Shut Up! How to Silence Your Inner Critic for Mental Wellness
Updated: Dec 19, 2021
Image: The words "No Trespassing" on a sign written in black letters on a yellow background. It is attached to an old wooden structure. Image by Unsplash.
Have you ever been scared with a sense of impending doom? Your chest tightens as your heart pounds from the jolt of adrenaline that is pumping. You experience dizziness, sweaty palms, tingling, and the jitters accompany a choking feeling where you can neither swallow nor speak, affecting your breathing.
Such a feeling is likely a panic attack. Looking at today’s headlines when political, economic, and human relations seem out of control can do that to you. How do we guard our hearts? Difficult times can bring out the worst in us if we don’t take today simple steps to safeguard our minds.
The Apostle Peter, too, lost his self-governance and panicked (Matthew 26:74) when faced with exposure as Jesus’ follower. Peter recollected that Jesus prophesied these three denials by him. Before we criticize Peter for his laps in good judgment, let us look at criticism and its effect on our minds.
I recently came across excerpts from the work of Dr. David H. Fink, a neuropsychiatrist and author of the book “Release from Nervous Tension.” In his work with the Veterans Administration, he found thousands of people who were mentally and emotionally “tied up.” (Fink) During his research for a cure for their nervousness, he studied two groups: the first group was made up of thousands of people suffering from mental and emotional disturbances: the second group contained only those who were free from such tension, thousands of them.
In this study, Dr. Fink found that among those in his research group who suffered from extreme tension had one trait in common–they were habitual faultfinders, constant critics of people and things around them. Those who were the least faultfinders were free of such tensions. In this case, faultfinding became a prelude or mark of their nervousness and detriment to their mental health.
Not many of us take kindly to criticism. Yet, almost daily, peers, supervisors, spouses, and friends self-evaluate us.
Practice kindness to self
“…be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:32) is the petition from Paul to the early Christians. Practicing gentleness to self is a simple yet profound concept of the Christian fruit. (Galatians 5:22-23) After all, how will it be possible to be gentle with others when we are not gentle with ourselves?
Compassion has been a buzzword of this last decade, sparking movements and marches to demonstrate solidarity in this belief, but do you practice Compassion to self? So, consider this: tenderheartedness means having a “pitiful” tender regard for your weaknesses.
Then try extending that “tenderheartedness” to others. Less criticism of self and others will fashion a world where we are living the fullness of our being. Get out the inner trumpets and proclaim, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalms 139:14)
But how do we achieve this? Not without the help of the Holy Spirit. The molding and making of our tenderest parts of the heart are works only the Holy Spirit can do. To have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to create this new reality and tender care, we need to have Jesus. Without Jesus, we can do nothing. (Philippians 4:13)
Here is how it works. Once you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, He sends the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to help you be like Christ. With that work, Jesus then leads you to the Father.
Jesus prepared us through His Word, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible for a time that will be difficult on body and mind (2 Timothy 3:1) just before His Second coming. We are living in that time right now!
Getting ready for Christ’s Coming requires mental preparation as well. Let us leave off criticism, of self and others, in this preparation period. “When one is being criticized in the presence of other people, a big part of the distress is associated with the sense of being shamed in the presence of other people.
The criticism then takes on a collective quality where the judgment causes one to feel isolated into a shamed corner.” (Suma Chand) Peter witnessed the difficulty Christ was enduring and perceived difficulty for himself. A sense of doom. Peter later testified that the lord is gracious. (1 Peter 2:3) Yes, (Suma Chand)He sends help our way, taking us from ashamed corner to stand gloriously for Him.
Yes, difficult times are here and ahead of us. The remedy for such anxiety is directly from our Savior Himself,“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1) Believe that Jesus is completing His work of preparation in you to go home with Him!
Fink, Dr. David H. “Release From Nervous Tension.” Fink, Dr. David H. Release From Nervous Tension. Simon & Schuster, 1943.
Suma Chand, MPhil, Ph.D. “Criticism: Depression and Anxiety.” n.d. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 06 October 2020. <https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/criticism-depression-and-anxiety>.