How does critical thinking differ from the inner critic?
Is there a difference? – Critical thinking is about being discerning about what we see, hear and feel. It is about using our intuition, thinking objectively about what others and we do and say. So how does it differ from the inner critic? Let's take an example of attending an important meeting that was tough but you held your ground. Using your critical thinking, you sit back and objectively review how it went: what went well, what you could have done differently, what you can take forward into other meeting situations. However, with the inner critic it tends to be critical in a destructive way about everything we do, say and who we are as a person. For example, in the same situation the inner critic might say, ‘You are pathetic, you let X get away with murder in that meeting, you forgot to discuss Y, they'll never ask you back again, etc., etc.'. Usually said in a critical, harsh tone of the internal voice. Which you have to agree is not a very constructive or motivating way to review a situation.
‘Nurture your mind with great thoughts.' Benjamin Disraeli
What are the benefits of critical thinking? The main benefit is it provides you with a rational, logical, clear view of a situation. For example, if you are thinking about applying for a promotion or changing careers to follow your dream, your critical thinking will assist you in identifying your strengths and development needs, the steps needed to succeed and perhaps what training or coaching would help you to develop further. With the inner critic you might not even get off the starting block as it might fill you with doubt about your abilities to cope with a new and bigger job; or it might criticise you for not having fulfilled your dream in the first place with, ‘Why do you think you will succeed now?' This is likely to fill your head with negative thoughts and images, so that even if you take action you might be setting yourself up for failure.
What would be the benefits to you of using your critical thinking rather than allowing the inner critic to take over?
‘Thoughts are energy, and you can make your world or break your world by your thinking.' Susan L Taylor
How can I tell when it is the inner critic or critical thinking? – Partly it comes down to how you end up feeling. With critical thinking you are being objective, you are likely to feel positive about yourself and the situation, you will have a clear sense of what you need to do next and feel motivated to take action. When it is your inner critic you are more likely to end up feeling bad about yourself, unconfident, and it might even stop you from taking action.
Think about challenging situations or decisions you have faced recently. How have you felt? Did you feel upbeat and positive, or anxious and demotivated?
‘The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.' Marcus Aurelius
Is critical thinking different from criticising yourself or others? – Critical thinking does not necessarily mean you are being critical (of yourself or others). It all depends on the emotional state you are coming from. True critical thinking is rational and objective, therefore, you need to be in a calm state to do it. If we are angry, frustrated or fearful about something, our thinking and anything we say is not likely to be calm and rational thinking. Therefore, your comments are more likely to come from your inner critic than your critical thinking.
When do you end up criticising yourself or others rather than using critical thinking?
How can you develop your critical thinking? – There are a range of ways in which you can develop and use your critical thinking and some are described here and explained in more depth in my book, Master Your Inner Critic, Release Your Inner Wisdom (see right hand column for details and information about the February workshop based on it):
- Balance debriefing – I've talked about balanced debriefing before as it is one way of mastering your inner critic by making sure that when you review what you have done you do it in a balanced way and don't just focus on what has gone wrong. (Click here to email for the handout)
- Manage your emotional response: step back, take an objective viewpoint – often our emotional response can cloud our thinking, so finding ways of being able to take a mental step back, take a break and manage your emotions will assist you in thinking more critically.
- Don't take things at face value: ask questions – think of questions that will help you to explore ideas and what you are being told or what you are reading. If in doubt ask a question.
- Deal with your fears and concerns – our fears and concerns are often dismissed by our inner critic, leaving us feeling anxious and uncertain which is not a good state to be in if you need to think logically and rationally. However, by acknowledging and listening to your concerns, you can then use your critical thinking to help you deal with them.
- Release your inner wisdom – inner wisdom is our intuition, the part of us that instinctively knows what is the right thing to say or do. It is an essential part of us that is needed if we are going to use our critical thinking abilities. Releasing our inner wisdom is a natural, positive by-product of mastering our inner critic.
What action are you going to take to master your inner critic and develop your critical thinking?
If you want to master your inner critic and release your inner wisdom and your ability to think critically then come along to the next workshop on Saturday 21st February near Oxford. Click here for details.
‘All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.' Friedrich Nietzsche
What challenges are you facing at the moment?
- Managing & maintaining performance
- Keeping motivated
- Communicating assertively
- Working effectively as a team
- Managing stress and pressure …
… whatever the issues you face call Melanie on 01865 377334 or email to arrange a time to speak in confidence. For more information about Grovelands visit our website.
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