Dial down the inner critic

Fearne’s inner critic does not shut up unless she takes action. It’s not just the critic – there’s a whole crew with it in her brain, so she calls it the Chatter.

They include: the angry one, the lazy one (basically saying don’t bother), the FOMO one and a catastrophising one: Did I leave that candle lit and will it burn down the house? She’s not alone. Many of us, including Billie Piper and Dawn O’Porter, want to dial down the Chatter too. Here, Fearne shows how we can deal….

Look inside my brain

“It’s like a UN peace negotiation up there. Toing and froing, bartering and convincing, constant ideas and worries. It’s non-stop! That’s why finding the tools to switch off the noise and find the quiet has been so important to me.

What is the quiet? It’s a mind free from negative self-analysis. A quiet that comes from reducing that Chatter in our heads and having the confidence to ignore it

This isn’t about going off-grid in a woodland dwelling to block out the modern world. It’s about taming the bad inner Chatter – that loud beast which resides within the confines of our own skills. It’s the enemy of our inner wisdom, which we can tune into when we cultivate the quiet.

Chatter has the power to overthrow gut instinct, shout us down when we are faced with fear and talk us out of new adventures – yet few of us get a grip on it. This is where the ‘quiet’ comes in.

Things the Chatter tells me

“When I enter a party, full of people I don’t know, sort of know and don’t know at all, I assume that everyone thinks I’m a ‘tw*t’.”

At a party: When I enter a party, full of people I don’t know, sort of know, and don’t know at all, I assume that everyone thinks I’m a ‘twat’. I can hear the mental Chatter startup and tell me everyone is smarter, cooler and definitely doesn’t have a Tupperware of crackers in their bag in case they get hungry later.

Meeting new people or approaching new situations or jobs are among my triggers for the Chatter to kick off. They can hinder me from using my inner courage and trust.

On social media: Spending too long on social media is another trigger, due to my assumption that everyone thinks I’m an arsehole.  The Chatter loves social media as other people’s thoughts are presented in black and white so seem more potent and perhaps impactful, too. I’m not slagging off social media as I love to browse and learn about other people’s lives.

The strange smoke and mirrors surrounding it make self-acceptance tougher but not impossible. We must all always route back to what feels right to us.

In my memory: Remembering my past f**k-ups is a huge one for me. My negative Chatter goes into overdrive and sucks the past up like a hoover before coughing it all up into my present. Then I fell I’m actually IN the past and the Chatter brings a lot of feeling with it. Stagnant feelings which are difficult to shake off. This is a real confidence crusher.

When I’m poorly: When I can’t be as proactive as usual, I spiral quickly. I like to be on the move and when I can’t the Chatter starts up. I call myself lazy and useless and worry my momentum won’t return. Rather than relaxing into the quiet, I get angry and fidgety.

When I’m tired: Lack of sleep turns me into an irritable, selfish grumble-pants, and consequently I’m consumed by the Chatter. An angry dialogue forms and I’m full of self-pity and fear that I won’t achieve what I’d set out to that day.

Welcome in the quiet

The ‘quiet’ is our inner space where clear thinking prefers to hang out. It’s when we can make a decision that isn’t based on what the negative Chatter is telling us. It’s that space and clarity in which we acknowledge that inner dialogue but we don’t take every word seriously.

In this quiet, we can hone in on how we really feel and we aren’t muddled by our negative thought patterns, which we’re used to slipping into.”

What my Chatter sounds like

“I can be feeling really happy then bam! I imagine something awful.”

Dawn O’Porter: “Mine now is anxiety for my family’s safety. It’s a new thing for me, since I had kids. I’m very happy in my life, things are going spookily well. So I have to tell myself to trust it, and that it isn’t all about to change. But mostly I worry about my kids getting hurt, my husband dying, someone getting ill. It’s so annoying. I can be feeling really happy then BAM! I imagine something awful.

I take CBD gummmies, do breath work and, if it gets bad at night, I put on a meditation on an app on my phone and eventually I fall asleep. So that’s fun.”

“Mine says: ‘You’re a stupid bitch’, ‘you should care more,’ your face is weird…’ Nice, chilled stuff like that!’

Billie Piper: “So I avoid reading anything about what people think of me. I keep my life small. I focus on what’s important to me. I only ever work on things I really, really care about. I accept what I’m not good at and I try and go into things open-armed. I also have a lot of therapy.”

6 ways to cultivate the quiet

  • Self-love: “I strive to accept myself with my Chatter telling me I need this from others. I guess self-love is a complex alchemy of forgiving ourselves for our past mistakes and honouring our true nature. Also remembering we’re our own worst critic and diminishing the brutal chat we throw at ourselves when the Chatter sparks up.
  • Your truth: I remember that this Chatter has been created by my overthinking mind and if I tune it to what I know deep down is real then I am okay. With social media, I’m still going to be okay if Bob from Birmingham thinks I’m a twat. I’m still going to be okay if Michelle from Highgate didn’t like my outfit. This is what I know deep down. I don’t have to take it so seriously. This requires a step back – to turn towards clarity and separate me from the fantasy. Some quiet. I am me, I am okay and this Chatter is passing thoughts and not my reality.
  • If you can do yoga: If I can make the time for it, I can move and flow through an hour and that Chatter is nowhere to be seen. I’m physically and mentally only communicating with the movement at that moment. I park all other concerns and voices and let my body move slowly and in a controlled manner. Then my thoughts only revolve around those physical feelings.
  • Painting & doodling: When I paint I don’t have a goal. The outcome could be great or not but the process allows me to shut off and the Chatter gives me the space to be purely physical and emotional. I don’t regret taking time out to paint doodle. For you, it might be sewing, writing, swimming or gardening. It doesn’t matter. What does is that we allow ourselves the time to welcome in that space.
  • Confidence: I think of confidence as armour – it allows us to speak freely without worrying what others think. If I remember that the Chatter isn’t based on fact, I can act from the gut with confidence.
  • Sleep: We so often see ‘Living my best life’ under photos of all-night parties on Instagram. My best life these days involves an eye mask and a TEMPUR pillow. I know good sleep will lead to less Chatter and more quiet. I know less Chatter and more quiet in life will lead to good sleep.”

See more on wellbeing