A Conversation with My Inner Critic

“Who in the world is Matt Crawford?”

My inner critic is brutal and relentless.

I don’t have a name for it. It is not an alter ego of myself that is trying to make me better or an attempt to hold me to a higher standard. It is a part of who I am that is trying to tear down everything that I have worked to build. The voice is not someone from my past talking to me, the voice is mine and mine alone. It is a constant reminder of the things that didn’t work out and all the times I screwed up.

Sometimes my negative inner voice causes so much anxiety and worry about the future that my fictional failures seem more like flashbacks.

Where did this inner critic come from? Was I born with this voice? Can I get rid of it?

Right now would be a good time to point out that this inner voice is not a sign of any sort of deeper mental illness. This voice is the devil on my shoulder, the unconfident me, the great discourager.

The following is a deeper, personal look into my own inner critic and how I kick it in the teeth every single day.

“You aren’t good enough. You are going to blow this.”

This thought doesn’t so much creep into my head as it busts through with a grand entrance. It usually comes to me whenever I am about to do something that I know I have struggled with in the past. It could be about anything from public speaking, working with a client, or even throwing batting practice to my guys. It is a daily thing that I struggle with. This thought is usually accompanied with a multitude of memories of occasions where I failed at whatever I am about to do. “Remember that time you couldn’t throw a strike in batting practice? Or when you blanked and didn’t know what to say to that client?!” Yes, yes I do remember those times. Thank you so much for reminding me.

“People are going to find out that you are a fraud.”

This thought primarily happens when I am working on my practice. Imposter syndrome is another title for this thought. That could be making a video, having a session, or writing this blog. Even as I am typing these words I am thinking about how people are going to think it is stupid. Someone somewhere is going to read this entire blog and not get anything out of it. A common fact that often accompanies this negative thought is my age. I’m 26 years old. In the psychology field, a common misconception is that the older people have it all figured out. “Who would come talk to you?? You are brand new at this stuff! You don’t know what you are doing!!”

“You weren’t even good at your sport!”

This one hurts. Was I a good pitcher? Maybe.  I was okay. In my five years in college, I only had four appearances. So it would be fair to assume that I was never one of the team’s top picks to take the mound. It would also be fair to want to work with a mental performance consultant who has a lot of personal experience in a sport so that the athlete can really relate to someone who is experiencing the ups and downs that come with consistent playing time. I don’t have any of that.

“You’re stupid. You suck at this. Give up.”

This is a pretty common phrase my inner critic says after I might have done something wrong. I tend to just sit and stew on whatever I just did. “You should’ve done this!” “You should’ve done that!” Is there always room to improve? Of course. Could I have done something differently to achieve a better result? Probably. Do I have a time machine to fix it? No. Will that fact stop my inner critic from bombarding me with these thoughts of self-doubt and regret? NOPE.

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Now I am going to go over the techniques I use to combat this inner critic and how I choose to believe the things I want to believe.

The first thing I want to say about combating the inner critic is that this negative inner voice is something that will always be a part of who you are. The following techniques will not make the negativity disappear, but they are meant to assist you in changing your view on your inner critic.

The main thing I do whenever any sort of negative inner voice enters my head is that I address that it is happening. So many times I hear people offer up the solution to “just ignore it” when faced with their own inner critic. I get it. It would be so much easier if you could simply not hear the negativity and self-doubt that goes on in your head. But the reality is that you cannot simply stop your inner critic from being critical. Some people are jerks and there’s not anything you can do about it.

Instead of just trying to block out the negativity, embrace it.

Take a moment to hear that inner critic and all the lies it tells. That voice isn’t fighting for time in your day to hold your attention, it is fighting for you to believe. Acknowledge that what you are hearing in your head is not true and fight back with positivity.

I would even suggest saying the positive response out loud if you can. Sometimes I feel like I have better control of my words as opposed to my thoughts. I can think a lot of negative thoughts in a row in the blink of an eye. But by saying the positivity with my own breath, I am giving the power back to myself. Go ahead, say these responses aloud wherever you are and see how you feel. You might feel corny, but trust me on this one.

Phrase 1: “You aren’t good enough. You are going to blow this.”

Response: *inhales* *exhales* You are wrong. I can do this. I am strong and capable. I have worked so hard to get to this moment and have earned the opportunity to have success. I am more than good enough. I am not here by accident. I was meant to be in this situation. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. 

While I say these things audibly, I am playing my own highlight reel of success in my mind. I think back to all the adversity I overcame to get to this very moment in time. By simply being alive, I have already accomplished so much. The feeling of anxiety and pressure building is a sign that I am on the right path. I think back to all the times that I wanted an opportunity to perform, but didn’t have a chance. This is my moment; I am going to choose to enjoy it.

Phrase 2: “People are going to find out that you are a fraud.”

Response: *inhales* *exhales* I am great at what I do. I have worked extremely hard to be in this position. How can I be a fraud when I know I am not lying? I studied, passed, and excelled at every academic challenge I have been faced with. I have already had a positive impact on those around me and the athletes I have worked with so far. I have a bright future in this business. My best days are ahead of me. I am already so blessed.

Nothing changes here in this response. As soon as I say these words with high intentionality, I gain a sense of peace that everything is going to be alright. Call it what you want, but I personally believe that it is me falling into the arms of the Good Lord and believing that He is always in full control.

Phrase 3: “You weren’t even good at your sport!”

Response: *inhales* *exhales* I gave everything I had to that sport. I can rest easy every single night of my life because I know that I didn’t hold anything back. The lessons I learned are bigger than sports. My purpose is in the present, not the past. I have value. I am wanted. I am at peace with my career because I have no regrets.

This example of negative inner voice/response is very specific to me. But whenever I am faced with these thoughts, I think back to how I get to lay my head on  my pillow every single night without any sort of remorse, bitterness, or anguish. I feel like that is a unique feeling and I am glad to have it.

Phrase 4: “You’re stupid. You suck at this. Give up.”

Response: I will never give up. I am smart and intelligent. I will never give up. I can do this. I have made up my mind that I will never quit. I will keep going. I will get stronger. I will never stop learning. I am strong. I’m the man. I have a ferocious drive to be my best. I have an unstoppable work ethic. I will never give up.

You have probably noticed this already, but some of my responses have repeated sayings. This is intentional because the more you say something over and over again, the more you will believe it. Don’t believe me? You have probably heard that negative inner voice repeat the same things over the years, at some point you started to believe it.

This whole blog is real and raw. Besides a few colorful four-letter words, I have held nothing back from my reflection on my own inner critic. I encourage you to do the same thing. I want you to know that you are reading these words not by accident. You are more than able to fight your own inner critic. You have the strength to take it by the throat and refuse to believe the deceptions it tries to feed you. This is a skill that will require lots of practice and some days will be better than others. This change will take time, but you can choose to start that change today.

You are stronger than you think.

Matt Crawford, MA
Matt Crawford, MA

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