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Beware of the inner critic

Randi Rotwein-Pivnick, M.A., LMFT

From the moment we awake, we have a dialogue running through our brain. This is known as internalized dialogue. Sometimes we are aware of that dialogue, but often times, we are not, as it is automatic and subconscious. This internalized dialogue can be negative or positive. Negative self-talk (internalized negative dialogue) is often labeled as our “Inner Critic”, and this Inner Critic is frequently the root of much of our self- destructive behavior. 

The voices of our Inner Critic usually stem from early life experiences that are internalized and interpreted. The way we interpret these experiences will impact how we think about ourselves. Often, many of these negative voices come from our experiences with our parents or primary caregiver, and/or interactions with our siblings or peers. The ‘stories’ we tell ourselves from these experiences become our reality, and often times they are the basis for our inner critic: the negative voice that chats to us all day long. Additionally, negative experiences we have later in life that leave us feeling badly about ourselves, will also become part of our Inner Critic dialogue. 

The private conversations you have with yourself can become a major obstacle to reaching your goals. Frequently, the negative self-talk and predictions (i.e.: I won’t get the job, he/she won’t like me, I won’t pass the test) become self-fulfilling prophecies. The dialogue of the Inner Critic impacts self-esteem and confidence, as well as our personal relationships and our performances in life (school/work). These private conversations can undermine our positive feelings about ourselves and become roadblocks to achieving our goals and becoming successful. 

The negative internal dialogue shows up in our professional and personal lives and undermines our abilities. Some of the common dialogue of the inner critic might be: “you are stupid, you aren’t loveable, you won’t get the job, you will never be successful”. This type of thinking impacts our opinion of ourselves and attitudes toward ourselves. Increased negative self-talk equals decreased self-love, and decreased self-love lessens our belief in ourselves to succeed and thrive as happy, successful, human beings. 

Most people think of affirmations as positive thoughts we tell ourselves. However, every thought you think is an affirmation, whether it is positive or negative. Every thought you think and say is an affirmation. You are using 

affirmations all day long, whether on a conscious level or subconscious level. Affirmations are all of your thoughts, each moment of each day, whether positive or negative. Therefore, you are affirming and creating your life experiences with every thought and every word. And thus, it is important to watch your words, as words become beliefs, and beliefs become behaviors and behaviors become reality. Thinking negatively about yourself will, most likely, increase the chances of negative outcomes. It’s that old self-fulfilling prophecy theory: think negative and you will get negative results. Your thoughts can greatly influence how you feel and therefore, your actions. Therefore, negative self-talk can be very destructive. Telling yourself that you aren’t good enough or won’t be successful will reduce your feelings of self-worth and deter you from facing the challenges in front of you. And, if you have a choice on how you think, (which you do), why not choose to think positive? Thinking positive may not guarantee that the results will be positive, but you will certainly feel better and most likely have a better chance at experiencing a positive outcome. Additionally, it takes more energy to be negative than positive, just as it takes more energy to be angry than content. 

You can take power over your negative self-talk (the Inner Critic), but first you must become ‘conscious’ of what it is telling you. Be mindful, as our thoughts have become habits and in order to change a habit you must first become aware (mindful) of the habit you want to change (negative self talk) and then replace it with the new desired behavior (positive self-talk). Once you become aware, you can stop it and replace the negative ‘chatter’ with more positive self-talk. In order to create the new habit, one needs to repeat that behavior (positive self-talk) over and over and over again until it becomes automatic (aka: habit). The more you say the positive (and less of the negative), the more the positive will become a habit, eventually becoming automatic. 

Be aware of your thoughts. Your inner dialogue will either fuel your success or prevent you from reaching your full potential. Overly harsh negative self-talk will cause your performance to suffer and reduce the chances that you will attain your desired goals. “Speak” to yourself as if you would talk to a young child that you love. Be kind, be patient, be encouraging. Be successful! 

By Randi Rotwein-Pivnick, M.A., LMFT

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