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Taming Your Inner Critic in 6 Steps

Written by Posted On Monday, 18 November 2019 05:25

Do you have a nasty little inner critic living in your brain that fills your head with negative messages like, “You’re not smart enough to do that”, “what makes you think YOU can be successful”, “you’re not pretty enough, skinny enough, rich enough…you’re not enough.” 

We all do, even very successful people have an inner critic, so you’re not alone.  There are times where that inner critic is being helpful—like reminding you that eating that huge slice of cheesecake will derail your healthy weight loss goals—but most of the time, the messages are negative and are downright harmful to our self-esteem.

Sometimes that little voice can sound like a critical parent or teacher from our childhood—and many times you did hear those limiting beliefs when you were a kid and internalized them. Even a well-intentioned message from an adult to a child, such as “don’t do that, you might get hurt” can turn into an internalized message that prevents you from taking healthy risks to grow personally or professionally. 

So, how do we learn to silence the negative self- talk? There are several techniques that can help. Let’s take a look:

1. Become aware.

The very first step is to become aware of when the inner critic is speaking. If you just caught yourself saying something negative to yourself that you would not say to a loved one, chances are that was your inner critic speaking.

2. Change your language.

It’s not easy to stop negative self-talk, so reframe it to less intense language. If your self-talk is saying “I hate this…” change the words to “I don’t like this…” It may still be negative—but a lot of the “oomph” has been defused.

3. Is it true?

If you catch the inner critic saying something like “You always fail at everything you do” (notice that broad, sweeping judgment) -- ask yourself “is that true?” Think of examples of times you did something when you didn’t fail – and I’m willing to bet that list is lengthy—and confront that voice with the evidence of times you succeeded. Challenge those negative messages and stand up for what is true about yourself.

4. Be your own best friend. 

Would you tell your best friend something like “oh my gosh, I can’t even believe you wore that, you looked horrible.” We would never say such a hurtful thing to a good friend.  If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself. Become your own best friend and be kind!

5. Stop the thought.

If you are thinking the same negative thoughts over and over, you need to stop them in their tracks. Sometimes something as simple as picturing a stop sign in your mind, snapping a rubber band on your wrist, or pinching yourself will create a pattern interrupt to derail that negative thought. Always follow up with telling yourself something positive to deflect the negativity. If your self-talk said “you’re not good enough to [fill in the blank]”, counter it with, “I am very good at [fill in the blank]” or some other positive message about yourself.

6. Make a list. 

Sit down and make a list of at least twenty things you do well. If you have trouble with this, enlist the help of a good friend, a sibling, or a trusted work associate and ask them what you do well. When you’re noticing that your inner critic is getting too noisy, pull out your list and read it to yourself.  This list doesn’t have to be about the big achievements in life-it can be as simple as “I make the most delicious chocolate brownies,” or “I am always kind to animals.” The point is, write down a list of things that make you feel good about yourself.

Negative self-talk causes stress, increases depression, and lowers self-esteem. This insidious little voice can undermine our efforts for self-improvement and keep us from growing professionally. While taming the inner-critic doesn’t happen overnight, if you consistently apply these techniques, you’ll start to see an increase in your happiness and energy levels. Start believing in yourself—you can do anything you set your mind to do!

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Terri Murphy

Terri Murphy, Communication engagement specialist, author, speaker, consultant, and Master Coach with Workman Success.  She is the author of 5 books, TedTalk speaker and co-radio host on Contact: or Email:

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