We all know that in our lives we won’t always receive support and encouragement from our surroundings, and we will often hear different voices criticizing us and our choices. The best thing to do in cases such as these is to distance yourself from the naysayers and criticizers, but what if you can put distance between you and the negative voices? What if the negative voice putting you down comes from within?
Self-criticism is, in a way, a good thing, as it is a kind of test that helps us to be better people. However, there is a significant difference between a sentence such as "I have to work harder on this task" which can be motivating, and a sentence like "I'll never succeed" which can make us give up. Excessive self-criticism functions for us as a form of boomerang, leading us to focus on our failures instead of the ways we can improve, and it can cause stress, anxiety and even depression. The important tips in the next article will help you to silence the negative and critical voice in your mind, which often prevents you from succeeding.
When we engage in self-criticism, every little mistake turns into a giant and instantly becomes the greatest failure in the universe. In such a situation, our mistake fills every available cell in our bodies and keeps our heads constantly occupied. Eating a small bag of chips turns into an "I've ruined all my diet" criticism, a workplace incident becomes an "I'll never be able to get promoted," etc.
Instead of letting your thoughts blow out of proportion and your negative voice grow stronger, imagine a small box waiting for this negative criticism and ready to contain its true size. Take a few deep breaths, then tell yourself a sentence that describes what happened and not your fears, such as: "I made an unwise choice, I will make sure to eat healthier next time." This statement will allow you to recall the true size of the problem, help you move forward and especially help you give less space to fear and remember that this is one incident that you are willing to set aside to move on.
Say that you’re sitting in a meeting with nine other participants, and you say something wrong or give the wrong data by mistake. A moment after you've finished talking, you know you've made a mistake. Everyone looks at you, and you can’t help but feel terrible. The negative voice in your head smiles with satisfaction and hastens to note that you’ve made a terrible mistake in front of nine people you work with who must now be thinking terrible things about you. But is that really so?
In fact, if you think about it in depth, you made a mistake to 18 participants: 9 people from your workplace and 9 negative voices that accompany each one. It is reasonable to assume that a moment after you finished talking, each of them went back to listening to the thoughts and frustrations that accompanied them this morning: Why were they late to dropping of their child at school, how did they not pay the bills on time, and why couldn’t they finish that presentation they were working on? Your mistake is the last one that occupies their thoughts because they have other problems that they think are much bigger. Some of them may not have even been listening to you, because they were so busy listening to their own negative voice. Remind yourself of this point again and again, and it will help you brush yourself off and get back up after every small fall.
Each of us knows exactly when their negative voice may arise. Some people are afraid to express their opinion while chatting in the workplace, others know that the negative voice is just waiting for the moment they get to the gym to tell them what it thinks about their appearance and more. Instead of believing these voices, try to anger them instead. Imagine that whenever you do what you fear, your negative voice will be silenced only by your own daring. The result isn’t what matters, rather it’s the fact that you succeeded in doing something that you thought you wouldn’t dare do that makes all the difference. Challenge yourself to say one sentence at work or go to the gym once when it's most packed. Doing these things without expecting yourself to succeed will reduce stress, anger, silence your negative voice and make you realize that the demon may not be so bad.
A quick and simple way to shatter the bubble of negativity that surrounds you is to think about what you would advise a good friend going through the same things as you. Would you assume that one mistake in the workplace is a sign that they are for sure going to be fired? Probably not. Try to specify as many details as possible about the incident and think about how you would help them solve the problem. This way of thinking will help you gauge the real size of the problem you are facing, and may also help you find the solution that works best for you.
Negative thoughts are threatening and frightening, but an inner voice with a particularly silly name is something that is hard to treat as more than a nuisance. Brené Brown, Ph.D., a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, calls hers The Gremlin and points out that the goal is to add a little humor to a situation that is characterized by a lot of unpleasantness. Break the cycle of anxiety and nerves, and treat this voice as what it really is: just a small, annoying voice. Choose a funny and amusing name, and make sure to remind yourself every time it's just a small visit of some annoying and bored creature that has nothing to do with who you are.
Sometimes it's tempting to imagine how our mishap has grown into total chaos, but often the worst-case scenario is not as terrible as we thought it would be. Instead of dealing with a vague idea of everything that might go wrong in a presentation that you have to make at your job, ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen. You may be asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, which you can check later and answer at another time. Perhaps your PowerPoint won’t work as expected, and in this case, you can e-mail it to everyone who attended the lecture. Do such failures indicate failure on your part? The answer is probably not.
Embarrassment and shame only have an impact if we keep them a secret. "So, if I get in the car after a party and thought I said something stupid, I pick up the phone and say, 'OK, I'm in a total shame downward spiral -- here's what happened.'" says Dr. Brown. The moment you share your shame you’re cutting it off. "Many times," adds Brown, "these conversations end in laughter."
You’ll never hear someone accomplished saying they’ve achieved what they have in life thanks to perfectionism, rather it's quite the opposite. Many successful people attribute their success to their mistakes and downfalls and their ability to get back up! The most liberating thing you can do is realize that the desire to be perfect is your greatest obstacle to true happiness.
So, the next time the negative voice in your head scolds you because you'll never be perfect, agree with it. you can even answer it by saying: "I’ll never be perfect because I don’t want to be.” If you keep answering back, the voice will weaken until you truly believe what you’re speaking.