“You can’t do this.” “You’ll never learn.” “You’re not smart enough.” “You’re not good enough.” “You blew it.” “You don’t deserve this promotion.” No, those are not nasty things that people say to us. These are just some of the negative thoughts our “inner critic” pops into our brains throughout the day. It’s also called our self talk.
Our self talk can be positive or negative. Some are so negative that they make us feel bad about ourselves and take us away from what we’re working on. They may be strong enough to convince you to give up on a goal. Fortunately, those thoughts originate from the inner critic inside of us – and we can learn how to manage those thoughts. Music, mantras, and meditation are three ways to manage our self talk.
Mantras to Quiet the Inner Critic
Mantras are positive words or phrases that are repeated frequently. These are used to help to interrupt this negative chatter in our brains, when those thoughts are sucking you down into a black hole. It’s kind of like when, as a kid perhaps, that you blocked your ears and repeated, “Na, na, na, na. I can’t hear you.” (Or maybe your kids did this to you). It works. When you’re saying something loud enough, you can’t hear the chatter in the background.
I like to think of mantras as things that a kindly aunt or a best friend might say to you when you’re feeling down. Some people use simple words like “peace” or “joy” or “gratitude” to remind the body of a healthier focus. Other mantras are full phrases that are truths or strengths you have, such as “I am good enough” or “I can do this” or “I am persistent.” Read more about mantras in this blog of mine.
Music to Quiet the Inner Critic
Have you ever noticed that some words from songs, including ad jingles, can get stuck in your brain? When I’m presenting at a conference I might start singing, “Sometimes you feel like a nut” and then reach out to my audience for them to respond. And, even though this ad hasn’t been heard on the air in decades, there’s always plenty in the audience that sings back, “Sometimes you don’t.” It was part of an ad for Almond Joy candy. Songs can get stuck in our brains. Why not pick a “theme song” to help you through difficult times? I like James Brown’s “I Feel Good.” Read my blog about using music to quiet the inner critic.
Mindful Meditation to Quiet the Inner Critic
Too often people try to debate with the negative thoughts of the inner critic, much like they would if someone were to say these things to our face. But, this is a waste of energy. For some, it can validate those thoughts. We will always have these thoughts. The key is to allow them to live within us, without having them sabotage our actions and goals.
One way to discover this skill is to practice it, through mindful meditation. Meditation means different things to different people but it can be as simple as noticing these thoughts, but without judgement. The more you practice this during mindful mediation, the more easily it will be to not let these thoughts hijack us during the day.
Basic Steps of Mindful Meditation
- Find a place to meditate. While many people sit during meditation, you can do walking meditations. I also meditate during yoga class and while swimming laps in the pool.
- Focus on something. Some people hazily focus on a spot on the wall directly in front of the eyes. I often close my eyes and just focus on the in and out of my breath. Noticing how my nostrils feel, how my chest rises, and then falls.
- Recognize the thoughts. It isn’t about getting rid of thoughts (good or bad) that pop into your mind. That’s impossible. Meditation encourages you to simply recognize the thought, maybe even label those negative ones for what it signifies…such as insecurity, self-doubt, or fear. But, don’t debate with that thought. Just notice it’s there and go back to your breathing or focal point.
- Let it go. Instead of holding onto the thoughts, just let it go. You might just watch it drift away like a cloud floating across the sky. Others say they put those fears and insecurities on a leaf and watch it drift down stream. One woman told me she’d put it in a box “for safe keeping” and then put the box into a closet…in her mind. For more information on mindful meditation or to try some guided meditations, go here.