Shut it, you! How to transform your inner critic into your inner friend

‘If you gave your inner genius as much credence as your inner critic, you would be light years ahead of where you now stand.’ (Alan Cohen)

You speak to yourself, on average, 50,000 times a day – and nearly 80% of the chatter is negative.

‘I’m not a writer!’

‘Planning this book is too confusing, I should just give up!’

‘Who’s going to read my book?’

Sound familiar? It turns out we just love to listen to our negative chatter. But if you’re feeling tired of letting your inner critic dominate your thoughts, this post will help you transform it into your inner friend instead, helping your writing and your confidence get a much-needed boost.

Our thoughts and the inner critic

Our thoughts, whether positive or negative, have a powerful effect on us. Not only do they affect our emotional and mental wellbeing, they also play havoc with our bodies.

What happens when you feel negative about something? Maybe you experience a sick feeling in your stomach or your heart pounds really hard? Or when you push yourself out of your comfort zone, maybe you sweat or stutter?

Just a few of the physical ways your inner critic can dominate you.

Positivity releases oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine and endorphins – a.k.a. the happy hormones. Negativity secretes cortisol, the stress hormone. Too much stress has an adverse risk on your physical and mental wellbeing.

But the good thing about all this is that you’re in control of your thoughts – and your secretions. Being responsible for your thoughts means you can turn the negatives into positives. Just because you think something’s awful, doesn’t mean it is.

From negativity to positivity

Let’s look at the ways that negativity takes hold of you and how you could turn things around. By making a consistent effort to be a more positive person, you’re going to reap the benefits in no time at all.

1. Always/Never Thinking

Ever found yourself saying, “I’ll never be a writer” or “Writing is always hard for me.”

Yup, that’s always/never thinking and it’s hindering your writing progress. Why? Because it’s rarely the truth. Are you always failing? Like every single second of the day, in everything you do?

Didn’t think so.

It’s time to turn this type of thinking on its head.

When you utter these words, stop and think about the truth. How often are you failing? Was it just today or has it been for a while now? Search for the evidence. 95-97% of our thoughts are led by our emotions. Try to take emotion out of the equation and look for cold, hard facts.

Your inner critic thrives on negativity, so confuse it and start looking for positives. You’ll always find something. Replace ‘always’ and ‘never’ with the truth. You can work with the truth. The truth is your friend.

2. Catastrophising

One of your inner critic’s favourite occupations: Taking a small situation and blowing it out of proportion, making it seem like a catastrophe.

But things are rarely at catastrophic levels in our lives. Tsunamis, global pandemics or a six-car pile up on the motorway are truly catastrophic. Failing to hit your daily word count isn’t.

Your inner critic knows you’ll start to catastrophise as soon as it plants a negative seed in your head. And, like a true champion, you respond this way every time. Soon the smallest problems seem like the end of the world.

Creating the worst possible scenario and acting as though it’s a certainty is going to damage your writing. Put things into perspective. Write them down if you need to, but get clarity on the real level of the problem and work out the solution objectively.

Again, take the emotion out and imagine you’re looking at it as an outsider. Solutions will come far more easily and you’ll realise things weren’t quite as bad as they first seemed.

3. Mind reading

Derren Brown, eat your heart out. He’s got nothing on you. You’re able to read everyone’s minds and it’s the worst – full of opinions about you, your book and your business.

When you read that, it seems like total madness doesn’t it? But lots of us do it. ‘My readers are going to hate my book and it won’t sell any copies.’ ‘People are going to think I’m stupid to try and publish my work.’

How do you know? Truth is, you don’t. Not unless you ask. Seek clarity from the people who are actually doing the thinking and you can stop this negative behaviour. Your inner critic can be silenced once you’ve heard the truth.

The key here to remember that people are egocentric. You’re thinking so much about yourself, so what do you think they’re doing? Yup, exactly the same thing. What you’re doing and why, rarely crosses their mind, if ever.

You’ll begin to realise you spent all that time worrying about nothing, and all that cortisol will have been rampaging around your body for no reason.

4. Focusing on the negative

Writers can be terribly negative by nature. We hate the thought of praising ourselves or giving ourselves a pat on the back. That’s just for arseholes, right?

Wrong! If you constantly look for the negative in a situation, you drain people and zap the positivity out of anyone you meet. By trying to find the positive in every situation, no matter how shit it first seems, you’re able to grow and learn from it, as well as the mistakes you make.

There’s no such thing as a bad mistake. There is such a thing as a Negative Nora. She’s a right pain to hang out with and soon people stop calling her.

Be cup half full rather than ‘cup half empty.

If you know you’re naturally negative, start by saying one positive thing about your writing each day. It can be anything. Start off small so you don’t freak out, but start you must!

It will soon seep its way into your overall outlook on life and you’ll be the most positive person you know.

5. The blame game

By blaming yourself for the negative things that happen in your life, you make them all terribly personal. That negative review from a reader must be all about you, right?

Or, with a sensible hat on, you’d realise that the person reviewing your book might be struggling in their life. Maybe they’ve recently been bereaved or are struggling at work. Maybe they’ve tried to write a book and failed. The list goes on. It’s rarely truly personal about you.

Along with the blame game, people also like to go on a little guilt trip from time to time too. You feel guilty if you don’t reach your word count target for the day or if you sleep in when you’re supposed to be writing. You attach a label to yourself, e.g. I’m lazy or I’m stupid.

If you repeat that often enough, you’ll start to believe it. And when you start to believe it, your negativity takes over and your writing will suffer. Not only that, your brain seeks out evidence to confirm what you believe. It’s called confirmation bias. Tell your brain you’ll never be a writer and it’ll find all the evidence to show you that you’re right.

Switch up your language – talk to yourself in a positive way and you’ll soon find confirmation bias works in your favour.

Summary

Listening to your inner critic can affect your self-confidence and your self-esteem. It has the power to affect your writing in ways that you can’t possibly imagine.

By changing the record and becoming an outwardly positive person, you can begin to believe what your brain has been trying to tell you all along. You’re bloody awesome!

Instead of focusing on the outcome all the time, focus on the effort. Okay, you didn’t get 1000 words done for today, you only did 957. Does that make you any less of a writer? Does that mean you won’t succeed?

Of course not!

Praise the fact that you sat in the damn chair and wrote anything at all. Your inner critic can be silenced by decisive action, even if you didn’t completely hit your target. Something is better than nothing at all.

Remember, our thoughts affect us in every way. Surely you want the affects to be positive, don’t you? Kick your inner critic to the kerb and become the most positive writer you know.

You can thank me later.

For more tips on how to develop a better mindset for writing, why not check out my book, ‘Dare to Write?’ You’ll find lots more advice on how to become a more confident writer, as well as the habits that can help you on your way to success.

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