Most people have some form of internal critic—a nagging voice that highlights all your mistakes and pretends your triumphs don’t exist. Some consideration of both positive outcomes and ramifications of your actions can be healthy, but when you let your inner critic take over it can cause severe and long-lasting damage to your self-esteem. So take control!
Start by paying closer attention to what that little voice is saying. It may even help to write down what you’re thinking. When negative commentary is in front of you in black and white, you may be better able to see what’s true and what’s not. Once you’ve got a clearer idea of what your inner critic is telling you, here are some tools to help turn down its volume.
- Separate from the criticism. Rephrase negative thoughts as if someone else is saying them to you, rather than you talking to yourself. When they come from outside, it’s easier to refute criticisms with evidence to the contrary.
- Reframe negativity. Instead of focusing on a feeling that you “messed up,” try saying, “it was a valuable learning experience and I’ll handle it differently next time.”
- Don’t dwell on the past. Rather than spending hours or days thinking about a misstep you made, apologize out loud to whoever you think you failed and explain what you’ll do to avoid repeating the same error. This can help you move past the issue and stop thinking about it.
- Beware exaggeration. Frustration can lead to an inner dialogue peppered with “never” and “always,” but life is rarely so binary. Shift from, “I never do anything right” to something truer—such as, “I do some things well and can learn to do other things better.”
- Be your own best friend. If your best friend let you in on what their inner critic says, you’d offer support and gently point out why those critiques aren’t accurate. Learning to apply this same kindness to yourself is an important tool in the effort to boost self-confidence.