A friend and I recently discussed that critical inner-voice that tells us that we’re not enough.
We all have it, but some of us experience it at a much higher volume than others, or with greater frequency. It isn’t easy to listen to a voice that tells us that we’re not good enough and never will be. As a former therapist, I am the last person to sit in judgment of people who lost the battle with those voices and ended their lives. Still, I do think it’s a heartbreaking waste. Life is difficult and excruciating, but it’s also vibrant and amazing and filled with wonder.
I began to think about how we can turn the volume down on that inner-critic who always tells us things that hurts us. We all have those stories: We’re not good enough. We aren’t pretty enough. We aren’t smart enough. We can’t do this. We know these voices well because they never tell us that we’re okay or that our best is enough for today. In fact, the outstanding thing about this inner-critic is that it’s negative, and it exaggerates the truth of our circumstances with words like always or never, or makes comparisons of how other people are doing.
These are the red flags to identify that we’re hearing our inner-critic rather than our intuition.
Our inner critic is loud, obnoxious, and persistent. The messages it delivers often come from experiences of our past that made us feel like it’s right. But our intuition? Our intuition is that soft, gentle voice underneath everything that reminds us that we are worthy. We are enough. We are deserving of love. We are deserving of kindness. Our best, in this moment, is good enough. We are more capable and more resilient than we could ever imagine.
Our intuition is also the quiet voice that tells us that a particular situation or person isn’t healthy for us. It’s that sense that something isn’t right, even if we’re not sure what it is. Our intuition is all about loving-kindness and guiding us to better choices—which contrasts with the inner-critic who is only interested in making us feel bad about ourselves and the choices we’ve made.
When the inner critic turns the volume up, we need to find a way to turn it back down or tune it out. We need to reclaim our inner-voice by speaking our truth. Not the twisted truth or outright lies of the inner-critic, but that deep intuitive voice of our souls. When we hear that loud proclamation of I’m not good enough, we need to respond with a calm, assured actually, I am enough. When we hear the angry buzz of you can’t do it, we need to remind it actually, I can.
Just like in effective communication, we don’t respond to yelling with more yelling. We don’t scream back to get our point across. Instead, we speak calmly with all of the love and faith in the world from the intuitive voice of our soul that knows that nothing ugly and mean could come from the depths of our spirit.
This isn’t about only hearing positive feedback and ignoring the helpful constructive feedback. The inner-critic is rarely constructive. It’s the equivalent of our hurt inner-child who feels everything strongly and won’t listen to reason. Our intuition guides us to understand the difference between good decisions and bad ones; it doesn’t try to tear us down along the way. The inner intuitive voice seeks to guide us to the right path by understanding how wrong choices only hurt us. But it’s so hard to hear that quiet inner-voice when all we can hear is the constant drone of negative messages from our inner-critic.
I wish I could tell you there’s an easy way to shut that voice off once and for all, but it never goes away. We can calmly reply with our intuition, and we can also trace it back to its source. We can uncover where those cruel messages are coming from and work to heal them at their source. Was there a time in childhood when we didn’t feel like we’re enough? We have the power to tell that inner-child that we hear them and we acknowledge the hurt. We can make every effort to heal by bringing that dark place into the light and reminding ourselves of all the times that we’ve been more than enough. (All of them.)
This isn’t a one-time fix. There’s never a point when the inner-critic is completely silenced (at least not in my experience). But we get better at speaking from our own intuition. We learn to love ourselves more and believe the ugly lies less. We can heal the wounds from our past by meeting ourselves now with what we needed then. We allow ourselves to be guided by the kind inner-voice, rather than the one that destroys us. We practice this again and again—as often as we need to.
If that voice, that inner critic, ever becomes too tiring and too loud, please reach out for support. To a friend, a family member, a professional. Don’t keep it in. And keep handy the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741, a trained crisis counselor will respond in approximately five minutes or less).
But live. Whatever you do, keep living. Because life may be hard now, but if we wait just a little longer, it can change. A wonderful and amazing life is within reach.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Mike Lay/Flickr
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Travis May