7 Tips on How to Break Free From Your Inner Critic

We all have an inner critic. That annoying, negative inner voice that judges, criticizes, and shames us for how we look, how we feel, what we think and what we do. It beats us up over our tiniest faults and our biggest mistakes. It may say things like, “You’re stupid,” “You’re going to fail,” “Who do you think you are?” “You’ll never… (lose that weight, get that job, find a soul mate).”

Though it may not feel like it, our inner critic doesn’t always mean to be malicious. Sometimes it’s just simply trying to help us avoid the pain of rejection, humiliation and isolation. The irony is, when we accept these negative messages it creates the very pain it’s trying to help us avoid.

Here’s a sample of the impact our negative inner critic has on our behavior. It contributes to our:

  • Procrastination
  • Self-doubt
  • Shame
  • Addictive behavior – substance abuse, eating when not hungry
  • Keeping super busy to drown out the inner voices
  • Fear
  • Stress
  • Bitterness
  • Jealousy of others’ successes
  • Ruminating over the past
  • Schadenfreude – from the German meaning ‘harmful joy’ - deriving pleasure at the misfortune of others


Listening to the message of our inner critic can leave us feeling incompetent, unfulfilled, and worthless.

Why So Critical?

Many of us were brought up believing that criticism, judgment and shame were effective ways to motivate our behavior. The rationale being, if we behave in a ‘negative’ way, criticism will encourage us to change and behave in ‘acceptable’ ways. We’ve internalized those messages and the inner critic became the messenger.

Good news…

Our inner critic does not speak truth. It lies to maintain status quo. The even better news is that this voice is the result of learned behavior, which means it can also be unlearned.

If you struggle with negative inner dialog that is holding you back, try these tips for breaking free from the voice that holds you back and keeps you playing small:

  1. Speak directly to the inner critic.Our natural tendency is to ignore something that is ‘annoying’ us. And that is just what our inner critic expects.  So, it just keeps right on talking, taunting, poking and picking. So instead of turning it off, give it your attention.  Talk to it, acknowledge it and even let it know that you hear it.   And watch its power subside.
  2. Don’t fight it. The inner critic loves an argument so the best way to approach it is with compassion, understanding and gratitude. Yes, gratitude. There is a Japanese proverb that states, ‘The nail that stands up gets hammered down.’ The inner critic’s job is to help you avoid getting hit with that hammer. Instead of arguing you can say, “Thanks, I know you’re trying to protect me and you’ve done a great job keeping me safe over the years, but I can take it from here.”
  3. Ask questions and try to be objective. “What are you really trying to tell me?” What are you afraid of?” “What are you warning me about?” Listen to the inner voice for clues as to what’s really going on. And remember, listening doesn’t mean believing.
  4. Try to come to an understanding about the best way for your critic to protect you. The inner critic becomes more reasonable once it feels like it’s being heard.
  5. Ask ‘what’s true?’ Your critic exaggerates, but there’s often some truth to the message – that’s why it can hurt. For example, it may say “You’re always late and you’re such a loser.” You may not alwaysbe late, and you are definitely nota loser.  But you may sometimesbe tardy and it has a negativeimpact on your work, health or relationships.  So the next time your critic shows up acknowledge what’s true and move on.
  6. Embrace your flaws. We all have imperfections. Drop the high standards, accept the flaws, and move on.
  7. Avoid extremes. Your inner critic will use words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ to keep you down. Catch it when it tries this sneaky tactic and correct it by saying you are not ‘never’ or ‘always’ anything.

We all give in to our inner critic from time to time. And that’s okay. A little self-criticism can be a helpful thing. It encourages self-improvement and growth, but there’s a big difference between saying, “The career I chose is boring,” and “I’m a loser for majoring in 15th Century flute making.”

The next time you’re facing off with your inner critic remember it’s not concerned with your peace of mind, happiness or personal growth. It’s focused on making sure you don’t get booted from your tribe and, by keeping these strategies in mind, it can be comforting to know that you are ultimately the one in control.

Are you ready to make a transition in your life? If you are, we would like to talk to you!  If you haven’t watched our 25 minute teaching on how to begin to make changes in your life, you can go to www.charlieandcindy.com/webinar.

Or if you would like to schedule a 45-minute complementary strategy call, go to www.charlieandcindy.com/apply.






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