Quieting the Inner Critic. Practical Ways to Treat Yourself With Kindness
We all have an inner critic — that nagging, judgemental voice in our heads that is quick to point out our flaws and mistakes. The inner critic sets impossibly high standards and is never satisfied with our efforts. This constant negativity erodes self-esteem and fuels anxiety, depression and burnout.
Where does this inner critic come from? Often it stems from childhood experiences where parents or other authority figures were highly critical. Or it may be a product of a society that values achievement and perfectionism. Whatever its origin, the inner critic aims to motivate us by criticism rather than encouragement.
Unfortunately, this method does more harm than good. A barrage of negative self-talk floods our minds and keeps us stuck in anxiety and despair. But we don’t have to be bullied by our inner critic. With some effort, we can break free of its grip and treat ourselves with the kindness and compassion we deserve.
Here are some tips to quiet your inner critic and practice self-compassion:
Identify and Challenge Critical Thoughts
The first step is to become aware of self-critical thoughts as they occur. What kind of language does your inner critic use? Is it reasonable or overly harsh? Ask yourself if a friend spoke to you this way, would you accept it? Whenever you notice self-judgement, visualize your inner critic as an external voice that you can choose to accept or reject.
A powerful strategy is to write down the criticisms and then refute them point by point. List examples and evidence that counter the attacks. This puts you back in a position of control rather than feeling battered by negativity.
Set Boundaries and Limit Time with Your Inner Critic
You can set boundaries with your inner critic, much like dealing with a toxic person. Limit the time you give it — perhaps 5–10 minutes daily to air its concerns. When the allotted time is up, gently say goodbye and move on.
It also helps to identify situations that trigger the inner critic — like preparing for an exam or presentation. Before and after, do an affirming activity to…