Want me to let you in on a little secret?
Those critical narratives you hear—the ones that say:
You’re not _____ enough.
It’ll never work.
People will laugh at you.
No one cares what you have to say anyway.
You know, those voices. We all have them. Every single one of us.
And here’s the thing about that particular voice: Its main goal is to protect you and keep you safe. Those voices are an over-exaggeration of our fight-flight-freeze instinct, which originated as a very helpful way of keeping humans safe from actual harm, like a bear out in the words.
But over many years, that instinct has become too loud, too often—to a point where, for some of us, anything that produces fear (even imagined fear or the fear that comes with stepping outside of your comfort zone or trying something new) is labeled “bad,” alerting those voices to start chattering away and do whatever they need to do to keep us “safe.”
But that part of you— the scared, fearful part that wants to stay safe— knows that it can’t simply say, “Hey, I’m scared of the unknown or what might happen so please stay small.” Otherwise, you’d be able to see right through it and keep moving forward without much further thought.
So, instead, it uses harsh critiques and personal jabs to make you believe that you aren’t capable enough to take that risk or make that leap. And so, just like that, you’re stopped right in your tracks.
Because of that, these narratives end up being one of the main things that hold you back from doing the things you really want to do—the things that are calling for your attention but that requires you to stretch and take risks and venture into the unknown. Even at the cost of your overall happiness.
But the good news? Those narratives don’t have to run the show. You can hear them and choose not to let them direct your actions or steer you from your deepest desires.
Here are 3 tools for quieting those critical narratives:
1. Notice and label it. The first step, before you do anything else, is to notice the narratives that are holding you back and separate them from your wiser, truer self. We often conflate these negative thoughts as the voice of truth (our voice of truth), so we need to first create some separation. So pause, notice, and label. And remember, you are the one aware of those voices; you are not those voices.
2. Create a character. Those inner narratives often come with their own personality and their own voice. Maybe those narratives tend to be berating or angry. Or maybe they tend to sound more aggravated or whiny. However you hear or experience them, begin to envision a character from whom those voices would flow. Being able to envision a character (that’s separate from yourself) can help create more space between the true you and those critical narratives.
3. Remove the critic from the scene. Your inner critic, the one that’s trying to keep you safe (just not in the nicest way) is actually trying to do something good. It wants to protect you, and so it believes its job is to stay busy doing just that—which is one reason it’s often so over-reactive. So instead of getting angry at its presence, simply give your inner critic something else to do. Give them a job or let them go on vacation. And I mean actually have a conversation and imagine your critic going off to do something else. Then, once they’re no longer there, you can get back to doing what you want to do without interruption.
I hope you give these tools a try and see how they help you create space and a bit of breathing room from your inner critic! For so many, these voices of fear and doubt are what’s holding them back, and bringing awareness to these patterns and working with them can truly be transformational.
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