Making Peace With Your Inner Critic

Do you believe you are capable? Do you feel confident? Are you comfortable making mistakes? What message do you tell yourself about you?

A healthy, objective inner critic can help you excel in life and an unhealthy, harsh inner critic can hold you back. Many of us have an unreasonable and hateful inner critic that lives in our heads that tells us we can’t.

The perfectionism problem

I was a perfectionist from childhood to early adulthood. I said “I can’t” far more often than I said “I can”. I didn’t believe in myself. When I started a project I experienced almost debilitating fear of failure.

I judged myself so harshly that it was difficult to complete a task because I was overly critical of my efforts along the way. Though I loved to write, sing, dance, and draw, I often judged my talents based on my first attempt, telling myself I wasn’t really any good at it.

This inner criticism kept me from trying many new things and when I did try, I often didn’t have the courage to see it through to completion. I did not accept praise from others because I couldn’t praise myself.

Fortunately I was tired of feeling miserable with myself and my life, and I began my journey to learn to let go of my own unreasonable expectations.

Is your inner critic holding you back or pushing you forward

Unhealthy inner criticism is born of perfectionism, as well as trying to live up to other people’s expectations. You may experience harsh judgment of ourselves when you don’t accept yourself as you are.  Sometimes you have been berated by others until you believed what they said about you. Maybe you’re comparing yourself to someone else.

Healthy, realistic criticism can be beneficial by helping us determine when you need to set boundaries or ask for help. A healthy inner critic can provide valuable information about your skills and abilities and challenge you to improve.

When your inner dialogue turns from honest and humble to minimizing and belittling you have a problem. Your inner voice is no longer acting as an objective voice of reason when you feel discouraged instead of challenged.

Making peace with your inner critic

making peace with your inner criticPhoto Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

If your inner critic is holding you back it’s time to shift your mindset. Here’s some ideas to try:

Focus on your actions, not your results

An unhealthy inner critic often focuses on the outcome over the action but oftentimes what’s really important is taking action. You learn and grow by doing, and preemptively judging the results of your efforts keeps you from trying. Acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of your effort instead of the outcome. Doing the right thing holds more value than getting the “right” result.

Check your expectations

If your expectations of yourself cause feelings of fear and stress chances are your expectations are unreasonable. It may also be helpful to ask for feedback from a trusted mentor or friend. An objective person can sometimes see when your expectation of yourself is unreasonable when you cannot.

Ignore everyone else’s expectations

You can try to live up to someone else’s expectations but living your life for another person’s approval is likely to result in a pretty miserable life! Even if you do everything right, which is impossible (see above re: perfectionism), you still can’t control what anyone else thinks of your life.

Tell yourself you can (even if you don’t believe it yet)

To make a good effort you need to believe it’s possible for you to accomplish what you set out to do. (And you can!) In the beginning it may be helpful to “fake it ’til you make it”, as they say.

Just do it!

Sometimes the best thing you can do is push through the fear and criticism in your head and just do it. You may not feel good about it at first but if you keep at it you may soon find that criticism has been replaced with confidence and competence!

I love your comments! Have you tried any of these tips to overcome your inner critic? How else have you overcome self criticism?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Hi Chrysta,

    Your words ring true and brought tears to my eyes. When I was young, ALL I wanted to do was sing and play guitar. Things happened and I never really did. Each time I took lessons- piano, guitar, vocal, I quit after a few months. 6 months ago, at age 38, I became a Dad! My son and wife have inspired me to become the man I have always dreamed of being. I haven’t put my guitar down in 2 weeks, nor have I stopped singing and I’ll tell you- I’ve come a long way in a short time. Other things like putting up blinds, fixing the sink, etc…I used to put off until someone else came to help. Now, I go at it and if I make a mistake….well, it can be fixed. I am not fully there yet, but my inner critic is rapidly becoming a dear, trusted friend. And what a difference it has made! Keep up the good work Chrysta- what you do really does have an affect on others! God bless.

    • Wow! Thanks for your awesome comment, Mike. I loved reading your experience. Congratulations on becoming a Dad and pursuing a life that is meaningful and joyful for you!

