How to Defeat Your Inner Critic

And make room for a gentler internal voice


Many of us walk around with an inner critic that narrates our daily actions and renders a stream of harsh, hurtful judgements about our abilities and worth. It is the voice that says:

This voice occurs with a harshness that we reserve only for ourselves. The voice becomes automatic, white noise that shapes our inner experience and robs us of the consideration, kindness, and encouragement we so easily give to others. But when we finally notice the voice and resolve to shift the voice, we combat it with a barrage of still harsher judgement and self-deprecation. We ask ourselves things like:

The fight to feel good about ourselves becomes just another way that we beat ourselves up. The voice is sneaky that way.
Source: Instagram: Sarah Epstein

Curiosity as the antidote to self-critical thinking

If harshness begets more harshness, how do we combat our inner critic that voice that has made itself at home in our subconscious mind? We can harness curiosity. Curiosity loves to notice. When curiosity enters the process, we can shift the process to overcome our inner critic with kindness. As famed author Elizabeth Gilbert said, “Curiosity only does one thing, and that is to give. And what it gives you are clues on the incredible scavenger hunt of your life.” So, using curiosity as your guide, you can switch from saying, “Here I go again, beating myself up,” we can employ curiosity and instead say, “Hmm, there it is again. That voice telling me that my mistake means I’m a terrible employee. I wonder where I learned that it wasn’t ok to make mistakes.” When we catch ourselves downplaying an achievement, instead of saying, “No, I just got lucky with the assignment,” we might employ curiosity and say, “Wow, look at that. I did well, yet the voice told me I shouldn’t take credit, that it wasn’t really my skills that led to success. Huh. How long have I been talking to myself that way?”

Using curiosity, a person can look non-judgmentally at the internal dialogue and ask questions like:

While the voice is judgmental and harsh, sees the world in black and white terms, and relentlessly tries to prevent us from seeing beyond our flaws, curiosity brings gentleness, nuance, and thoughtfulness back to the table. When we stop yelling at ourselves and look curiously at the way our thoughts play out, we give ourselves the space to understand them. Only through understanding can we start to address the underlying beliefs that drive that voice and begin to shift them towards a gentler inner-dialogue.