5 Steps to Quiet Your Inner Critic

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Hello beautiful friends! Today I’m sharing 5 steps to quiet your inner critic. I am one of the most perfectionistic people in the world, and a 1 on the enneagram, meaning I have a very strong inner critic! I have been on a journey to quieting my inner critic and negative thoughts, and I have seen so much improvement since I began this process one year ago. I owe so much of my healing journey to The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Kristin Neff, PhD and Christopher Germer, PhD, and have used it to inspire much of this blog post. I can’t wait to share the tools that helped free me from my inner critic so you can experience the same freedom in your mind that I now have!

Before we begin, it’s important to know what the inner critic is. The inner critic is a strong voice of self-criticism in your mind; it’s the opposite of self-compassion. It takes every opportunity it can to beat you up and make you feel worthless, for the purpose of motivating you to change. The problem with this is, it isn’t effective in achieving its goal and makes you feel lousy. However, you don’t have to be a slave to your inner critic. You can and will conquer your inner critic and negative thoughts if you put your mind to it. According to Lauren Martin in The Book of Moods, “Due to the neuroplasticity of the brain, when we practice certain actions, they become habits, and over time, the brain rewires itself according to those habits and their cues.” There’s hope for you today! Follow along for easy steps you can take today to quiet your inner critic!

Step 1: Awareness of the Inner Critic

This is by far the most difficult step! Since this often happens in the subconscious part of your brain, it can be a struggle to create awareness and notice when your mind has wandered to criticism. If you haven’t practiced awareness of your thoughts, it can feel intimidating, but there are so many practices you can implement to work on this.

To start, practice mindfulness. Instead of distracting yourself with music and podcasts as you go about your day, focus on the task at hand and your thoughts as you complete them.

Try a 10-minute walk and leave the headphones at home. Be mindful of the thoughts you’re having and try to recognize which are coming from your inner critic. Same goes with showers, cooking, your morning commute, and brushing your teeth. Put the phone down and spend some time simply being aware of your thoughts.

The key here is to not beat ourselves up when we notice our thoughts turning into criticism, but rather to simply notice when the inner critic shows up. Practice kindness and grace if you make a few mistakes or miss moments when the inner critic has spoken. Additionally, the more you practice awareness of your thoughts and recognizing when the inner critic has showed up, the easier it will be for you to find your inner critic throughout your day.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to spend a lengthy amount of time on this step. When I began, I spent many weeks on this step because it is so important and takes consistent practice to become good at! Once it becomes relatively “easy” to recognize your inner critic voice and the moments when it speaks, you can move on to the next step.

Step 2: Realize How Your Inner Critic Makes You Feel

Remember, we are approaching this process with kindness and grace, rather than judgement and criticism of our inner critic. With curiosity, take note of what it is your inner critic is saying and what tone or volume it uses when it speaks to you. How does this make you feel about yourself? Be extremely honest with yourself as you answer these questions; they’re only for you, so you don’t need to worry about what other people might think if they knew you were speaking to yourself in this way. I highly recommend writing down your answers to the remaining steps, so you can reflect directly and look back on your answers later on!

Examples include:

  • “My inner critic is harsh and negative and reminds me that I am a failure. It tells me that I cannot improve. It makes me feel guilt and shame.”
  • “My inner critic screams loudly. It is ruthless and leaves no room for grace. It makes me feel embarrassed for myself and like a disgrace to my family.”
  • “My inner critic sounds an awful lot like xxxx person in my life. It makes me feel like a child.”

Step 3: What are the Intentions of Your Inner Critic?

I love the way this is mentioned in The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook, “Is your inner critic trying to protect you in some way, to keep you safe from danger, to help you, even if the result has been unproductive?” We must understand why our inner critic is showing up if we want to correct and heal it. Did you experience a traumatic event that deeply hurt you in the past? If so, could it be that you are experiencing fearful triggers that are causing your inner critic to believe the traumatic event might happen again?

For example, many have a fear of abandonment. Knowing this, any time the inner critic thinks a spouse, friend, or family member could possibly abandon them, it will begin to bully with shame, pointing out the threat for abandonment. It tries to motivate the person with negative self-talk, so they’ll try harder at being a better person and won’t experience that hurtful abandonment they’re so afraid of.

While the inner critic itself and these negative thoughts are causing you harm and most definitely are not good, the intentions behind it might be good. If you find your inner critic is trying to protect you or help keep you safe, take a moment to recognize this and be thankful for how it watches out for you.

