“Self-doubt is real. Everyone has it. Having confidence and losing confidence is real, too, and everyone has been in that position.” --Venus Williams
Who do you think you are? You’re not smart enough to do that! What are you thinking to even try that?
Does that internal voice sound familiar? We all have an inner critic. It is the voice of doubt and fear that arises when we venture outside of our comfort zone. The inner critic is sometimes a very vocal part that voices its displeasure. Our inner critic wants to keep us safe. It wants us to stay in the known and predictable. It wants everyone to like us and approve of us. When we reach for a dream, try something new, or make a mistake, it turns up the volume.
So why is it that some people seem to move forward in confidence, while others cower under the voice of the inner critic? It all depends on how aware we are of it and how we talk back to it. It is not that people who have confidence don’t have an inner critic. They have just found ways to keep it quieter. I use the analogy that our inner critic is like our little toe. We all have one, yet we often don’t pay much attention to it. When we stub that toe, it is forefront in our mind and that is all we think about. When we are getting ready to do something new, challenging or important, it is like stubbing our toe. The inner critic activates, and the voice suddenly becomes all we hear.
At any moment, we can focus our attention on our little toe and feel it. Our inner critic also has a body location. Some people feel it as butterflies or churning in their stomach, others feel it as a heaviness on their chest, while others feel a constricting in their throats. It can be almost anywhere in our bodies, but it is important to begin to notice where we feel the inner critic the most. When we can associate a bodily sensation with the voice, it gives us an important clue to start noticing that we are no longer in our authentic self and have slipped into the critic part. The awareness of the critic’s activation is the point of power we have to start noticing and talking back to it.
As soon as we recognize the internal voice of our critic we can name it and make a decision. Are we going to allow it to continue to berate us, or will we choose to put on another, more compassionate part who will be able to handle the situation? Start noticing the voice of the inner critic and turn down the volume on it.