How to Silence Your Inner Critic and Grow Stronger

By Sara Fabian on Friday August 3rd, 2018

Six Practical Ways to Stop your Negative Self-Talk

When there’s no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm. – African proverb

Have you ever heard an inner voice telling you disempowering things, like “I don’t think I can make it,” “What if I fail?”, “I’m not that smart,” ”I’ll never have that,” “This is too hard,” “This is too big for me,” “It’s impossible,” or “It’s too good to be true” ?

If this rings a bell for you, know that this was the voice of your Inner Critic.

What is Your Inner Critic?

It is that voice in your mind that often speaks to you when you want to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone. It is a voice of fear.

Its purpose is to keep you in the safe zone and protect you from any possible emotional injuries like judgment, rejection, blame or shame. It is an internal resistance to change and the unknown, and the main reason for you playing small and not daring to go for your dreams.

Your inner critic does an excellent job at keeping you safe; however, it might have an adverse impact on your life by possibly making you:

  • Doubt yourself and your abilities even though you know you are capable of achieving great things in life.
  • Admire others for their achievements without being able to acknowledge your own. You might take your own accomplishments for granted, thinking that “Anyone could have done it,” or attributing them to luck or other people who gave you chances to succeed.
  • Procrastinate. You might put important things on hold instead of just doing them.
The voice of fearYour inner critic is the voice of fear.
  • Feel stressed and anxious when trying to achieve something important to you.
  • Worry excessively about what other people think of you. You might fear they will think less of you if you fail.
  • Take things personally or let others put you down.
  • Stay in an unhealthy relationship with someone, or stop you from starting a new relationship because of the risk of getting hurt.
  • Stay stuck in a job you don’t like or even hate, afraid that changing it might not bring enough money or success.

How Does Your Inner Critic Sound?

Here’s one example:

A friend of mine once wanted to quit her job and redesign her professional life from scratch. Her plan was to take a few months off from work to study.

The moment I asked her how she felt about this idea, she couldn’t stop talking: “That would be great, but, you know, what if I end up having no money? What if my husband doesn’t agree? What would people say if I stopped working? What if I don’t have sufficient time for my kids?” – An endless chatter of worries, concerns, assumptions and ‘what ifs’ that haven’t happened yet.

Doubting your abilitiesYour inner critic holds you back from your dreams.

What Can You Do?

Hearing this voice doesn’t mean you are broken and need to be fixed. We all have it in our heads; it is part of our shadow and what makes us human.

The goal is not to kill it (since it’s your safety check), but to learn how to differentiate the Inner Critic’s realistic concern from the false panic.

Here are six practical things that can help you to silence this negative voice from your mind:

Recognize your self-sabotaging behavior

We can only change the things we are aware of. Be mindful of your thoughts. Monitor your negative thinking. Each time you find yourself hearing these sabotaging voices in your mind, stop for a moment and ask yourself this question: What am I thinking right now? How does this thought serve me?

Don’t mix it up with being realistic

In life, there are situations when you don’t have what it takes to get where you want. I would have loved to become a ballerina, but my body didn’t allow me. Sometimes, the reality is that you need to acquire new skills and experience.

When you build an action plan by setting new goals and working on your development, it shows you are being realistic. But if you start telling yourself that it’s going to be hard or even impossible before you’ve even tried, please know that’s not your true self talking. That is your Inner Critic.

You don't need to be fixedHearing this voice doesn’t mean you are broken and need to be fixed.

Make peace with your Inner Critic

Embrace it with compassion. Sometimes it’s on bad behavior, telling you rough or mean things about life or yourself, but, remember, it has a good intention: to protect you from being hurt.

Try this fun, simple exercise: Imagine your Inner Critic as a persona and even give it a name. Say something like: “I appreciate that you came into my mind, trying to protect me. But I’m going to try this anyway, and I’ll see what happens.” Something like, “Thanks, but no thanks.” 

Build self-confidence

Challenge your negative thinking. Put things into perspective. Looking back at your past achievements, what do you know to be true about yourself? What are the things you are most proud of?

Practice positive affirmations

Affirmations are credible, present-tense statements that are the opposite of your self-sabotaging, negative thoughts.

Challenge your negative thinkingChallenge your negative thinking.

Here are just a few examples for you to repeat on a regular basis and see what happens:

I am happy.

I am lovable.

I am open to financial abundance.

I believe in myself and my abilities.

I deserve the best things life has to offer.

I am grateful.

Life loves me.

Look out for solutions

Your inner critic won’t offer you any solutions to your problems—that’s your job! Read some good books to help you boost your confidence and your self-esteem. Work with a coach to help you connect to your inner power and inner wisdom. Your mind is often trying to play with you. Your authentic self (call it your Inner Leader) knows the truth and is already available for you, ready and eager to support you. Always.

Silencing your inner critic can be an ongoing practice, but once you’ve recognised that inner voice holding you back from what could be your biggest potential in life, it loses its power to control you. Mastering the skill of dealing with self-criticism is one of the first steps on the path to success and contentment.

About Stanley Siegel

Stanley Siegel, LCSW, is a psychotherapist, author, lecturer, and former Director of Education and Senior Faculty member of New York's Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy. After creating and writing the "Families" column for Newsday he went on to co-author two popular books: The Patient Who Cured His Therapist and Other Unconventional Stories Of Therapy(Penguin/Dutton 1992; Penguin/Plume, 1993; Marlowe and company, 1999) and Uncharted Lives: Understanding The Life Passages Of Gay Men (Penguin/Dutton, 1994; Penguin/Plume 1995) which have been translated into 5 languages. With nearly 45 years of experience in the field of psychology, Siegel has developed an unconventional and tradition-challenging approach to psychotherapy[4][5][6] that has led to his book Your Brain on Sex: How Smarter Sex Can Change Your Life[7] which was released in October 2011. He was a sex columnist for Psychology Today and the author of How Sex Heals and The Secret Wisdom of Ancient Parables. Siegel founded Psychology Tomorrow Magazine and Wellness Providers Network. Siegel has taught at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Adelphi University, and the University of California, Berkeley; was the founding Director of the Family Studies Center in Huntington, New York, and has served as a consultant to hospitals and mental health centers throughout the country. Regularly quoted in the media, he has appeared on ABC's Good Morning America several times,[8] as well as many other television and radio programs, and has acted as a consultant for film and television. Siegel was invited on The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss "How Healers Heal Themselves." He served as the Dance Editor of Show Business magazine, writing weekly dance reviews and reporting on the contemporary dance scene. His daughter, Alyssa Siegel, LPC lives in Portland, Oregon and is a contributor to Your Brain on Sex. After a lifetime in NYC, he moved to Los Angeles in 2016