How to Deal With Your Harsh Inner Critic as a Veterinarian
If the running commentary in your mind brings you down after making a small mistake or discourages you from trying something new, then you're probably dealing with a harsh inner critic. Many veterinarians are aware that they can be too hard on themselves, but they don't always know where the harshness stems from or what to do about these internal thoughts. Here's a closer look at what the inner critic is and how to deal with it.
What Is the Inner Critical Voice?
The inner critical voice may originate from early childhood, when you internalized the words and attitudes of your primary caregivers about you and the world, and unknowingly made their perceptions your own. People with a harsh internal critic may feel like they aren't good enough; this, in turn, causes them to continuously look for evidence that substantiates that belief—creating a cycle of negative thinking.
Because your primary caregivers held a major role in your life, it can be challenging to develop a sense of self outside of their beliefs. However, if you have a harsh internal critic that's affecting your sense of self-esteem and your self-efficacy, then it's time to change the narrative and, ultimately, your relationship with yourself.
How to Deal With the Inner Critical Voice
Changing your internal narrative may be easier said than done, but with the following strategies, you can learn to be kinder to yourself and better support your well-being.
Understand Your Inner Critic
Although it doesn't feel like it, your internal critic is trying to protect you—from potential failure, shame, harm, rejection, etc. While the approach may be based on fear, your harsh internal critic has good intentions. Fortunately, you can overcome this fear by practicing self-compassion. First, acknowledge that the internal critic is focused on something very important to you. Thank the internal voice for trying to help, and then challenge the narrative.
Challenge Your Narrative
In order to silence your internal critic, you need to know what stirs them up—and this requires a certain self-awareness. What causes your internal critic to start doubting yourself? What thought loops start running? It's usually the same thing over and over. Once you have this information, ask yourself:
- Is this actually true?
- Is this really what I believe about myself?
- What would happen if it wasn't true?
When you self-examine honestly, you'll find that this narrative is usually false. Don't allow the internal critic to control what you say about yourself. If you struggle to identify your personal pattern, scheduling time with a good therapist can help you discover some of your blind spots.
Rewrite the Story
Now that you know the internal critic's script, it's time to rewrite your narrative and create some supportive mental habits.
- Mind your words: The internal critic uses phrases like "should have" and also tends to use words like "always," "never," "must," and "can't." Instead, catch yourself when you're tempted to use these phrases, and substitute them for "I could," "I hope," and "I can." It can also help to identify the emotion out loud: "In this situation, I feel..." Change your words, and change your life.
- Consider keeping a journal: A gratitude journal can increase your ability to express appreciation and find more daily happiness by focusing on what went well during the day versus focusing on what didn't.
Starting the Journey
It can be challenging in the moment to not listen to the harsh internal critic; however, this skill is essential to success and strong mental well-being. Although you may not be able to eliminate the voice completely, you can start the journey by learning to relate to the inner critic differently and being kinder to yourself. And above all, remember you're not alone.