Monday, January 4, 2010

How to Manage Your Inner Critic

The trick to dealing with your inner critic is to develop a balanced relationship with it: to not ignore or avoid it and the emotions it raises, but to also not allow yourself to be bullied by it.

Easier said than done? Try the following steps:

- Examine your inner critic.
Ask it: "Where do you come from?" This might feel awkward at first, but speaking internally with your critic is a valid psychological technique that encourages you to think objectively. Not all inner critics come from our childhoods. We're influenced by many factors, including competition with our peers, the media, our relationships with our spouses, and our own attitudes about winning and losing. Once you understand the places your inner critic comes from, you'll be able to recognize when it's telling the truth and when to disregard what it says.

- Understand that your inner critic can actually help you.
Your inner critic has evolved to help you set and meet high expectations. If you're open to it (which is not the same as believing everything it tells you) then you can learn from it. Like a good coach, your inner critic reminds you that knowledge and capability are important. Ask it: "How will you help me achieve success in the task ahead?"

- Act in spite of your inner critic.
You can learn from your inner critic, but be careful to not give it too much power. Find and maintain the right distance — keep it close enough to be useful, but not so close that it gets in your way. As soon as you hear your inner critic complaining, acknowledge the information — but always ask: is my inner critic helping me or hurting me? If what it's telling you saps your confidence, then ask it to step aside and continue on your way.