The Easiest Way to Silence Your Inner Critic
The way we talk to ourselves can be decidedly harsher than the way we talk to others. In fact, many of us are stuck in a toxic feedback loop with ourselves that is more damaging than we might think....
The way we talk to ourselves can be decidedly harsher than the way we talk to others. In fact, many of us are stuck in a toxic feedback loop with ourselves that is more damaging than we might think. And part of the problem of a negative inner monologue is that we’ve become so accustomed to speaking to ourselves that way that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Even though we might not be conscious of it, our minds and bodies are still affected by it.
But there is a way to break free of your inner critic once and for all—with one easy trick from a therapist.
Dr. Peter Attia, author of Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity, explained as a guest on an episode of Huberman Lab that he used to have a severe case of toxic self talk that stemmed from an addiction to perfectionism, as it related to performance. From childhood, he felt a rage within him anytime he didn’t complete a task to his very high standards. This would manifest in violent ways, like breaking windows and screaming at people (and himself), ultimately spilling outwards to everyone around him.
You don’t have to necessarily be punching walls to want to improve how you talk to yourself, though. We all have a relationship to ourselves that dictates how we feel, act, and are perceived in the world and by the people around us. And you can improve it.
While going to therapy, Attia’s therapist had an exercise for him to address the rage that had been a part of his 47 years of life. She promised him that if he followed through with the exercise, his inner critic problem would improve as long as he did the following:
Whenever Attia would catch himself having a negative self talk, he would have to immediately stop whatever activity he had just messed up. Then, he would have to pretend it was actually a dear friend who had just flunked the task, and replace the self talk by audibly speaking to that person as if they were there. He would record the “conversation” on his phone and send it to his therapist.
Naturally, he would speak in a much kinder way to this friend, rather than angrily to himself. After about several months of doing this activity four or five times a day, Attia claims he can’t remember how his inner critic even sounds anymore.
The trick has to do with the brain’s ability to changing, or as he talks about in his book and is known in the scientific community, its neuroplasticity—the ability of the neural networks in the brain to change and adapt throughout an individual’s life.
While people who have a toxic inner monologue lack empathy for themselves, most still have it for other people. Ultimately, he is hacking his brain into talking to himself in a much more loving way and undoing 47 years of toxic inner monologue.
You might or might not have a therapist you can send the audio to, or maybe that friend you’re envisioning is willing to receive them. Regardless, the bulk of the work is done when you stop talking to yourself negatively and redirect that negative self-talk into a kinder monologue. If you stick to the exercise, you’ll be on track to silencing your inner critic.