There’s a song in the long-running Broadway musical A Chorus Line that begins with two questions: “Who am I anyway? Am I my resume?” For many of us, this is the song of the inner critic in our head.
“Who do you think you are?” that inner critic asks in her meanest mean girl voice. “Don’t you know you’re not smart / pretty / thin / good / (fill in the blank) enough?”
The goal of the inner critic is to keep you in your place. That inner mean girl (or boy – inner critics are equal opportunity destroyers) isn’t just mean, she’s afraid, and she wants YOU to be afraid, too. She sticks to those negative messages so she won’t have to risk failure if she believes in herself and goes all in on her dreams. Instead of diving in and riding the waves in all their exhilarating glory, she’d rather stay on the shore telling you all the things that could go wrong and reminding you of the times things haven’t worked out well in the past. Worry, fear, criticism, doubt, and doom and gloom are the tools she uses to bully you into staying right where you are. Unfulfilled. Stuck. Small.
But you weren’t made to stay small! You were made to shine your light brightly. You were made for joy and dreams and growth and purpose. But you can’t have all of these good things unless you learn to quiet your inner critic so you can hear your true voice.
One strategy I love is to give a name to your inner critic. I call my inner mean girl “Sloane” (she’s a total in-crowd girl who’s super-good at looking down her nose at me). Naming your inner critic is useful in two ways:
1. It differentiates his or her voice from your own true voice
2. It gives you someone to yell at (“Shut up, Sloane!”)
Another strategy is to question everything your inner critic says and replace her criticisms with more positive examples.
“Nobody will care what I have to say? Oh yeah? Well, my co-worker said my idea really made a difference.”
“I’m not smart enough to start my own business? Oh yeah? I may not know everything YET, but I know where to find the answers and support I’ll need to make it happen.”
“I’m too broken and damaged to help other people? Oh yeah? Well, the young woman I talked to at church the other day said I had really helped her by sharing my experiences with her.”
And a third strategy is to spend your time and energy connecting with people who value you and reflect your light back to you. Take a look at the people you talk to most – are they encouraging? Do they question the truth of your inner critic’s comments? Do they speak positivity to you and encourage you to grow and try new things? Their positive messages help to drown out your mean girl’s voice.
When you practice these strategies regularly, it’ll be like you turned down the volume on your inner critic’s microphone. It’s time to sing your own song!
Dianne Callahan is a local author, motivational speaker, and three-time cancer survivor. Her book Lighthearted Life: Simple strategies to live a joy-filled life even in the stormiest times is available on Amazon. She’s currently working on her second book, Journey Through Illness, which will be published in winter 2021.