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How to turn off the negative self critic

Opinion Piece: Diana Newcomb is a counsellor with 25 years of public practice, specialising in stress management. She shares her insights on how to turn off the negative self-critic.

Do negative thoughts regularly encroach on your happiness and undermine your attempts to stay positive? if this is the case, you need to learn how to take charge and defuse the grip that your negative self-critic holds over you.

The key is to realise that these negative thoughts reflect an unconscious pattern of self-destructive sabotage. When these mean thoughts towards our own self arise, we need to recognise that our inner critic is often more vicious than we would ever be in a conscious state.

Maintaining your mental health on an even trajectory takes vigilance. You need to be immediately aware when your thoughts and self-talk take a downward turn towards negativity.

It can be really difficult to maintain a positive approach to life, especially when your personal circumstances are very hard. But if you are going to have any chance of changing anything, you need to be able to recognise the point when things start to go awry.

A negative thought is a big signpost. It’s a defining point when you can make a decision to take back your power before things spiral out of control.

How can you deal with negative thoughts?

Ask yourself whether what you are thinking is true. Can it be verified? If you’re not sure, you can ask someone to help you work this out. Many people, particularly if they suffer from a lack of self-esteem, lose perspective on their problems and inaccurately turn the blame for things not working out back upon themselves.

Reflect to yourself: If these thoughts were being spoken aloud by a friend about themselves, how would I feel? We are often a harsher critic of ourselves than anyone else ever could be. There are things that we say to ourselves that we would never say to our loved ones.

The key is to realise that these negative thoughts reflect an unconscious pattern of self-destructive sabotage. They are an unconscious put-down from our negative self-ego. When these mean thoughts towards our own self arise, we need to recognise that our inner critic is often more vicious than we would ever be in a conscious state.
Learn to meditate
I cannot over-emphasise the benefits of a regular meditation practice. Meditation allows you the space to distance yourself from your problems and everyday life. It promotes feelings of wellbeing and calm and helps you to feel less fearful and pressured. It also develops your intuition (inner wisdom), which can help keep you from self-defeating behaviour.

Learn how to use affirmations
Affirmations are positive statements spoken or written in the present tense. You use them to reinforce new ideas, situations, and behaviours that you want to create in your life. Apply affirmations to defuse negative thoughts as soon as they occur. They are your #1 go-to weapon! To ensure your success, it really helps to learn how to do this correctly.

Develop some good distraction strategies
Enlist the help of a friend or partner to remind you of positive activities and experiences that you enjoy. Make a list that you can refer to when you know you need to take a break from yourself.

Learn to observe your thoughts rather than believe them…
Negative thoughts can be triggered from an event in your life, or from a comment someone makes. A big part of defusing a negative or self-critical thought is to firstly become aware when this happens and then, rather than believing this thought, simply observe it.
Observing a thought means you take no action and don’t respond to it. You just sit with the thought and consider it. Ask yourself: how is this thought making me feel? How does it serve me? This process may allow you to let go of the negative thought as you begin to realise that you don’t want to think this about yourself any more.

Move the negative energy on!
Try to get outdoors in the sun or in nature. Embrace exhilarating physical exercise or fast walking. Moving your body produces endorphins, which help to shift negative energy.

Cherish your right to feel happy and fulfilled
Stay away from people and places that rob you of this opportunity.

Ask for help before your situation becomes desperate
Understand that there is always help available and take advantage of it. You can confide in a trusted friend, colleague or counsellor. You deserve help as much as the next person. Don’t let your feelings of unworthiness prevent you from turning your situation around.

Above all, the best way to destroy negative thoughts is to take care of yourself. Practicing self-compassion rather than self-criticism in the face of difficult situations leads to better outcomes.
If you are struggling to tame your inner critic and want to find out more about techniques for effective self-care and stress reduction, check out my 6-week self-directed course Peace in Your World. You can learn how to manage your stress and gain insights into your motivations and stressors.


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