Quieting the Critic in Your Head
I recently completed a week-long bike trip across the state of Iowa…along with 20,000 other cyclists from around the world. Each day as we pedaled through small towns people lined the streets and cheered for us, like we were doing something heroic.
A few days after returning home I went out for a ride. No one cheered for me. My legs felt heavy. The hills seemed harder than usual. And the familiar voice inside my head said, “You’re not a very good cyclist.”
Two thoughts from these experiences:
First, we all need and thrive on affirmation. We just do. We’re wise to surround ourselves with people who build us up, and we’re powerful when we take the time to affirm and encourage others. The Bible refers to it as “building each other up.” (Thessalonians 5:11). What a great metaphor, and one we all know from experience.
Second, we all have a critic inside our heads. I’d don’t know who invited the little bugger in, but he or she is there. The critic inside your head convinces you that you’ll fail if you try, that you’re not good enough, not worthy, not forgivable, not loveable. Call it neurosis or the Devil; we all know the voice. The question is what do we do about it? How do we quiet the voice of the critic in our heads?
Self-affirmation doesn’t work. You can tell yourself that you’re wonderful all day long but the critic inside your head will always out-shout you. I don’t mean to imply that telling yourself the truth isn’t helpful, but it won’t quiet the critic for long. Trust me, I know this from experience.
The first step in quieting the critic is to notice it. This is the step of awareness, recognizing that there is a critic inside your head.
The second step is to name it. Seriously, give your inner critic a name. Call him the Devil, or Voldemort or Belinda. The name itself doesn’t matter. This step may seem silly but it starts the important process of creating some space between you and the inner critic. You are more than what the critic says and more than the way the critic makes you feel.
Once you create a little head space between you and the voice of your inner critic, the final step is to mock it. Martin Luther once said, “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.” I’ve found this to be true! I call my inner critic “Disaster Radio” and when the voice of my inner critic gets loud I say to myself, “Ah, someone turned on Disaster Radio. I’ve heard this program before.” I don’t know why but this almost always takes the sting out of that voice.
Got a critic inside your head? Of course you do! Give these simple steps a try and let me know how they work for you. Do you have another way of dealing with the critic inside your head? Leave a comment and share it with the rest of us.
Some of the ideas in this week’s blog come from a book entitled The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt by Russ Harris. You can find it here on Amazon