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7 Tips for Coping on Days When Your Inner Critic Is Extremely Loud

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

My inner critic can be loud. As a child, all these inner critics are just one voice saying what’s in my mind and they were scary, loud and confusing. As I grew older, the louder and scarier it got. In my adulthood, it was the voice I heard first thing in the morning, during conversations, eating meals, trying to complete work or assignments and when going to bed at night. It is something I have been navigating and coping with throughout my life.

This year though, I decided to get support — specifically with my inner critic. My goal was to learn how to shut it down for good. I was exhausted from hearing different variations of “I’m a failure” and “I’m not good enough.” It was also impacting my marriage, being a dad and my own mental health. I never expected to learn how to cope and interact with my inner critic with acknowledgment, space and love during this process.

Here are seven tips I use for coping on days when my inner critic is extremely loud:

1. Acknowledge, “I am having the thought…”

This is one of my new coping methods for my loud inner critic, especially when it overrides my 1-year-old singing with Elmo right next to my ear. I learned this strategy working with a mental health coach and it really shifted the intensity level from a 10 to a 7. Putting the phrase “I’m having the thought” in front of my inner-critic thought such as “I am a failure,” helps me pause while taking away its power and lowering the intensity.

2. Use 
grounding techniques

My favorite grounding technique is holding a piece of ice or something every cold. I learned about this grounding technique while receiving inpatient treatment for dissociative identity disorder (DID) and discovering frozen oranges. As a person who struggled with self-harm for a long time, frozen oranges helped me navigate my thoughts while staying grounded and coping with the urge to self-injure. Now, on days when I am coping with urges and when my inner critic is loud — usually the two are closely related for me — grabbing that piece of ice or touching something cold and wet helps me pause, calm my inner critic and connect to the present moment.

3. Ask: whose voice is this?

Learning how my inner critic was connected to my trauma and how I took on the voices of my abusers repeating the messages to my own self was an eye-opening experience. Now when my inner critic is loud, I check-in and ask: Whose voice is this? It helps me add awareness and context while deciding for myself how I want to interact and move forward with the thoughts my inner critic is expressing.

4. Do something kind and gentle for myself.

My inner critic is usually anything but kind and gentle. So, engaging in activities such as using essential oils, having my favorite cup of tea, watching my favorite episode or movie, or saying out loud to myself “I love you” has created greater opportunity for me to show kindness and gentleness to my whole self, including my inner critic.

5. Create art, or play or listen to music.

Sometimes, when my inner critic is at its loudest pitch, it signals to me that my feelings and thoughts need some expressive space. For me, this has occurred through creating art of some kind, playing musical instruments (the drums are my favorite) or listening to music that connects to and releases the feelings I am having.

6. Take a break.

I’ve found over the years that on days when my inner critic is extremely loud, it also coincided with a time when I was stressed, overloaded, overwhelmed, exhausted, struggling with the increased symptoms and chronic pain that comes with my medical conditions, experiencing more triggers or navigating a lot of life circumstances at once. These times for me have called for time to take a break, whether it be an off-the-grid day or a day full of things that bring me low stress and comfort.

7. Check-in with a support person.

For me, checking in with a support person is always in my coping toolbox. I use this tool, especially when my inner critic is continuously loud and nothing else in my toolbox has helped or when I need a little extra support. This support also helps me to challenge or show some extra kindness to my inner critic.

So, know that if you are struggling with your inner critic, you are not alone.

Photo by Aldain Austria on Unsplash

Originally published: May 27, 2021
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