critical voice

3 Ways to Tame the Critical Voice Within

When you get the urge to take your life in an exciting new direction, do you talk yourself out of doing anything?  Suppose you notice an interesting stranger you’d like to meet.  Do approach them in a friendly manner, or do you stare for a while then turn away?  When you set goals or make big plans, do you gear up and get ready to act, or do you quickly change your mind?  Do you take chances and calculated risks when a worthy prize presents itself, or do you wait around for the perfect opportunity to knock at the door, walk in, and hop in your lap?

If you’re like a lot of people, you probably drag your feet when faced with the prospect of doing something bold and daring, yet risky.  Or maybe you make excuses and hesitate when it’s time to get busy accomplishing a worthwhile, but challenging goal.  So why is that we so often engage in acts of self-sabotage when it comes to our best vision, and sink ourselves before we’ve even began?

If we’re honest, we’ll admit that the very thing that usually stops us in our tracks lives right inside our heads.  That’s right; it’s the critical voice within our own psyches.

You’re intimately familiar with this critical voice.  It most likely came into being a long time ago, and it’s probably getting louder all the time.  This voice constantly draws self-defeating conclusions, paints bleak scenarios, and anticipates the worst from everything and everyone.  And you usually listen to it, which serves to puts the brakes on your most ambitious plans.

So how do we tame this critical inner voice?  In other words, how do we get out of our own way on the path to our goals?  Listed below are three strategies for silencing the critical inner voice, and advancing in the direction of our desires:

Realize It May Not Be Your Voice

If you place your critical inner voice under intense scrutiny, you may eventually realize that it’s not even your voice!  So whose voice is it that’s always shouting you down?  Is it a well-meaning, but negative thinking parent?  Could it be a sarcastic teacher from your long-forgotten past?  Does it belong to a mean-spirited relative?  Or does it sound like society in general, in the form of the messages it sends through the mass media?  You know, the messages that insinuate this is what it means to be smart, popular, beautiful, intelligent, etc., and you’re not this?

As easy as it sounds, once we divine the origins of this inner voice, we can simply ask ourselves if we want to listen to it/them anymore.  The choice is, and always has been ours.  We have a mute button on our television remotes, so why can’t we have one in our minds?  We gave this inner voice its authority, and we can revoke this authority in an instant.  Once freed from the tyranny of this voice, we can start entertaining thoughts that are far more constructive and uplifting than what we used to listen to.

Have Compassion for the Inner Voice

So what purpose does your critical voice within serve anyway?  Is it self-protection or self-preservation?  Does it exist to guard you from real or imagined threats?  Is its primary job to dissuade you from doing anything that has a risk of failure, especially a failure that could deliver a devastating blow to your self-esteem?

Once the purpose of your critical inner voice becomes clear, you can adopt a stance of compassion towards it.  After all, it’s only attempting to shield you from things that it believes can hurt you.  Then, you can thank it for its service.  Finally, you can let it go, telling it that you’re going to be ok, and that you’re heading in the direction of your dreams from now on, no matter what.

Embrace Uncertainty

One of the main problems with your critical inner voice is that it’s severely lacking in knowledge, but it holds itself to be some kind of authority.  If you think about it, there are always a ton of unknown factors, variables, and possibilities for every situation.  We can’t possibly understand, predict, or anticipate every outcome.  Yet, the critical inner voice acts as if it is all-knowing, and whispers to us many negative things:  “He/she wouldn’t find you attractive,” “You’re not smart enough to earn a college degree,” “They’ll never hire you for that job,” “You can’t start your own business,” or “They don’t give people like you a chance.”

So what can you do? A better option is to embrace the inherent uncertainty that’s an inescapable part of life.  You’ve already identified how limited in information the critical inner voice is, and can see that it doesn’t have all the answers.  So go on and take the chance, assume the risk, venture out, and place your cards on the table.  Be uncertain to what’s going to happen, and do it anyway.

When you decide to start living this way, you’re in for a huge surprise.  Yes, you will have some setbacks and disappointments, but you will also discover a range of possibilities that you never knew existed.  All the things that you inner voice told you wasn’t practical, or realistic, or possible will be proven to be utterly false.  Ask anyone who is successful, and they will tell that this is always the case.

So go ahead, embrace uncertainty.  Great things will happen, and your critical inner voice will slowly lose credibility.  When you start ignoring it completely, it’ll pack it bags and move out.  Watch and see.

Learning the truth about your critical inner voice is a journey that few wish to make, but one that everyone needs to embark upon eventually.  In fact, it can literally be the difference between being constantly unfulfilled, and living a successful life.  Tame your critical inner voice once and for all, and watch your whole world change.  You’ll see the old, limited reality you used to dwell in replaced by one far richer, exciting, and more fulfilling than you ever imagined.

