Do you struggle with a critical inner voice?
Are you too judgmental with yourself and others?
When I started sharing my writing back in 2007, I had a whirlwind of negativity wreaking havoc in my head.
I didn’t know enough. My english wasn’t good enough. The list goes on and on.
But that didn’t stop me.
I challenged those thoughts, and I discovered something that surprised me.
What is an Inner Critic?
It’s not an entity. There is no green hobbit sitting inside your head with an ‘inner critic’ hat on.
It’s just a label for a group of judgmental and critical thoughts.
It can feel like the inner critic is this little person living in your head, but if you see it for what it truly is, you see that it’s a thought, or multiple thoughts.
And you have an attachment to those thoughts because you believe them. If you didn’t believe the inner critic, it would hold no power over you.
The moment you stop taking your thoughts so seriously, that’s the moment your life will change.
So how do you tame, or overcome, the inner critic?
3 Steps to Overcoming Your Inner Critic – Video
Below is the video version of this post. However, the article and video are different from each other, so it’s beneficial to read/watch both.
1. Stop & Notice
Pay attention to when your inner critic rears its imaginary head.
When a thought arrives, watch it. You don’t have to give it power just because it comes in.
I still have an inner critic. While writing this, I have the occasional thought that says that something is wrong. But it doesn’t affect me in the way it used to, because I’ve challenged it so many times (more on this in step #2).
The first step is to become aware that critical thoughts are swirling in your head.
If you aren’t aware, then you’re completely identified with the inner critic, and you most likely believe everything it says.
But when you shift your perspective to observing, you see that thoughts come and go, and you don’t have to entertain every single one.
So notice when a thought comes in. Notice also your wanting to do something about it.
2. Look for the Evidence
I broke the vicious cycle by challenging my thoughts.
Let’s take an example. A thought might say: “Hey, this article isn’t good enough. You don’t make any sense. Who do you think you are?”
One reaction could’ve been: “Oh yeah, you’re right. I’m going to give up. I’m a worthless nobody.”
A better way would be to challenge the thought and go: “That’s interesting. Where’s the evidence that this article isn’t good enough? I won’t know until I publish, right? And besides, I’m learning. The only way to get better is by writing more.”
Remember, challenging your thoughts is a practice. I’ve been doing this for well over a decade now. The result? Having more fun doing what I love.
3. Embrace Your Inner Rascal
So you become aware that you’re experiencing a critical thought. Then you notice if it’s true, you look for the evidence.
Finally, you embrace your inner rascal. You could even use the inner critic against itself by being critical of the critical thoughts.
When I say being critical, what I mean is that you investigate. You poke holes in the arguments of your inner critic.
You have to be a bit adventurous to do this, because when you challenge a thought or belief, it feels dangerous. It feels like your survival is at stake.
If you don’t feel good enough, and you challenge that, you may be sweating as you take the next step. However, once that step is taken, you realize that nothing bad happened.
The more you do this, the more energized you become, because you realize that you can challenge any thought, any belief. And you can begin to do what you love.
A Non-Critical Takeaway
Don’t take this too seriously. Play with this. Dance with your inner critic.
When you begin to follow your bliss, fears may bubble up to the surface. It’s normal. It just means that it’s time to let them go, so you can move forward.
You hold all the power here.
You create your experience by the thoughts and beliefs you choose to entertain.
This life is a journey of creation. So enjoy both what you want, and what you don’t want. It’s there to help you grow and dive deeper into who you really are.
All the best,
P.S. If you’d like to learn how to become more compassionate toward yourself, I invite you to check out my book Follow Your Heart: 21 Days to a Happier, More Fulfilling Life.
Hi Henri. Great post. I’m having struggles with 2 things. 1) finding my niche for my blog – wellness fitness – I have it down to a couple things – just not sure how I know which one I should go with? My passion is the same for both I believe. 2) I have these negative thoughts all the time telling me that I’m just me, I can’t make a business out of my passion, etc.
Don’t worry too much about finding a niche. Just start with what most interests you, and follow that thread. As you move forward, and challenge your thoughts, you’ll see that they don’t have to be taken so seriously. Plus, you’ll gain clarity on your focus. So just keep going, and have fun.
Will do. Thank you!
Brian, you have a great smile and I can tell that you have enough passion for your ideas that you can make them work!
I’ve had the same struggles with doubt, but I just jumped into some blogging to get started, plus working on some books I’m writing. Nothing is perfect, and never will be, but we can improve as we go along, as Henri has said.
I would suggest taking some moments when you can breathe and get centered and then see if an answer comes to you regarding which way to go with your business ideas. You can always start and then switch later if something doesn’t feel right.
