When you have anxiety, you may feel like you spend a lot of time listening to the voice of your inner critic.
The thoughts running through your head might not be kind and compassionate. Perhaps you judge yourself very harshly when you make a mistake. Maybe you berate yourself over flaws that other people barely notice. Or you may find it very difficult to forgive yourself for your shortcomings.
These are all signs of a very active inner critic. And that nagging voice could be contributing to your anxiety on a daily basis.
So, what does it mean to have an “inner critic?” And how does that criticism make your anxiety worse?
Here’s how to gain a deeper understanding of your inner critic and a few tips to help you keep it in check.
What Is Your Inner Critic?
Your inner critic is the voice whispering in your ear when you make the smallest mistakes. It’s the part of the subconscious that always dredges up embarrassing memories from years ago. It points out your faults and gives you no praise for your strengths.
This critic is the one who tells you that because you messed up in the past, you can’t succeed in the future. Everyone has their own inner critic. But if you have anxiety, yours might be exceptionally loud.
The Benefits of Self-Criticism
Let’s face it, sometimes, a certain level of self-criticism is necessary. We all made mistakes and let people down from time to time. And in those moments, we need to be honest with ourselves about what went wrong and how we can make it right.
However, thinking of unrelenting self-criticism throughout each and every day will not push you to become a better person. It will only serve to discourage and demoralize you. In order to benefit from what your inner critic tells you, you’ll need to learn how to discern useful criticism from anxiety.
Why do we feel like we can’t simply disregard our inner critics? You may feel like you have to accept everything your inner critic tells you because doing so will protect you from making more mistakes in the future. You might also feel guilty for mistakes you’ve made in the past, and so, taking in all of this self-criticism feels like doing penance. There’s even a chance that you feel like you “deserve” to be berated.
But here are a few truths that we all need to accept: First, we all mess up from time to time throughout our lives. And there is no amount of self-critique that will prevent this. Furthermore, at a certain point, you will have to acknowledge that you cannot change the past and do things differently. However, self-criticism will not help you feel better either.
Anxiety doesn’t always speak the truth. How do you know which pieces of self-criticism are worth considering and which aren’t? Cross-checking is the key.
Open up to your loved ones and ask what they think. If the people who spend the most time with you don’t agree with certain things that your inner critic tells you, there is a good chance that these thoughts aren’t realistic. Those who know and love can help you discern which critiques are worth listening to and which are just your anxiety talking.
Is your inner critic getting too loud for you to cut through the noise? Does the voice of your inner critic drown out your positive thoughts and exacerbate your anxiety? You may find that talking to a therapist helps you shift your thought process and quiet your inner critic.