voice or retraining its purposes to serve us in healthy ways. Like all good and solid change, it takes time, patience, persistence, and sometimes outside help.

We may never eliminate or please the Inner Critic, but we can learn how to avoid or minimize major critical attacks and make this voice our ally, even our protector. Here are some strategies for taming the Inner Critic:

• Become aware of the voice of the Inner Critic. Often negative self-talk has become so much a part of the ongoing chatter in our mind we don’t even hear it. Pay attention to the messages you give yourself.

• Identify the voice of the Inner Critic. Who does it sound most like? Parent, grandparent, teacher, husband, wife? A little bit of all of them? Tracing back some of the messages the Inner Critic grabbed onto and magnified will depersonalize the voice and help you understand that it is a voice in your head and not truly you.

• Notice when your Critic attacks come. Is the voice stronger at certain times of the day or night? When you perform a certain task or engage in a particular activity? Do you hear more criticisms and comparisons when you’re with certain people? When you identify these Critical times, you’ll be able to manage your Critic more effectively.

• Change negative messages to affirming messages. Write down the messages your Inner Critic gives you and turn them around. If your Critic says “You’re clumsy and awkward,” write “I’m graceful and balanced.” Make a list of these negative-to-positive messages in your journal. Tape the positive ones you like most to your bathroom mirror. Affirmations work!

• Examine the evidence. When the Inner Critic says, “You never do anything right,” challenge it by making a list of things you do right. Be specific. Don’t be modest. Let your list be as long as you want.

• List your assets. Make a list of your good traits. Put down everything you like about yourself that is good. The entries don’t have to be grand; list simple things: “I care for my family; I’m loving and giving.” Can’t think of any assets? Ask people who know and love you—they’ll have suggestions.

• Don’t let the Critic have the last word. Be still and let something more authentic come through. When we listen beyond the first, loud critical words, we may hear the calm and quiet voice of our inner wisdom.

Author's Bio: 

Marshall Brown, President of Marshall Brown & Associates, is a certified executive and career coach, entrepreneur coach, and personal brand strategist. Working internationally, Marshall has always had a passion for helping professionals find ways to succeed in the workplace while living happy and fulfilling lives. Unleashing & Channeling Your Power to Succeed—reflects his commitment to supporting and encouraging his clients to find their passions and unique talents, while seeking additional possibilities to move from mediocre to exceptional. He sets the bar high for himself and others, and is the catalyst for new and breakthrough thinking. Marshall brings a significant amount of knowledge and experience in coaching, branding, business, marketing and leadership to his work with individual and organizational clients. He serves as a coach to already successful high achievers who enjoy challenging themselves. His clients include association executives, lawyers, health care professionals, CEOs and business entrepreneurs.