Lisa H. Wright is a mother, blogger, runner and happiness seeker. Her blog, Getting to Zen inspires personal success through action. In addition to blogging, Lisa is a co-author of Overcoming Fear: Sticking it to What’s Holding You Back, a unique program designed to help you get out of your own way and create the life that you want.  To read more of Lisa’s articles, visit her blog. Don’t forget to download her free goodies while you are there.

Photo credit: ‘Rain on Window’ by Big Stock

  • http://www.facebook.com/naam.smile Naam Smile

    Many time when I want to start to create new things I heard inner voice asked
     ” You think you can do it good ? ” first I so worried about it and not start to do anything but for now when I heard it again I feedback ” I don’t know it good or not but I will make it by my best “. If fear to start I won’t see my target .

  • http://www.facebook.com/naam.smile Naam Smile

    Many time when I want to start to create new things I heard inner voice asked
     ” You think you can do it good ? ” first I so worried about it and not start to do anything but for now when I heard it again I feedback ” I don’t know it good or not but I will make it by my best “. If fear to start I won’t see my target .

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Lisa H. Wright

      Hello Naam,
      Our inner voice can either detract from our life or add to it. The good news is that we get to decide which one it is. Hear the voice and act anyway. :-)

      Lisa H. Wright

  • http://www.facebook.com/ALANZALOVE Alanna Johnson

    absolutely.. this just changed my life…
    thank you Lisa!!!

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Lisah H. Wright

      Hi Alanna,
      Glad it was helpful. Once we can get a hold of what is going on in our heads, we can get a hold of what is going on outside of us. :-)

  • Regina

    Thank you Lisa for writing this!  My inner critic has taken over and I really needed to read this.  It’s always saying “I am not good enough for…”  or “I don’t know enough for ….”  It’s fear through and through and it’s time for me to stop living in fear and start living.

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Kaizenrunner

      Hi Regina,
      It is funny the way the universe works. It is always unfolding exactly as it should. Glad you found this article when you needed to. I too have that same voice. When I hear it, I gently remind myself that it is not true, and do the very thing I fear. The more you act in the face of fear, the better and stronger you will become at it. Don’t let fear stop you from doing that which will fullfill you. :-)

  • http://Mazzastick.com/ Justin Mazza

    Hi Lisa,
    The inner critic has stopped many people from getting outside of their comfort zone. I agree, it is a worthwhile endeavor to examine the inner critic and find out if it is our own voice or that of someone’s outside of us.

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Lisa H. Wright

      What I have found for me is that more than not, it is someone elses voice: a coach, a teacher, a friend. What helps me determine where it is coming from is when I hear that voice is to literally ask myself where I have heard it before.

  • http://www.emotionalhealthtips.com/ Mdlawrience

    I taught teen girls self esteem for five years. I always taught them how to recognize their critical inner voices and how to begin to change that voice to positive statements. Over daily practice for 21 days they saw improvement in their esteem. 

    • Lisa H. Wright

      Hello Mdlawrience,
      You are doing great work. Recognizing when our inner voice is talking to us is key to change. Isn’t it funny how quickly your mood can shift by simply changing your thoughts? :-)

  • http://www.furries-happyclub.com/blog The Furries @ The Happy Club

    Changing the way you think about yourself is something that you can learn how to control, or influence.

    So, it has potential for real personal development.

    But it is not easy…

    Basically this is what you learn in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but you can learn to do it by yourself.

    It is a possible way towards a happier life filled with well-being and joy.

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Lisa H. Wright

      Well said! As with anything, the more you proactice, the better you become at it.  Practice negative thinking and you become an expert at that. Practice positve thinking and you will become an expert at that. The problem is that many people don’t think that they can actually control what they are thinking. You may not be able to control everything that pops into your mind, but you can control what you do with it and how long it stays there.

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Lisa H. Wright

      Well said! As with anything, the more you proactice, the better you become at it.  Practice negative thinking and you become an expert at that. Practice positve thinking and you will become an expert at that. The problem is that many people don’t think that they can actually control what they are thinking. You may not be able to control everything that pops into your mind, but you can control what you do with it and how long it stays there.

  • Guru Eduardo

    Overthinking is the problem.  
    The action reaction is the solution.

    Whether its doing something outside of our comfort zone or procrastination, all of our momentum is lost by over-thinking it.   The more we think about it the greater the probability we will miss the pportunity.

    Developing and action reaction is the solution.   You see an attractive stranger, take a deep breath and go over and introduce yourself immediately.   The more you do it the easier it gets.   You see what looks like a good opportunity, take a deep breath and jump on it. 

    Sure you will make a few miss steps along the way but which would you sooner live with;   making the odd mistake or regretting a loss opportunity for the rest of your life. 

