I’m going to ask you a question. Take a minute to think and answer it honestly.
Who is your harshest critic?
For many of us, if we were to pause and reflect, we’d have to admit that the truthful answer is — myself. Even the most outwardly successful people can struggle with an inner voice that’s downright mean, and which belittles their accomplishments and beats them up for even their tiniest slip-ups .
Laura, of self-improvement blog Pick the Brain, was among them. “My inner critic spent years cataloging my every mistake, failure, forgotten friend’s birthday, facial blemish, extra pound on the scales… It got so out of hand it literally took me over. Each morning brought another 24 hours in which to fail, mess up and be so much less than good enough,” she confessed in a post recently.
So how did she conquer the nasty little monster in her head? She lists a whopping 23 simple tricks she’s learned to silence her inner critic. I’ve selected some of the most practical and original here and also used them as a jumping off point to round up other suggestions from experts.
1. Flick it away.
The key to conquering your nasty inner voice is to first, notice it, and second, dismiss it. It might feel silly, but a little physical ritual could help you accomplish this. “See your inner critic for what it is. A malevolent goblin grimacing on your shoulder. Every time it puts you down, turn and flick it off your shoulder,” suggests the post.
2. Change your home screen.
You look at your phone and laptop plenty, so you may as well be looking at something that makes you feel better about yourself. “Add a positive self-message to a favorite image. Add this to your phone or laptop home screen.”
3. Change your password.
This idea isn’t from Pick The Brain but the suggestion above reminded me of an earlier story I read about a guy who motivated himself to change his life by changing his passwords to something inspirational. Maybe something similar would work for you.
4. List your good qualities.
No one is only one thing. Whatever your weaknesses, they’re bound to be balanced by strengths. Remember those when you’re starting to slide down the rabbit hole of self-criticism. “Note down a checklist of the qualities others like you for. Stick this to your fridge for a positive, morning reminder,” says the post.
5. Amend your negative thoughts.
Ever played that game where you add ‘… in bed’ to a fortune cookie, or ‘…because I’m Batman’ to a Facebook status? This is the same idea, but instead of making you laugh, it will hopefully make you feel positive and powerful. “Diffuse each self-diminishing thought by adding a positive ending. Here’s how, ‘So I made a mistake but I can learn from it.'”
6. Compliment someone.
Being kind is one of the surest routes to happiness, research shows. Leverage that reality when your inner critic is feeling particularly nasty. “Call up a friend you haven’t caught up with in a while. Tell them how much they mean to you. Making someone else feel better is a great way to boost how you feel about yourself,” advises the post.
7. Remember how many people truly don’t care.
Your screw up feels like the end of the world to you, but the overwhelming majority of humanity couldn’t care less. Remind yourself of that: “Calculate how many people in the whole world really don’t care or even know about what you did or didn’t do compared to the few who might. Give your inner critic a lesson in perspective.”
8. Use the ten-year test.
Entrepreneur Nelson Wang calls this idea the ten-year test: “Feeling stressed about something that just happened? Use the ten-year test. Ask yourself, will this matter in one year, five years, or ten years? If it won’t, you need to stop stressing out about it.” Here’s how Pick the Brain puts it: “See that errors or ‘failures’ are relative. Ask how will it matter in a week, a year, or ten years from now?”
9. See the big picture.
The really big picture. “Gaze at a satellite image of the earth. Understand you’re as much an integral part of this amazing creation as anyone.”
10. Write it down.
This is another one that doesn’t come from Pick the Brain, but which a variety of other experts recommend. When you’re plagued by self-doubt, writing out your thoughts can help.
“When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says… literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity,” TalentSmart president Travis Bradberry has written, for example. You could even make a little ritual of throwing out that paper scrawled with all those unkind words.