Befriend your Inner Critic with 3 Top Tips

Portrait of Gemma Brown
by Gemma Brown
Published: Wednesday, 10 July, 2024

It was only last week when I was about to present a career planning workshop to a group of professional women when that nagging voice inside my head popped up to say:

‘Who do you think you are?’ ‘You have no idea what you are talking about.’ ‘Who in their right mind would want to listen to you?’.

The inner critic

I became so focused on what my inner voice was saying that I stopped focusing on my usual preparation routine before the workshop. I became derailed. I got nervous, I started sweating and doubting myself, and began to go through various excuses as to how I could back out of the workshop. I know I’m not alone in this. Many clients, friends, peers, and colleagues (of all ages, genders, and backgrounds) share with me their experiences of their own inner critics and the impact it has on them. It often sounds like:

  • I’m not someone who...
  • I will never be able to...
  • Who do you even think you are...
  • You’ll never succeed so you may as well give up
  • You’re not as good as x, y, z...
Smart and thoughtful mature woman holding her chin and looking uncertain doubtful.

Positivity

When others share this with me, I feel sad, and yet, here I was, speaking in the same way to myself. Imagine the amount of time you spend beating yourself up when you could be focussing on all the other amazing things you want to do with your life. Applying for that job with confidence, starting a new venture with curiosity, saying yes to a new hobby and feeling excited, challenging a colleague without holding back, sending the email without hesitation... If only we could prevent the spiraling of self-doubt and turn our attention to much more positive thoughts and actions.

I’m here to tell you that you can.

So, how do we change that inner critic to one of a cheerleader or a friend? I use the term ‘change’ here very intentionally because I (sadly) don’t believe that inner voice goes away. I think it is ingrained as an inbuilt mechanism for keeping us safe from harm. I do believe, however, that you can befriend it, that you can develop a kinder, more compassionate relationship with it so that it champions you and motivates you forwards.

Portrait of excited overjoyed business woman with grey hair standing with raised fists and shouting yeah, I'm a winner, rejoicing victory, success

Here are some first steps you can take to reframe your inner critic:

  1. Bring it out of the darkness - start to notice when your inner critic pops up. What situations? What environments? Who are you with? Are there patterns or themes? When you are aware of these, you’re more likely to be able to prepare for those situations in future. Begin to build awareness by reflecting on situations after they’ve happened. Writing down what your inner critic says is a powerful way of shining a light on that voice. Importantly, try to notice what the consequences are of your inner voice - what is it preventing you from being able to do?
  1. Distance yourself- It’s easy to get caught up in unhelpful thought-spirals with the inner critic - not helpful when you want to feel confident. Gain space between yourself and your negative self-talk by labelling it ‘inner critic’ when it appears, reminding yourself that you are not your thoughts, and this is one of many voices. Talk to the inner critic as though it is external to you. Another way to distance yourself from the inner critic is to ask yourself ‘What would I be saying to a friend right now?’ or journaling the conversation out onto paper - one side as the inner critic, and one side as a compassionate and wise friend. What do you notice?
  1. Reframe the message - as we’ve seen above, the inner critic voice can be pretty harsh. Challenge yourself to reframe it: for every negative, critical message, write down three positive alternatives - ‘You can’t do this’ becomes ‘You can do this’, ‘You have done hard things before’, ‘You will learn’ etc. The more you practise this, the easier it becomes to listen to empowering messages when you need them.

Believe in your ability to transform your inner dialogue

Remember this is a practice so be kind to yourself when navigating reframing your inner critic. Most of us have experienced the inner critic for years and years so it has become deeply embedded, often our default internal narrative when faced with something new. Take your time and commit to one of the tools above for 7 days and see what difference you notice. I use these tools all the time. When that inner critic appears, I’m now much faster to go through my checklist of tools and turn that critic into a more balanced cheerleader who lifts me up and doesn’t hold me back.

You can too—believe in your ability to transform your inner dialogue and experience the positive changes it brings!

About the Author

Gemma Brown is a personal and business coach.

Find out more at gemmabrowncoaching.co.ukLinkedInInstagram 

Portrait of Gemma Brown

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