Think of a small, vulnerable child. You yell at her, tell her she’s always making a mess and that she’ll never amount to anything. Does this make her shape up and do better? No! She shrinks into her little corner, afraid to make another move. Or maybe she lashes out at you in anger.

Inside you is the child you were. Every time you criticize yourself, you cringe.

Do you call yourself names like “stupid” when things go wrong? Or make damaging generalizations about yourself such as “I can NEVER get things right” or “I’m ALWAYS late”? When you are having a problem and don’t feel good about yourself, observe your thoughts. What are you saying to yourself?

If you find that you are constantly putting yourself down, you are dominated by your Inner Critic.

What is your Inner Critic?

It is a voice that comes from the negative messages you received in childhood, usually from parents or other authority figures. These messages have become internalized and, if left unchecked, now rule your life.

Although it will take time and persistence, you CAN take back control of your life. You do this by talking back to your Inner Critic.

1. Understand your Inner Critic.

Recognize that this nagging voice is trying to protect you from harm and making mistakes, in its own way. It is only imitating how you were told things when young. Unfortunately criticism and self-blame just don’t work.

2. Change your self-talk.

Observe your thoughts and replace each negative statement with a KIND thought. For instance, when you misplace an important object, instead of berating yourself, say something like, “I must be tired. Maybe I’m doing too much.”

3. Give yourself praise …when you do something difficult. With a strong Inner Critic, you are apt to look only at the stuff you HAVEN’T done. Acknowledge the positive actions you are taking in your life. One way to do this is to give yourself credit at the end of each day for what you did by writing it down in a journal. It’s hard to ignore what is written in black and white.

4. Eliminate the “shoulds” in your life.

Do you feel that you “should” be more successful? Smarter? Better looking? Or maybe that you “should” help out an acquaintance even though you have other priorities? This is another way that your Inner Critic puts you down. It gets you to compare yourself to others, often according to standards that do not fit who you are.

Counter every “should” with a “WHY should I?” and follow the thought through with a “so what?” or “what does that mean?” as in the example below. This is called cognitive thinking.

I “should” drop what I’m doing to help Sally organize her dinner party.

Why should I?
Because she expects me to do this. If I don’t do it, she’ll think I’m a terrible friend.

So what? What if she thinks I’m a terrible friend?
Then she won’t want to see me anymore.

What does that mean?
It means I won’t have any friends and will be all alone.

At this point you realize that you are afraid of losing her friendship. Maybe you have to get to work early tomorrow and you’re already feeling tired. It’s important to respect your own feelings rather than give into fear.

5. Respect your own feelings.

Your Inner Critic doesn’t care how you feel. The messages you received as a child likely told you that your feelings didn’t count. The truth is, you need to feel good about yourself to be satisfied with your life and what you are doing.

To find out what you really feel (and not what you think you SHOULD feel), start a small journal. Let your emotions out in the privacy of its pages as often as you can, 15 minutes a day if possible. Ask yourself how you are feeling about different issues or people in your life. Listen to yourself!

6. Argue back.

For far too long your Inner Critic has gotten away with a one-sided dialogue. You probably felt that you had no choice but to follow its dictates. Not true! The next time you experience an inner conflict or feel bad about yourself, stop and listen to your thoughts. Challenge them.


You are working as a translator. After finishing a project, you are feeling defeated. You realize it is because your colleague completed two projects in the time it took you to complete one.

Your Inner Critic is saying: “I must be really slow. I will never get anywhere in this business. I just don’t have what it takes.”

Your challenge (refute each point with logic):
“I’m NOT slow. My project was longer and more time-consuming than hers. My client was satisfied with my work and there was only one small revision to make afterwards. Today I found out that my colleague’s work was not up to par. She had to make a lot of changes.

“Maybe I take a little longer with my product but I do a better job. All the feedback I have been getting tells me that I DO have what it takes to succeed in this business.”

Remember, it has taken YEARS for your Inner Critic to get this powerful or this nasty.

You must be persistent in observing your thoughts and challenging them
before you can turn your thinking around.

Gradually your Inner Critic will lose its strength and a kinder, more understanding part of you will find its voice.

Author's Bio: 

Thelma Mariano, life coach and author, is dedicated to bringing clarity and direction to people’s lives. Drawing on fifteen years of personal development work, she helps clients to recognize their unique gifts and overcome blocks in order to achieve their dreams. See her on-line coaching programs, articles and column at