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Article: Training your Brain can Tame Your Inner Critic

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

Have you ever heard or read something that made you stop and go, "wow"? It happened to me this morning. I was reading a book that asked the question, "who do you listen to the most in life?" The answer is yourself. I think about this concept occasionally, but today this question caused me to pause and think more deeply about it. Do you find yourself having negative ruminating thoughts that swirl around in your head like a plane circling a runway? Maybe you experience patterns of thought that bounce back and forth like a little silver ball in a pinball machine. Regardless, it is easy for thoughts to get stuck in a loop, which can hold you hostage to internal conversations that are not encouraging, especially when things are tough or you are facing a big life challenge. I lost my mom who was my best friend in 2019, so my inner critic went into overdrive. These types of big hits can get you stuck like quicksand that has turned into cement, and your mind can anchor in a dark place without you even knowing it. It’s like pulling into your driveway and not remembering the drive home. Thoughts have the power to lead us down unhealthy paths, which is why cultivating awareness is so important. As my good friend Vanessa says, “when I hear the negative thoughts, I tell the s****y committee to shut up.” And of course, she makes this request from a place of kindness. 🙂

I invite you to notice your patterns of thinking and when the voice of “doom and gloom” shows up, meet it with curiosity and compassion, rather than judgment. Slow down to notice your thoughts, and look a little closer to see if you can feel and begin to understand what is going on underneath the surface. A good way to do this is to give yourself permission to pause. Pausing to process how you are feeling is healthy because it allows you to inquire and explore what is causing your reactions and fueling the unhealthy conversation. You don’t have to have all the answers, but inquiry without judgment is a good exercise and a great place to start. Awareness can help you determine if your thoughts are serving your higher good or not. After all, awareness is the first step towards intentional change, and you DO have the ability to create a new narrative in your head. Shifting your focus to alternative ways of thinking will help you shine a light on your darker thoughts, making it easier for you to find a healthier path. Be patient with yourself because flipping the self-talk switch doesn’t happen overnight. Changing patterns of thinking is more like turning up a dimmer switch, it gradually gets brighter. Next time you catch yourself in the company of “gloom and doom,” greet them with kindness and offer them a new path to consider.

A few facts about thoughts and the change process:

  1. Your life’s experience has shaped your reality and influenced the way you respond to yourself, people, and the world around you.

  2. Personal life constructs (what you view to be the truth) influence your thoughts. Your thoughts influence actions, and your actions define how you show up in the world.    

  3. You have the capacity to broaden your perspective and change your patterns of thinking.

  4. Your brain is like a muscle, you can train it to think in a healthier manner.

  5. It is possible to exercise awareness and focus your energy around shifting the way you speak to yourself.  

  6. Awareness is the first step towards intentional change, so pause often to check in with yourself.

  7. Change requires you to make a conscious decision to take action with a specific goal in mind.

  8. Willpower to change can wear out, so dig a little deeper to understand your intrinsic why. It is in this place that the desires of your heart can align and fuel the change you want to make.

  9. Transformation happens when you integrate new behavior into your life, and practicing positive self-talk is a great place to start.

Since you listen to yourself the most, ensure your words are encouraging and supportive. What you say to yourself matters and it will impact your life. So, train your brain and create new patterns of thinking that will impact the conversations you have with yourself.

“Positive self-talk is an important part of self-care. Notice your inner voice and make sure your critic writes you a good review.” – Terrie Reeves

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