Step 4: Flip the Negative Self-Talk

The opposite of self-criticism is self-compassion. Try speaking over yourself whatever is the complete opposite of what your inner critic is saying. For example, if you think you’re not enough for your spouse, what would it be like to tell yourself you are enough for your spouse? How does speaking this to yourself make you feel? Is the opposite statement true, do you believe you are enough? This will likely be uncomfortable for you the first few times you practice this, and that’s ok! Give yourself grace for how far you have come and how hard this might be for you.

Step 5: Speak Kindly to Yourself as You Would to a Friend

This step transformed the way I speak to myself! If you had a close friend who was going through the same situations and experiences you are, how would you speak to them? You likely would not be saying statements like “you’re such a failure, I can’t believe you messed up so bad! Now everyone you love is going to leave you.” Instead, you’ll likely say things like “It’s ok, you’re human and you made a mistake. Nobody is perfect! You are resilient and just because you had a setback doesn’t mean you can’t continue to improve. You are so strong, and you will get through this.”

Practice speaking to yourself as you would a friend. Then, reflect on how it feels to be kind to yourself in comparison to step 2, how your inner critic makes you feel. If it feels more motivating and positive to be kind to yourself, can you admit that it’s healthier to use self-compassion rather than the inner critic?

Woman writing in a journal

Conclusion

Now that we’ve discussed the 5 steps to quiet your inner critic, it’s important that I mention this is a journey, and unfortunately this will not be solved over night or by completing the 5 steps one time through. It took repetition, consistency, and time for your mind to begin listening to your inner critic, and it will take repetition, consistency, and time to quiet the inner critic and speak compassionately to yourself too! Through this daily practice, you can massively improve your compassion for yourself and quiet your inner critic. I love looking back to where I was even just a few months ago, and seeing how much improvement has been made! I hope this is healing for you too. For more on conquering your negative thoughts, check out this blog post! How can I help? Please let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments below!

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35 thoughts on “5 Steps to Quiet Your Inner Critic”

  1. I love the question about what are the intentions of your inner critic. What a great perspective to bring to self-criticism. Love that!

    1. Thank you so much! Questioning the intentions of the inner critic definitely made a huge difference to me! Hope it helps 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing this! A someone who’s trying to become a better writer, it’s important to silence that inner critic as you gather your thoughts and put them on paper. Before you know it, new ideas are born

    1. I agree completely! Once I started this work, I found so much creativity I hadn’t tapped into before because of the self-criticism. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. I’ll have to check out this workbook to help me quiet my inner critic!!! I think I’m also a perfectionist. It’s hard but it’s good to work on being kinder to yourself.

  4. Charlie-Elizabeth Nadeau

    Love how you termed this the inner critic! We all have a tendency to listen too much to that inner critic and let it stop us from doing what we really want to. Great tips!

    1. Thanks so much! I agree, I used to listen to the inner critic way too much, and have also found that I have a tendency to be much harder on myself than others. Time to introduce grace and self-love! Thanks for reading!

    1. I agree, I tend to offer others grace but never cut myself some slack. It’s so important though that we work to offer ourselves compassion. I hope this helps!

  5. Great post Val! Very effective to look within and wonder why your inner critic is being so critical. Thanks for sharing such an insightful and helpful post! Inner critics can really be a part of our life but I am so thankful this post addresses how to respond to it.

  6. Thank you for the post. These resonate with me as my inner critic often is quite loud and stubborn. Good tips. And once you are mindful of these, as a perfectionist, the 70% rule may help. It allows you to consider your tasks completed once you reach 70% perfection. (We can never reach perfection anyway.)

    1. Hi there, I’m so glad this post resonated with you! I can be so quick to get caught up in the details, so much so that it’s practically impossible to call a task complete! You are so right, and the 70% rule has been so helpful in me reclaiming my power over my to-do list!

    1. Thanks for your feedback! You are so right, we have to be careful to listen to our conscience and not our inner critic. It can be very hard to decipher between the two, however!

  7. I love this post. It is a very thought provoking post and I can see I do a few things you mentioned. I will bookmark it as I like to read it again. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts! I have this practice written out in my journal so I can re-reference again when I need it too!

    1. You definitely are not alone! It’s very easy to let our minds slip into listening to the inner critic; I hope this is helpful for you!

  8. Pingback: 7 Phrases to Avoid in Your Marriage - Val's Magical Life

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