    Take a deep breath and do it!

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Lisa H. Wright

      Sometimes I think people use overthinking as a way to stay in their comfort zone. It is an excuse not to take action. Action is the only way out, bu that is only if you want to get out. If you are overthinking something, you have to ask yourself whether you really want to change. Thanks for the wonderful insight. :-)

      • Banabyjohns

        thats a critical point of view. i like it.

  • http://bit.ly/x2RLAS Square-Peg Karen

    Lisa, I LOVE that you’re gentle with the inner voice (or maybe voice-s, I think we usually have more than one). 

    Your strategies are great, my favorite is “Embrace Uncertainty” (probably because that’s the hardest for me – but the one that yields the biggest results!!).

    Thanks a lot for this!

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Lisa H. Wright

      Hi Karen,
      Yes, I have found over time that not only is it much more effective to be gentle and kind with myself, it feels better–there is already enough harshness in the world.

      Embracing uncertainty is also a big one for me. Accepting that you cannot control everything makes it much easier. :-)

  • http://www.ofwnurse.net/ ofwnurse

    But in today’s noisy and stressful world, I’ve discovered that solitude and meditation  is an absolute necessity. Isolation from influences of others helps us to find our own voice. Through solitude, we can find happiness and peace of mind… 

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Lisa H. Wright

      I love what you said about solitude and meditation being an absolute necessity. I completely agree. It is only when we are connected to who we are can we experience the peace and contentment we desire.

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Lisa H. Wright

      I love what you said about solitude and meditation being an absolute necessity. I completely agree. It is only when we are connected to who we are can we experience the peace and contentment we desire.

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Lisa H. Wright

      I love what you said about solitude and meditation being an absolute necessity. I completely agree. It is only when we are connected to who we are can we experience the peace and contentment we desire.

  • Pavan

    Thanks Lisa, it helped me a lot , right now my inner voice saying don’t express your thoughts it contains grammatical mistakes, but I’m doing it any way. 

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Lisa H. Wright

      Pavan,
      Fantastic! I heard that same inner voice when I started my blog, but I started it anyway, mistakes and all. :-) It is not about being perfect, it is about growing, learning, leaping and trying. The more you comment and put yourself out there, mistakes and all, the more comfortable you will become with doing it.

  • Dougcartwright

    I really like this article. I’ve been working on embracing uncertainty and as a book I was reading recently said “you actually gain more control by realising how much you can’t control”. It takes courage to realise you have to focus on what you can influence – your attitude, your actions and pray for the rest. Great job, very useful.

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Lisa H. Wright

      Thank you. Yes, uncetainty is difficult for many people to embrace. But you are right, once you realize how much you can’t control, things settle down, anxiety diminishes and your time and energy can be spent on things you can control. Thank you for stopping by. :-)

    • Banabyjohns

      i like your way of thinking. congrats!

  • Sameer_alagizy

    is it possible to tame voice properly?

    • http://www.gettingtozen.com/ Lisa H. Wright

      Hi Sameer,

      Like anything, it takes practice. One technique you can use is that when a negative or destructive thought comes into your mind, simply say “Next” and keep rolling through them until the positve ones start again.

  • Sameer_alagizy

    is it possible to tame voice properly?

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  • http://www.goalsontrack.com Harry @ GoalsOnTrack

    Great advice. Sometimes you only realize how absurd what these voices said when you write them down on paper.

  • peace

    thanks for this wonderful advice.am going to work on my critical voice and also share with my friends.

  • Banabyjohns

    Thanks to you…am now at the better side. I plan to engage it.

  • Yusha

    I always had an inner voice inside me that made me a little bit uncertain and unconfident. I never paid too much attention, until it started bothering me and messing with my life. Suddenly I was always unsure of everything. I became nervous, always on the edge of a break down.
    Then my new boyfriend helped me understand that I keep hearing my mom’s voice. She is a perfectionist, a PhD, a professor, she is everything a professional can be. I understood that I keep projecting her attitude towards my friends, boyfriends, my studies, my college, my work, my success and my failure.
    First step: I’ve identified my mom’s voice behind this. She did tell me a number of discouraging things during my adolescence. I think this is what’s caused it.
    Second step: I know she wants me to be better than I am. Better than her, than anyone else. So I know she means well. This is her way of motivating me – with tough love. On the other hand, it bring me to a problem.
    Third step: this is the one I haven’t mastered yet. I always question myself: what if she knows me better than I do? What if she is right? What if I should do something else?
    So this is something I need to keep working on: separating myself from her and doing things boldly and with confidence.
    So thank you! Now I know I am on the right path. Hopefully soon I will be devoid of her voice inside my head. I still love her. Even if she is like this.