We all have one. Despite appearances, it rests within the confines of each of our minds and the neural networks of our brains. For some it's an incessant nagging, for others it may come and go as an occasional whisper about inaccuracies, inabilities or simply not being good enough. It can rear its' nasty head every now and then and temporarily monopolise thoughts, feelings and ultimately behaviour. Some of us are better at hiding it than others and occasionally it may be compounded with corresponding rumination, worry and stress. Fortunately, you can turn that critic into a fan, and it's much easier than you think.
We are always thinking, and beyond thinking there is another subconscious level known as cognition. Cognition is often compared to a computer program running in the background, operating to keep things functioning efficiently, whilst also using information and experiences from our past to make decisions and judgements. Our cognition is predisposed to biases and within these biases lies our negativity bias. Our negativity bias holds onto negative experiences and stores them to remind us of our past failures and to teach us how to avoid similar outcomes in the future. However, this bias also creates a hotbed for worry, rumination and stress. There are a few things that you can do to manage your critic and turn your negative biases and thoughts into positive ones.
Measures to Tame Your Inner Critic
Increase awareness of your thoughts. Allow time for reflection in your day, create space for immersing yourself in the moment and connecting with your why. We have become a culture of 'doing' when 'being' matters so much more. Meditation can be the ideal avenue to pursue this.
Reframe negative thinking. Instead of berating yourself for poor judgement or behaviour, get curious and challenge those thoughts. Rather than say 'I can't' embrace the power of 'yet'. Take the opportunity to pause between a stimulus and your response through a simple breath and use positive language.
Avoid rumination. Let things go, particularly the experiences (or people) that evoked negative feelings and/or emotions. This can be a real challenge, but life is too short to over-think things or be surrounded by negativity; you need to remind yourself to stay aligned with your purpose. Don't get stuck in your 'old story', create a new one.
Employ self-compassion. Ask yourself how you would treat a friend under the same circumstances and be that friend to yourself. Do something for just you each and every day, whether it's enjoying a cup of tea, stepping out into green space for a break or a few moments of mindfulness.
Surround yourself with positive people who inspire you and lift you up. Positive emotions are contagious and create an upward spiral of positivity. Think about who makes you smile the most, who makes you laugh and who you are intrigued by....spend time with them! Not feeling so positive? Learned optimism is possible!
We also need to remind ourselves that we all have core strengths and by focusing on utilising these strengths more often, we can tap into our best selves. When using our strengths we perform better, we enjoy ourselves and are energised and who doesn't want to relish in those perks?
Kirsten works with individuals, teams and organisations to help them develop their potential through constructs in psychology & neuroscience. Contact her today to arrange a confidential discussion about your future.