Managing Our Critical Inner Voice

For many students, attending college is filled with excitement and joy. The endless opportunities for academic advancement, personal growth, and social engagement mark the transition into what many refer to as the “real world.” Students look forward to the success stories they’ll one day share and acknowledge the many obstacles they’ll inevitably have to overcome—internal or external.

From test anxiety and procrastination to maintaining healthy lifestyles and juggling multiple responsibilities, it’s easy to see many difficulties that students may face during their college years. However, not all roadblocks are visible to the naked eye. Some are negative thoughts that lie deep within the subconscious level of the mind and impact the way students think, act, and feel. In psychology, this is one’s critical inner voice or inner critic

It’s common to occasionally experience self-doubt, insecurity, unease, and personal judgment. But when that negative inner voice becomes too loud and hinders one’s ability to step out of one’s comfort zone and try new things or prohibits one from believing in one’s unique strengths and capabilities, it may be beneficial for students to identify these thinking traps and reframe the way they view them.

Using various thought-challenging techniques, students can rewire their inner critic to serve as a source of inspiration and motivation. Softening the judgmental voice inside one’s head can make a world of difference regarding a student’s success in college and beyond. Hence, providing students with the proper tools is imperative.

Personify the Inner Critic

In literature, personification helps readers relate to, empathize with, and understand the different characters in a novel. Similarly, personifying one’s inner critic enhances a student’s ability to interact with and identify the reason for its existence. Giving that negative inner voice a name is one way to achieve this.

Encouraging students to pinpoint situations where their critical inner voice is at its peak can help them develop a well-suited name. Are they constantly judging their ability to succeed academically or bullying themselves about the way they handle conflict? If so, “Judge Judy” may be an appropriate way to address their inner critic. What if they overthink the way they act in social settings or repeatedly replay conversations in their head? “Nagging Ned” can be apropos.

Naming those negative thoughts inside one’s head is advantageous because it helps make them seem less daunting and more relatable. Rather than fearing their inner thoughts, students can look at them from a light-hearted perspective and feel empowered to tackle them head-on. Students can minimize the anxiety of dealing with the unknown and focus on ways to squash the intense feeling brought on by “Judge Judy” and “Nagging Ned.”

Participate in Positive Self Talk

The critical inner voice that many students experience can be tiresome—the constant negativity and lack of confidence can impact one physically, mentally, and emotionally. To help combat this, students should try to exercise compassion towards themselves, both in how they feel internally and with the situation they’re currently facing. Reframing negative self-talk by tapping into one’s ability to express grace, humanity, and kindness can help alleviate pessimism.

Whether journaling positive affirmations or creating an internal monologue, engaging in positive self-talk has many benefits. By challenging negative thoughts, students can boost their confidence, motivate themselves to move past the fear of failure, rejection, or shame, and gain the skills to overcome adversity. They can stop their inner critic from dictating how they think, feel, and act.

Positive self-talk is as simple as acknowledging one’s feelings and accepting them for what they are. For example, students can repeat phrases like “You’re going through a difficult time right now, so try and be gentle with yourself” or “I love you, and everything is going to be ok.” Students can think about how they would talk to a friend in a similar situation and turn those comforting words or sentiments inward.

Conquering your inner critical voice through self-talk requires practice and patience. Students need to believe in what they’re telling themselves and understand that these affirmations will become second nature over time.

Motivate Through Compassion

Some students may find it difficult to cope with failure. Rather than seeing it as an opportunity to learn from, they view it as a personal shortcoming or flaw. This can inadvertently turn the dial on their negative inner voice, causing them to doubt their ability to be successful in the future. This is where the power of compassion comes into play—learning to applaud themselves for putting their best foot forward and understanding that some things are simply out of their control.

Acknowledging one’s emotions can help students dispel negative thoughts from their inner critic. For example, failing an exam doesn’t mean they aren’t smart or capable enough to compete with other students. The stress of managing family obligations may have left their mind preoccupied and unable to focus on the task at hand, thus leading to a less-than-optimal result.  

Accepting one’s circumstances can help students put things into perspective. Instead of believing their inner critic, students should learn to have compassion for themselves and celebrate the many victories they make throughout college and life. 

Help Students Navigate Their Inner Critic

Although college is an exciting time for students, they still face various obstacles and challenges —one of which is overcoming their critical inner voice. This negative voice can impact a student’s confidence, sense of self, and ability to succeed. However, students can manage any internal discourse with the proper thought-challenging techniques.

U-Thrive Educational Services’ solutions help students adopt life skills for thriving throughout college and beyond. Contact us today to learn how you can help students manage their inner critic and forge a path to success.

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