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The Effect of Negative Self Beliefs

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

Challenging your inner critic and developing a compassionate voice

Negative self-beliefs are internalised judgements about ourselves that we perceive to be to true, and which result in inner thoughts and scripts that we repeatedly tell ourselves. Beliefs about oneself are a consequence of our experiences and come from the messages we internalised growing up and from the collective. When these are linked to shame experiences, they can often have a very critical tone. You may recognise thoughts like: I’m not good enough, I’m not attractive enough, Not smart enough, Not skinny enough, Not social enough, I don’t deserve this job I’m never going to make it, I’m too emotional, I always get things wrong. The list could go on… Now imagine the impact of repeating these words to yourself every single day. Of course, we all have moments when we doubt ourselves and feel insecure. But what happens if it turns into a chronic self-criticism? Our mind is very powerful, and when we are attached to a belief and narrative, even without realising this, our brain will find evidence in the outside world that re-confirms it. We could say our mind is like a very biased detective looking for clues that confirm the case, yet ignoring anything that disconfirms it. Our mind is excellent at this! We will not hear the praise, or give importance to what we did well; we will give all the weight to that negative comment our boss made, that interview that didn’t go the way we wanted… Our brain just wants an easy explanation to what may be happening, so it resorts to an old story, to make sense of the experience. In Integrative Therapy we work with sub-personalities: inner parts of the psyche that present as voices within us (very often using creative means of exploration). In the case of negative scripts, we would call this the voice of the inner critic


It is helpful to have an awareness of the critical messages we repeat to ourselves, in order to begin to challenge some of these narratives. 

Try to identify your inner critic:

What does he/she look like, sound like? Does it remind you of anyone? What is the script, what does she/he say to you? Imagine a dialogue between you and your inner critic: what would you have to say to each other? Is your critic there for a reason? Becoming more aware of the stories you hold within can help catch and challenge these critical thoughts, thus developing a more compassionate voice; one that reminds you that:

You are good enough You are smart enough

You are beautiful It is human to make mistakes

It’s ok that you feel like this You have the right to be you.

Write down the messages you want to hear from your compassionate voice and remind yourself of these when the inner critic shows up again. Always ask yourself: what story am I telling myself right now? This can be a useful question to help you step back and see the bigger picture.

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