Quietening the Inner Critic

Most performers know that their inner critic is the cause of many of their issues, whether it's nerves, tension, procrastination, memory or lack of flow (and so many others). But how do you let go of the inner critic and quieten it so that you can perform at your best.

This episode goes into detail on the best way to achieve this, and explains how, if you use this method, it will give you so much more than a quietened inner critic!

Podcast 22 Title

The Courageous Performer Podcast

Quietening the Inner Critic

If you would like to transform your approach to performing so that you can feel confident (even without being able to guarantee the outcome!) then go to nailyourperformance.com to find out how to work with me.

Read the episode transcript here:


Hi, I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice, and what I want to talk to you about today is how to quieten that inner critical voice. And I think this is something that calls to so many performers because pretty much every single client I have talks about the inner critical voice and how they self sabotage, how they find it really hard to quieten it, how they want to shut up and just leave them alone.



And there seem to be two ways that people go with this inner voice. They either fight it and end up in this massive battle with it creating loads of tension and stress, or they just simply believe it and go "Fine, I am crap, I'm not going to be able to do this," and they give up.



I'm here to tell you there is a third way, and a third way that might actually feel really counterintuitive to start off with. And that is to listen to it. We fear, people fear that if they listen to their inner voice, it will overwhelm them, that they will be more likely to believe what it has to say, and to feel bullied by the inner voice. But the truth is, the inner voice is a little bit like (sorry, kids!) like my kids. So if one of my kids comes up and goes "Mum!", and tries to get my attention, and I go, "Not now, I'm busy." Now any parents out there will know that me going "No, I'm busy, I can't talk right now," does not mean they go away and go "Okay, sorry, I'll come back later." Not until they're much older, if ever do they do that. They just say "Mum, mum," and they get louder and louder and louder.



In the same way when you try and get rid of your inner critical voice by telling it to go away, telling it shut up. It gets louder and more vociferous and more insistent when it talks to you, or shouts at you, or screams at you. And that's one of the things that came out of a lovely book I read called Internal Family Systems, is this idea of being kind to your inner voice. We fight it, but as I say, like a little child, instead of going away, it gets louder because it really needs you to hear it; and it's more insistent, because it's really important that you hear it. The bizarre thing is, if to listen to what it has to say, it calms down, it quietens, and rather than being overwhelmed by it, the voice starts to quieten and so becomes less overwhelming. More than that, it actually allows you space for you and the inner voice, to find a strategy to solve the problem that it's worried about. There's space then for you to be able to sort out the issue, find a solution.



And so by listening to it, you take the energy, the battle the fight out of it, and you calm the whole situation down. Because remember, your inner voice is you. It's nobody else speaking to you. It might sound like your mum sounds, or sounded, it might have all of this external judgement that you've felt from people, but it is still you talking to you. You hate it for beating you up, and so your response is to beat it up too, and so you respond to it beating you up with beating it up, which just maintains the fight, and you're beating you up. So in response to you beating you up, you beat you up even more. So that's why that's not a solution.



The true key to quietening the inner voice is what I mentioned earlier, kindness, listening. Because the truth of it is the reason the inner voice is being critical. And talking so critically to you is because it's worried it's scared, it feels vulnerable and it wants to protect you. And this is the method he uses to do it. This is how it gets you or thinks is the the best way to get you to listen, by attacking you because then you'll listen you then you'll realise how serious it is. So the underlying reason behind the inner voice being so critical is fear. So if you then attack it, it's not going to get less fearful, and quite often there's also an element of panic, "You have to listen to me now!" It's not going to panic less. If you push it away, quiet it, shut it up, shut it out, it's going to panic more. So the way to calm the panic is to listen. That way, you will not only calm it down, you discover what it's truly worried about, and that opens up the gateway to finding a solution, finding a way of solving that issue, so that it doesn't need to worry so much.



This can be so hard to do, because it feels counterintuitive. It's not what we've been taught to do. We've been taught that if left to our own devices we'll be impulsive, we'll make the wrong decision, we'll make silly, stupid decisions, we'll be lazy, we've learned not to trust ourselves, that the inner child will wreak havoc unless we constrain, it unless we tell it what to do, unless we're a bully to it. But that belies the whole thing that your inner child and the inner parent are both you. So how do you access just the you?



You listen.



If we go back to the example of listening to a child, if my child comes in and says "Mum," and I go, yes, what is it and I listened to them, probably will take me a lot less time than if I try and shut them up and tell them to go away. But they will feel heard, and they will calm down, and we will find a solution together. Because the panic doesn't actually want you to explore your thinking, it doesn't want you to explore the reason you're panicking, because it's desperate for you to protect yourself, and if you think for yourself, you might not do what it feels is necessary for you to protect yourself. And this is where I come to, I was talking with a friend about beliefs and assumptions and how they are similar and how they are different, and I've come to the sort of thought that assumptions are just unexplored beliefs. So beliefs can either be explored or unexplored, but assumptions have within them the assumption that they're not yet explored.



So if you look at a scientific assumption, or hypotheses, we know that it's not yet explored. But there are assumptions that we make to protect ourselves that we don't necessarily explore and aren't really necessarily aware that we're making. So the assumption that it's all going to go wrong, that you will mess it up, or that when you've finished, you did do a bad job, that hasn't yet been explored. And for me to give you an example, I did a performance on Saturday. and if you'd asked me on Saturday, how did it go, "I'd have said it went appallingly," I really didn't like what I did. And I was really listening to how people fed back to me and thinking, "Yeah, you don't really mean, that I can hear that you don't think I did a good job," I was totally in my head at that point. Then I realised there was a recording of it, so I watched it, and I listened to it, and I was like, "Oh, yeah, I mean, there are totally bits that I would do differently, and my breath went at one point, and bla bla bla, bla," there are things I would have done differently, and there are places I want to improve. But my goodness, it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it was, and I'd assumed it was bad and then responded accordingly. But then when I checked that thinking and worked through it, I got much more information, and I have tools to make myself feel better next time.



So if you take anything away from what I'm talking about today is one, your inner voice is you. So be kind to yourself. Being a bully just makes you tense and nervous, or even more tense and nervous. BE KIND.



Number 2, LISTEN, you won't discover anything you're not thinking subconsciously anyway. But you might bring it to the surface and then be able to find a solution. If you listen, you can work out what's really bugging you, what's really worrying you, and also you're calm down that inner voice.



And number 3 is then EXPLORE and EXAMINE those assumptions you're making. examine those fears, think about them. Come up with solutions, come up with strategies. This is how you will feel empowered, and by doing all of this, you will calm your inner voice so that you can feel more confident and more relaxed about the whole thing.



I'm Hattie Voelcker. Thank you so much for listening.