As soon as Gertrude writes a sentence, she hears an inner voice: “No, this is too stupid. You cannot write this,” or she mentally sees her supervisor’s sarcastic face. She deletes the sentence; tries another one. Again, “This is ridiculous, delete it immediately.” Again, she wipes it out. After having tried several sentences, the inner voice becomes louder: “You’ll never get it done. It is too difficult for you. You are incapable. What a shame!”
This inner voice Gertrude hears is well-known by most PhD candidates. It is called the inner critic or inner censor: It is an internal voice which undermines your accomplishments or compares you to others. The inner critic blocks you, inhibits you – in brief: it drives you mad.
The inner critic can express fear or a lack of self-confidence. It can represent persons who contributed to your education (for example, parents or teachers). I won’t go deeper into the psychological explanation for this. Instead, I want to give you some tips to deal with your inner critic:
- Write fast: The faster you write, the less your inner critic can express itself.
- If you write with your computer: Write with white letters. If you cannot see what you write, your inner critic will let you in peace. Change the color once you have finished your writing session.
- Write what it says: Once you see it in black and white, you will realize how senseless its statements are.
- Identify it among all your inner voices: Who is talking to you? When you identify the person behind your inner critic, you take away the power of the critic and regain our own voice/power.
- Write a dialog with your inner critic: You will discover what it actually wants to tell you.
- Calm your inner critic. Tell it, for example: “This is only a first draft, I will improve it later!” or “Now I just want to experiment, to play with ideas.”
Share your experiences with other PhD candidates. You will see that you are not the only one suffering from an inner critic.
Do you have other tips or tricks to silence your inner critic? Share them below in order to help other PhD students!.