      It’s true, mistakes can be fixed. Waiting for things to be perfect or ideal to pursue our dreams and creative outlets means we’ll be waiting a long time. Living a great life is just about doing, not perfecting. And I have learned the more I do, the better I get! :)

      I’m so grateful for your comment and your story! Thanks again. Have an awesome day!

      Chrysta

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Michael!

      I absolutely agree that we all have to live with our own decisions and so it matters less what other people think of our decisions if we know we’re making good choices. My motto is do the next right thing and what comes after will be right.

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  2. I learned early on that mistakes are inevitable, so allow them to happen and then learn from them. This is what I go by today as well. It doesn’t matter if I am writing a blog post or creating a business plan, there will always be mistakes but in order to be successful you must overcome them and move forward.

    What are your thoughts on my philosophy?

    Adam

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Adam!

      I absolutely agree with the philosophy you shared. So much so I wrote a post about mistakes and learning from them. We get ourselves into trouble when we start thinking it’s wrong to make mistakes because this often keeps us from trying and keeps us down when we do try and fall down.

      Thanks for sharing your excellent philosophy! I’m sorry for not replying sooner- for some reason I did not receive notification of your comment.

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  3. Didn’t everyone battle their inner critics? I mean I sure did. Dang!

    Okay, I think mine stemmed from not being good in school so I didn’t really have a lot of faith in myself that I could do a lot. I use to say I can’t all the time too Chrysta.

    Now if it was something I was good at or knew a good bit about then I had all the confidence in the world. It took me some time to understand how to intertwine them both. Man, it sure has taken me years to be able to accomplish that.

    Thanks for being so honest Chrysta and helping us all know we’re not alone in this. That goodness though that we’re all eager to learn, grow and be better human beings.

    Enjoy your day young lady and thanks again for this wonderful message.

    ~Adrienne

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Adrienne!

      It’s hard for me to imagine you saying “I can’t”. Today you have such an inspiring can-do attitude! I appreciate you sharing your story as a reminder that all of us struggle with something and what matters is overcoming obstacles to create a great life.

      Thanks again for your comment! I sincerely apologize for not replying sooner- I have not been receiving my comment notifications this week and I haven’t checked my dashboard until today. I’ll be keeping a closer eye on it in the future.

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  4. Great message Chrysta. You can definitely count me among those who’ve battled the inner-critic demon. I clearly (and painfully) remember once being awarded some big ho-ha award at a company I worked for and instead of simply taking the opportunity to appreciate the moment, and maybe even myself just a little – I made it my mission to convince everyone that ANY ONE could have done it, that it was just luck of the draw. What a dope. Anyway, eventually I realized what I was doing and awareness has improved the problem, but that old demon still lurks in the background so thanks for the great tips!

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Marquita!

      I really appreciate the story you shared about downplaying the award you received at work- I have done that before, too! One of the hardest things for me to learn was to change my reply to compliments and praise. I started to simply reply by saying, “thank you!” instead of minimizing my efforts.

      Thanks again for stopping by and commenting. Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  5. Great points, Chrysta! I think that doing your last point by “just doing it” will cease any inner critic and, usually, results in taking a bold, successful step forward. If the action being analyzed is an essential element of living a meaningful life, then just do it. We need to get the ball rolling; it is the only way momentum in life can be achieved.

    Thanks for encouraging everyone along! Jon

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Jon!

      I have found that sometimes I have to try something even if I’m convinced it won’t work out because I’m not always right about that. I can’t predict the future and the only future that is certain is not accomplishing a task when I don’t even try.

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  6. Chrysta,
    I love this so much! And I do, because I too often limit myself by just not taking steps forward (just doing it).

    So, today – you’ve given me a jolt of inspiration – to move forward – and learn and grow in the process – and move onto new heights!

    Thank you!!

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Lance!

      Taking steps forward is what we must do to make progress but it’s so easy to convince ourselves not to even try as if we know what the outcome will be before we start. I’m glad I inspired you today as much as I appreciate being inspired every time I stop by your blog!

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta