The inner critic is that voice inside that puts you down. People with depression have an especially persistent inner critic.
It’s a vicious cycle. The inner critic deepens depression. Then depression makes it easier for the inner critic to pipe up.
Therefore, one of the best things that you can do to heal from depression is to learn to quiet the inner critic.
There are many means of distraction to quiet the inner critic. In contrast, you can also pay direct attention to it. Both approaches can reduce the noise, consequently putting you on a path to healing.
What is The Inner Critic?
Do you have a voice inside your head telling you that you’re not good enough? That’s the voice of the inner critic. The inner critic is typically formed in childhood. It may come from the voice of a parent or teacher. Additionally, it may be an amalgamation of many voices.
By the time you reach adulthood, you may not recognize where it came from. In fact, you may be reacting to your inner critic without even realizing it’s there. Here are just a few examples of things inner critics say:
- You are not (blank) enough. The (blank) could be good, smart, successful, thin, happy, handsome, productive, etc.
- There is something wrong with you.
- You aren’t like other people. Other people are better than you.
- You will never (blank). Insert love, have children, get healthy, etc.
- No one cares about you.
Your inner critic speaks at all times. It may be when you look in the mirror. Alternatively, it may happen when you try something new. It may be all day long. In depression, it’s often the latter.
Quiet the Inner Critic with Distraction
One of the key ways to quiet the inner critic is through distraction. When you focus on a task, you interrupt the ruminating mind. Anything that requires focused attention can help. For example,
- Read a book.
- Knit, crochet or try another craft.
- Play a sport or game.
- Go for a walk.
Activities that engage both mind and body are the best choices for battling the inner critic. “Mindless” activities like watching television or surfing the web aren’t as likely to keep the inner critic at bay.
Another great way to quiet the inner critic is to focus on someone other than yourself. Volunteer to help others in need. Listen closely to a friend or loved one. Take the attention off of what is in your head.
Quiet the Inner Critic with Attention
The opposite of distraction is attention. This, too, can be an approach to dealing with the inner critic. That chatter is going on incessantly in the background and it undermines your daily actions. When you turn your attention on it, it gets louder momentarily, but after you hear it out, the inner critic gets quieter.
For example, let’s say that you’ve been procrastinating writing an essay. You may be afraid to start because of your inner critic. A few things it might be saying include:
- You’re a terrible writer.
- You’ll never get this done.
- You are going to fail.
- Your ideas are silly.
- You should have started this sooner.
Take a moment to really focus on each point made by the inner critic. Try writing a letter to yourself from your inner critic. Then write a letter back addressing each point. Take away the power of the inner critic. After addressing the criticisms, move forward with the task of writing the essay.
Depression and the Inner Critic
Of course, none of this comes easily when dealing with clinical depression. Depression makes it hard to engage in distractions. Depression makes it difficult to argue with the inner critic. As a result, you may need outside help to learn to quiet that voice.
Depression is a common disorder. Learn more about how depression treatment can help.