How do you stop your critical inner voice?

For the sake of history, I’m writing this in the midst of the April lock-down for COVID-19 in London in 2020, when everything has changed.

We are encouraged to work from home when we can, to become brilliant school teachers for our children, gain the cooking prowess of Nigella Lawson, and have the even-mindedness of our childminders. We should Marie Kondo our cupboards and get around to those jobs we’ve been putting off until we have the “time”, the garden is looking pristine, the house dusted and carpets spotless.

Social Media is hitting us with articles telling us to just be in the moment and that we need to connect more with others.

Or that we must use this time to be super productive.

Yet how can I “be” when I am also supposed to “do”

To pivot your business or way of working, to meditate more often, to eat well, exercise with Joe Wicks each morning, to stay safe and carry on as normal… when nothing is normal at the moment?

I’m not sure about you, but my inner voice has been very vocal of late, even without all the external noise from others telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing and how I need to be.

It’s been very surreal

It’s been a big shift in goals and outcomes (aren’t we all glad that we set those new years resolutions) and plans, holidays, weddings and celebrations have had to be shelved for now.

Quick frankly it’s been scary, unnerving and quite unlike anything most of us have been through before.

I’ve been happy, sad, confused, focused, lethargic, energised and much more – often in the same hour! And that’s ok. Just feel whatever we are feeling, not to fight it, but to accept it is what it is right now, and listen to the inner chatter that comes with it.

I’m reminded of the massive bucket of Lego that sits in my 10 year-old step-sons wardrobe, full of promise, ideas, projects & potential, all piled into one bloody great mass of blocks, gears, people and random toy soldiers.

I look at my life like it is that container of Lego, all of my plans half constructed with some of the next blocks sorted out (or they were, before my 2 year-old toddler came along and helpfully “remodelled” the project).

Lego Jumble

Our inner voice can be really critical, a bit like that frustrated toddler and when its not getting it’s way it can lash out, get annoyed Your inner child has probably been doing the same, getting irritable, having irrational swings from one emotion into another and smashing apart some of the Lego you’d been building!

So rather than listening to the outside, listen to the inside

What is your critical inner voice saying to you, in those times when you are feeling really out of control and at the effect of the situation that’s occurring?

What are the words and phrases it’s using?

What happened just before it started showing up?

Within NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) we talk about how one of the primary aims of your unconscious mind is to keep you safe, safe from stress and danger or the perception of stress. The trouble is, your brain doesn’t really know the difference between a real sabre-toothed tiger or one it imagines might be around the corner. Our body responses by raising our cortisol levels, we can end up in our reptilian brain and we either freeze, flee or fight. None of those responses is that helpful if the stress is imagined and not really a sabre-tooth tiger.

So we worry

Worry is useful, motivational and energising – but too much worry is also debilitating and stress creating.

At the moment we are surrounded by things to worry about. What if the next person we meet has COVID-19? What about the post – do I need to wash it before opening it? How will I get to work and keep my family safe? How do I make sure I have enough income because work has stopped coming in? How can I make sure my at-risk parents don’t decide to pop down the shops, because it’s what they’ve always done…

Make the unconscious, conscious so you can start to have choice over your responses, next time around. You can’t change the past but you can change the way you respond the next time something happens that is similar.

5 Quick tips to manage your inner critical voice/thoughts

  1. Deliberately think of the voice as a different aspect of you
    Your critical inner voice has it’s own personality – often one similar to a person in our life that was perhaps less than positive as a role-model or influence. Think about it as “they/them/he/she” and in third-person, what does your critic want to discuss? It’s obviously also you, but metaphorically treating it like a separate personality means your more likely to become objective to its point of view.
  2. Listen to it, with curiosity
    Treat it like an acquaintance that is trying to offer you some (not asked for) advice, rather than taking it as a personal attack on who you are. What are they trying to tell you that might be useful to listen to? And listen with curiosity. So rather than interrupting it and “yeah butting” the voice, hear it out.
  3. Then challenge what it is saying, ask questions and find out how it thinks the way it does
    How does my critical inner voice know that’s true?
    What did it see or hear that made it think that, or did it infer something that might not be true?
    What does it mean by that?
    Compared to whom or what?
    What’s stopping it from wanting/being/doing xxx?
  4. Change how the voice talks
    If you’re still finding that the voice is really affecting you, change the pitch and tempo of the voice – even switch it so it sounds like someone/thing that amuses us. What if it sounded like Mickey Mouse or Olaf from Frozen does it have the same power to switch your mood now?
  5. Build the positive aspects of your inner thoughts
    Practice being kind to yourself and cutting yourself some slack. Make a note of all the things you have achieved that day, a good way at the end of each day is to imagine replaying the day in your mind, giving yourself a pat on the back and encouragement when things went well and some advice and feedback when things didn’t quite work out. Imagine that feedback becoming “edits” in the showreel of the day and how that would reshape the movie if you took that advice on board. We call this process “self-editing” within NLP and it’s a great technique our Practitioners learn.

Want to know more about conquering that inner voice?

We have a free online training coming up on the 28th April 2020 at 7 pm all about controlling your negative inner voice, you can find out more at and book a spot on the training. You can also contact us for more information on the in-house training and 1:1 coaching that we provide around this subject for you personally or your organisation.