Our self-critical thinking can hinder personal growth and creative work.
One form it can take is fraud and impostor feelings.
Actor Emma Watson has commented about its impact for her:
“It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved.
“I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am and what everyone’s expectations of me are.”
From my article Feeling Like A Fraud.
Overcome Impostor Syndrome Feelings
Many talented and creative people experience impostor or fraud feelings and beliefs about themselves, despite their accomplishments. How can we change those feelings to be more confident and creative?
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Writer Cat Robson asks:
What are your self-critical thoughts and beliefs? Maybe like these:
“You’ll never finish your novel.”
“You’ve wasted your life.”
“You’re too complicated. Who would ever want to be with you?”
Sometimes my inner critical voice is so clear I can argue with it. Most of the time, the negativity I wreak upon myself is unconscious and harder to fight.
Lisa Firestone and Eric Maisel provide some tips on getting aware of and stopping the onslaught.
A threat to self-actualization
Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. describes the critical inner voice in very strong terms :
“An internal enemy and may be thought of as a threat to self-actualization and self-fulfillment.
“It tends to foster inwardness, distrust, self-criticism, self-denial and limitation, addictions, and a generalized retreat from one’s goal-directed activity.”
She is co-author of the book Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice
Here are some of the messages related in the book, collected in counseling sessions:
“You’re just a quiet creep — you’re second class. You’re just worthless. You’re not fit to be around people. You should be quiet and just stay in the background. What makes you think you’re different? You’re just a crazy, scummy person.”
The book presents a series of steps to help uncover and counter these kinds of criticisms:
Step One: Identifying What Your Critical Inner Voice is Telling You
In order to challenge their negative attacks, people must first become aware of what their critical inner voice is telling them.
They can do this by identifying an area of their lives where they are especially critical of themselves and then pay attention to what the criticisms are.
As a person discovers what the self-attacks are, it is valuable to articulate them in the second person, as “you” statements.
For example, instead of saying “I feel so lazy and useless,” a person would say “You are so lazy. You’re useless.”
When people utilize this format in voice therapy, they are encouraged to express their critical thoughts as they hear or experience them, and this often leads to them accessing the hostility that underlies this self-attacking system.
Step Two: Recognizing Where Your Voices Come From
After people verbalize their critical inner voices in this manner, they often feel deeply, and they have insight into the source of their voice attacks.
They have unusual clarity, as they begin to recognize that the content and tone of their voice attacks is old and familiar; their voices are expressing attitudes that were directed toward them as children.
They will often say things like, “That’s what my father used to say” or “That’s the feeling I got from my mother,” or “That was the atmosphere in my home.”
Recognizing where their voices originated helps people develop compassion for themselves.
From article Steps to Overcoming Your Critical Inner Voice, by Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.
It has to make sense
Eric Maisel, PhD says:
“In order to eliminate self-criticism, it has to make sense to you to eliminate self-criticism.
“As long as you hold it as sensible to criticize yourself for making this or that big mistake or for failing yourself in this or that big way, you will continue to criticize yourself.”
“The alternative to self-criticism isn’t denial or a merry relinquishment of power and control.”
Continued in his article: Silencing Self-Criticism.
Eric Maisel is author of the book Toxic Criticism.
He is also author of The Meaning Solution Program.
Photo from article Before You Create, Pacify Your Inner Critic by Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
More: Critical Inner Voice articles by PsychAlive / the Glendon Association.
“The critical inner voice often takes the form of an on-going commentary in our mind that interprets events and interactions in ways that cause us pain and distress. In essence, it operates as a filter through which we negatively interpret our lives.”