Today it’s time to start challenging your negative internal narrative. We all have something like this, but we call it different things. You may have heard it called your inner critic, and alas, we all have one. And maybe your internal critic needs a new story.
Have you ever wondered how you developed this internal negative voice? Growing up as a child, whatever your circumstance may have been, you had to find a way to survive. And these internal voices developed as different parts of ourselves. They helped us navigate the landscape we grew up in.
Where the Heck Did I Pick Up this Critic?
One of the survival mechanisms we develop as children come from internalized voices of the people around us. Often those voices can be judgmental, demanding, critical, or telling you “No.” These voices may come from a good place because your caregivers loved you, and they were trying to make you a better person. Or, they could come from a very negative or toxic caregiver. What happens is that, regardless of the positive or negative intention of our caregiver, we internalize these voices.
As we grow up, our perfectionist voice may kick in and our internal critic, telling us we’re not doing good enough, or we can’t do it. This negative narrative and internal critic can crush your ability to be functional and push your limits. This voice can have you staying curled up in your box, unwilling to stretch yourself. It can stop you from starting things, for fear that if you can’t do them perfectly, why bother doing them at all.
Ok, So You’re a Thing…
To start questioning your internal negative narrative, you first must realize that you HAVE one. There may even be more than one in your head. You may have your internal critic, then also your internal wise person. You may have an internal rebellious teenager. You may have an inner child who really just wants to be taken care of. Or in places where you feel really confident, you may have the inner competent adult. We all have a peanut gallery of voices that show up, depending on the situation.
All these voices exist inside of normal, healthy minds. An important part of recognizing them is that it gives you a sense of power to know you’re not crazy. And also, awareness is key to being able to change or determine the usefulness of what you’re hearing.
The Inner Conference Room
As I’ve worked with people through the years, a big part of the work that I do is around, a) recognizing the voices and b) creating a sort of conference room where you can turn up the volume on some voices while turning the volume down on others. If your negative narrative is driving the bus, maybe it’s time to invite it to sit a bit farther back.
One tool that I have used with people is around the idea of adding tools to the conference room. Sometimes volume control is useful. Sometimes having an internal “talking stick” so that each voice has a turn can be helpful. And, the understanding that regardless of what voice might be showing up, you have a primary you, who is always in control.
Getting Rid of Your Inner Critic
Often people want to control/alt/delete the inner critic. Yet in all the years I have worked with these voices or parts, what I have discovered is that if you disown a part of yourself, it never actually goes away, but rather can become part of any self-sabotage that you find yourself doing. The stories that these negative or critical parts tell, ride just below the surface. They don’t go ‘away’ until you acknowledge them and do the work to change the narrative.
In fact, the negative narrative and inner critic can often be an ally. You created and internalized that voice for a reason. It had a job to do that would help you survive some element of your childhood. It may need to have an updated job description, but it serves a purpose. This critical voice can help slow you down when you’re getting too far ahead of yourself. It can also help you question the choices you’re about to make. However, it shouldn’t be the only voice you listen to. It is one of a peanut gallery of voices that you must find a way to access so you can make better choices.
Think of some aspect of yourself that acts as a counter-voice to your negative narrative. When you think of your inner critic, think of what other voice shows up to balance it out? What voice shows up for you? For me, it’s my inner wise person. That’s usually the part of me who’s much calmer, not anxious, is like a loving grandparent voice who helps you think through consequences and choices. By acknowledging that each voice has a value and a purpose, you not only make an ally of your inner critic, you also make an ally of the other voices.
Summing it Up
Again, people often want their inner critic to go away, the negative narratives don’t feel all that good. The reality is, it never will. It serves a purpose. You can, however, befriend this voice. You can ask it to sit in the back of the bus as you experience new things. You can ask it to stay with you, but turn the volume down a bit so your other voices, like your curious voice, your wise voice, and your brave voice, can all come through.
Recognizing your inner critic means recognizing that it’s probably not the only voice in there. It’s an opportunity to get curious about these other voices. Looking at the stories that you’ve been telling yourself. Awareness can lead to being more choiceful in the stories you align yourself with.
How might changing the relationship to your inner critic, and your other voices, change your reactions to other situations in your life? If you can conjure up your inner wise person or your inner fair negotiator when going into a disagreement with someone, you’re more likely to act in a manner that will bring you more success.
Frankly, you will have much better outcomes, than if you show up to the conversation with your inner critic driving the bus. Your negative narrative might have you avoid a difficult conversation or blow up with a lot of blame and drama.
Ultimately, making peace with your different voices, celebrating what is useful about them, and having a container in which to support the insights of all these parts of yourself is empowering. It gives you the space to show up as your whole self and access the wisdom of your entire life experience.
I would LOVE to hear from YOU!
- How would you like your inner voices to work with you?
- What would you like to change in your story about your negative narrative?
Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC is a Leadership Confidence and Whole Life Coach, and the author of StoryJacking: Change Your Inner Dialogue, Transform Your Life. Lyssa works with confidence challenged high achievers who are ready to rewrite the internal narratives that slow them down. Her clients include executives, senior leadership, and managers at organizations such as Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, the US Military, as well as with creative writers, actors, and artists.
What fires her up is working with smart people to trust their brilliance and develop the courage and confidence to believe in themselves and the work that is their purpose. If you are interested in meeting to see if you could benefit from working together, let's have a coffee and a chat.
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article originally posted on Dec 2, 2019. Updated April 23, 2023.