The April 2019 issue of psychology today has an article about silencing your inner critic which parents and teenagers and well, everyone, may find useful. The article constructs believable arguments about why some people seem to have a more vocal critic then others (it could have helped in the past and/or it could be an echo of how we were raised). The inner critic is actually trying to help us on one level, to protect us from shame and failure but in some cases this protection may be illusory and misguided.
The article provides some techniques to minimize this voice which can be taught to your teenager, or yourself at the same time.
- Self distance – when thinking about the voice, interpret it’s suggestions by using a non-first person pronoun like he/she or your name instead of I and also constructing a adventure like monologue around it. For example, instead of saying “I failed at the test” say “This is when Ryan learned that studying with a friend at least two days before became essential to passing his math test.”
- Self affirmation – when the critic is powerfully persuasive, try to see the evidence to the contrary in your mind. A student who is down on themselves about their intelligence might be encouraged to think of all the successes they have had in their lives and specific examples of when their intelligence carried the day.
- Befriend the enemy – by seeing the critic as a protector that has a definite role to play at times but then asking it to step back once it has said its piece and not taking over the brain
- See yourself as neither good or bad but as “good-ish”. Having this perspective gives people the room to fail and still fall into the guidelines they have set for themselves. It promotes a more flexible oriented perspective of oneself rather than a fixed one that may be impossible to live up to.