Good luck with everything! I know you can do it!
Anh Nguyen says
I know how much it sucks to have that inner critic inside your head.
As a perfectionist, I struggle with this almost everyday, while I’ve learned to work with it, it doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park. Most of the time it’s not.
After reading your post, I think the mistake I made all this time is to identify with those voices and “take them too seriously”.
It’s a struggle as I’m still recovering from some childhood trauma that left me with very little self-worth, but I’ll take your advice to heart and try to be aware and detach myself from them.
Thanks for sharing as always. 🙂
It may not always be easy, but it sounds like you’re making great progress. One step at a time. Thanks for commenting 🙂
Eric Heavilin says
I’m actually starting a new website as well. I’m just taking small steps this time, disregarding what I know so I can actually see what works rather than assume and plan big and then never go anywhere.
It should be pretty awesome to see the results over time as I take action, learn and grow.
That sounds glorious, Eric!
Derrick Kwa says
Love this. The inner critic is something that I struggle with all the time too. And you’re right, the more you challenge it, the better you get at it. I’ve also found it helps to make it a point to regularly recognize the things you do well, no matter how small. That helps to not take the criticisms too personally, and be able to separate “okay, maybe this work can be improved” from “this work sucks, so i suck”.
Well put, Derrick. Just because the thoughts happen in our head doesn’t mean they are personal. It’s a part of the human experience. And we all go through the same themes. Thanks for the comment 🙂
Hey Henri, and team, I find my inner voice contains varying threads…some of them are actions or behaviours that I should do or not do…, and also about me doing nothing and then even varying emotions and thoughts on top of each of those. I feel the inner joker voice in my heart and head battle and position one another.
Howdy. That’s usually how it is. The more you think those voices mean anything, the more energized they will be. But you can simply watch, and notice your mind doing its dance. At first it may be difficult, but over time it gets easier. Thanks for reading and commenting. Appreciate it 🙂
Sheila Bergquist says
Hi Henri. I love your videos and your voice is so calming, it really makes me feel better. You do a great job. I have an extreme anxiety disorder and my main problem with the inner critic is believing I will never get over this, never heal myself and be “normal” again. Any extra tips to deal with this? Thanks.
Challenge every thought that comes. If it’s “I’ll never get over this,” ask yourself it that’s true. There are people in the world who have, which means you have some probability of doing the same.
There are many modalities you can explore, such as Byron Katie’s The Work, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, and so on. Meditation has also proven effective. Pick what resonates with you right now.
Also beware of the uniqueness fallacy which says something along the lines of: No one can understand you and things that work for others will not work for you.
The more you challenge your thoughts, the more you see that they aren’t real. A thought pops up, a feeling might follow, and it feels real. But just because it feels real doesn’t mean it is real. It is just an experience.
Another article that might help: https://www.wakeupcloud.com/how-to-stop-negative-thoughts/
Hope this helps! 🙂
Sheila Bergquist says
Thank you Henri! I will read that article.
I’m a little confused aboutthis. I really like it in some of your articles when it says that when a negative thought comes, simply just watch and let it go. But then in this article is says to also go and challenge this thoughts. I don’t really feel so good when I read this, I mean, it scares me a little as I remember past experiences of trying to challenge thoughts and not being successful. Just wondering if you have any suggestions on this?
I haven’t found one way, or technique, to work for everything, so I have to remain flexible. The more you challenge your thoughts, the more you see that you do not have to be held back by your mind. But you have to be willing to see through the fear, and to see that your thoughts rarely know what’s going on. They’re just stories and what if scenarios dancing around in your head.
If a fear pops up, I rarely let it dictate what I do. Instead, I become curious and ask: Okay, let’s see if that’s true. Start by challenging small fears and anxieties, and see what happens.
Thanks for your reply. Understand your point on being flexible. So I guess (and you’ve written a bit about this in other articles as well) that if an inner critical thought comes by, it is best to simply watch it (and not give it power).
However, if there is a thought that comes by, and you have watched it and let it go by, but this thought keeps recurring and returning, then it might be something that you would have to address and see it for what it is – instead of just watching this thought go by. While it is best to not give thoughts power and to just watch them instead, you might have to address thoughts that keep recurring (and do have power – which is why they recur), and look for evidence and challenge them. This, I guess, would also remove the power from these recurring thoughts.
Is this how it works? Not trying to make this an ‘overly mental exercise’ but just really trying to understand how it works. Look forward to any validations or feedback from you.
Yes, that is a great place to start 🙂