Dealing with self criticism

Understanding The Inner Critic

Self criticism is often the unconscious and self-inflicted continuation of the judging and punishing behavior of our childhood care givers.

The usual messages that are associated with this voice are: you’re not lovable as you are, you’re insignificant, you’re not enough, you’re a failure, you’re never going to amount to anything.

Everybody has an inner critic. It is a part of us that will always be there. How we react to it is what tears us down and keeps us in shame or propels us to grow and develop. The inner critic becomes  a problem when we identify completely with it as opposed to realizing that it is just a part of us. Healing our relationship with the inner critic is a lengthy process that requires patience, diligence and an ongoing process of self-awareness.


The painful side of the inner critic:

When we believe everything the Inner Critic says, everything else is discounted. We create a core belief that we are flawed. This is such a painful experience that we begin to create a false self to present to the world hoping that this will make us more acceptable.

Possible Symptoms That The Voice of the Inner Critic has become Toxic:

-addiction:we run from this pain through distraction. Because we are convinced we are flawed and defective we become addicted to altering our mood. ex: gambling, alcohol and drugs etc

– narcissism: we use magical thinking to create the illusion of superiority ex: white supremacy

– rage: acting shameless by shaming someone else “How can you be stupid for spilling the milk?”

– perfectionism: living a life in which we can never make a mistake and we can have no grace

– compulsive behavior: compulsive lying, kleptomania


The helpful side of the inner critic:

Sometimes the inner critic points our things that we are not good at. Knowing our limitations encourages us to ask for help and collaborate with others. In that way we create:

– community: because we are not perfect we are able to recognize we need others in our lives

– self growth through creativity and learning: because we make mistakes we are motivated to express our feelings through art and to learn from them

– healthy boundaries: because we know our limitations we can set healthy boundaries

– awareness of needs: our inner critic always point us towards something that is important to us

– self-control: we sometimes feel ashamed when we want something is not good for us

– connection with higher self: we can keep in mind a higher purpose than the one we are able to perceive.

have a talk with your inner critic. negotiate a little. who knows, you may become friends

How to show up in the judicial court the inner critic:

  • The accusation: pay attention to the allegations of the voice in your head. The voice of the Inner Critic may be the loudest at times but it is not the only one. Simply by observing your inner critic you are diminishing it’s shaming power.
  • Show up with an attorney: Connect to the parts of you that are loving, wise and understanding. What can you learn from the people who support you and encourage you: your best friend, your grandmother? Practice compassion on a daily basis by showing up as an attorney: the more you give permission to others to be themselves the more you will give yourself permission to be yourself.
  • Is the Inner Critic a Fair Judge? How does the judge assign meaning to what happens: with a fixed mindset– imperfections are shameful and unacceptable. “You made a mistake therefore you are a mistake forever and you be punished by life in shame.” or with a growth mindset- “You’ve made a mistake and can improve with practice therefore you are sentenced to a healthy strategy”
  • Restrain the judge: This is where healthy boundaries come in place. The judge may want to keep accusing and hear no defense. This is where to have to put a firm and loving limit to how much you listen to the inner critic. Has the judge heard from all the witnesses? Invite perspectives from other parts of yourself that can testify for you. Beware of fake witnesses that may use unrelated examples to further your unworthiness.
  • Expose the judge: If the judge continues with a mean and shameful sentence then share your difficulty and pain with others.

We are as sick as our secrets are hidden. We constantly live in the fear that people we care about and people we just meet are going to find out that we are flawed and defective. In order to heal toxic shame you must come out of hiding and share your shame. ” Come out of the dark!

  • Build a relationship of awe and trust with your source or higher self. Remember that we can’t always grasp the purpose of things. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A powerful prayer may be: “God, please help me see the perfection in this situation.”
  • Create a strategy for bettering yourself right away. Whatever the verdict go into self nurture mode. Be gentle and loving to yourself and create next step actions that can support you.

Practice exercise:

1) Write a negative message you tell yourself often:

Example: I am a terrible dancer

2) Add one of these words in your sentence: 

Occasionally/ Sometimes

Example: I am a terrible dancer sometimes.

3) Add BUT

Example: I am a terrible dancer sometimes but…


4) Create a strategy for growth through effort

Example: I am a terrible dancer sometimes BUT I’m getting better every time I practice/ I’ve started dancing lessons.


5) If this is something that cannot be improved on then find something else about yourself that you CAN use to expand yourself.

 Example: I am a terrible dancer sometimes BUT I am getting better at social situations.



Positive Affirmations For Dealing With The Inner Critic:

self acceptance affirmation


“I release the need to be one way or another. When I’m fully present in the now I am always enough”

” There’s something about seeing myself grow that motivates me and excites me.”

” When I practice loving myself I practice loving my higher self”

i love myself and my higher self quote from emotional health coaching dot com

Homework Questions:

How do you react to your overly shaming inner critic?

  • Do you bow your head and agree?
  • Do you resist, react and reject?

What could be the purpose of your inner critic? What needs might it be trying to make you aware of?

Invite your inner critic to enter a conversation: “Can you tell me more?”

Could you collaborate or negotiate with he/she/it?

How else other than criticism can you pay attention to yourself?

how else other than criticism can you pay attention to yourself quote from emotional health coaching dot com

Additional Sources:

“Healing the shame that binds you”- John Bradshaw

“The power of vulnerability”- Brene Brown

“Why is it always about you?”- Sandy Hotchkins

“Mindset” – Carol Dwek