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I silenced my inner critic and become more confident than ever

Psychotherapist Tasha Bailey explains how simple changes can make a huge difference to overcoming that negative inner voice

I silenced my inner critic and become more confident than ever
Millie Jackson
Freelance Writer
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Many of us have a voice inside that tells us we're not good enough – whether that's good enough for a promotion, a good enough friend or a good enough mother. 

When we've had an entire lifetime of speaking negatively to ourselves, it can feel impossible to overcome that inner critic, but the good news is, there is a way to silence our own negativity. 

Here, psychotherapist Tasha Bailey explains where our inner critic comes from and shares essential advice for silencing that negative voice. 

What is an inner critic?

Our inner voice is the constant conversation that we have with ourselves through our thoughts. Sometimes, this voice can become a pattern of negative self-talk thanks to our inner critic. Our inner critic is a part of our inner voice which is full of judgement and negativity.  

At the best of times, its job is to give us a sense of direction, guidance and motivation towards our goals and the person we’re trying to become. It can be a source of wisdom which tells us what we need to do to grow and be better. 

But if we don’t keep our inner critic in check, it can hold us to unrealistic expectations and focus on the negativity of our failures. As a result, we might end up disproportionately beating ourselves up for our mistakes and our shortcomings.  

A strong inner critic often has high, impossible and perfectionistic expectations which we can never realistically meet. We are endlessly working towards the ever-changing goals alongside the constant jeering from our inner critic, which can rob us of our confidence, joy and wellbeing. 

What might an inner critic tell us?

Our inner critic is constantly evaluating things about ourselves, telling us whether we are good enough. It might comment on our physical appearance, our work, our lifestyle choices and competence and our worth.

Tell-tale signs of our inner critic thoughts are when we hear ourselves using comparative language, e.g. 'I should/shouldn't have', shaming language, e.g. 'I’m rubbish when it comes to', or blaming language, e.g. 'Why didn’t I?'

READ: Why wonderment is key for a happier day 

Our inner critic will often blame and shame ourselves for mistakes, even though mistakes are human and necessary for us to grow and learn. 

Whilst we do need our inner critic to some extent, for example letting us know when we said something inappropriate, it can be  toxic when we're left with ruminating and self-punishing thoughts.   

woman looking to the side with head in hands
Our inner critic can make us miserable

Where does our inner critic come from? 

From the age of six or seven, we start to internalise the things we learn from school and family life and they become part of our moral compass.

We start to learn about what society expects of us, what is failure and how it can cause us embarrassment, so our inner critic takes form in order to help us avoid embarrassment or failure by striving for perfection and the expectations that we will eventually place on ourselves. Whilst we’re building our moral compass, the voice of our inner critic builds too.

Our inner critic decreases our confidence
Our inner critic decreases our confidence

Our childhood experiences have a big part to play when it comes to how strong-willed our inner critic is. The criticism that we receive as a child has a part in moulding the shape of our inner critic.

Any experiences we had of being told off, judged or given high, perfectionistic expectations from others as a child, will often become internalised as our inner critic. It means that we are more likely to internalise our mistakes and blame ourselves when things go wrong, taking more accountability than we should.  

READ: I'm a confidence coach - these are the 3 rules I tell all my clients 

How to challenge – and silence – your inner critic

1. Listen to how you speak to yourself   

So many of us operate on autopilot, that we forget to listen to the ways that we speak to ourselves. 

A great way to notice how you speak to yourself is through allowing more pauses within your day. 

This could include journalling in the morning, going for short walk with your thoughts or having a five-minute sensory rest at some point in your day. It can be a great moment to check in with what you’re feeling and the thoughts you're carrying. Our inner critic will often show up the most when things aren’t going to plan, so be extra intentional with having these pause moments when you’re having a difficult day. 

READ: How journalling changed my life

2. Give your inner critic a name (and a new job title)  

A playful way to challenge your inner critic is to give it a name. When we give our inner critical voice a name, we are finding a way to separate it from our other thoughts. By giving our inner critic a name and even a personality, we can start to respond to it. Telling Colin the Critic to sit down and shut up can help to shift the shame you might be feeling and to feel a sense of autonomy instead.   

Shot of a young woman looking thoughtful while relaxing on the sofa at home© Getty
Our inner critic can be harsh

3. Discover who are the ghosts from your critical past  

Our inner critic comes from somewhere, so it's always a good idea to start unpacking where it came from. Think about your inner critic as a collection of people who were unfair or too harsh to you in the past. Who were those people? And what part did they have to play in how critical you are with yourself now?

One thing I suggest in my book is what do you wish you could say to that person now? Processing these memories can help to let go of some of the unhealthy expectations and criticism you might still be carrying as a result.  

4. From inner critic to inner wisdom  

Whilst it's important for us to hold ourselves accountable for our mistakes and mishaps, we also have to draw a line for when it is enough.

Our inner critic can bring us a lot of insight, but in order for it to be helpful it needs to be balanced and compassionate. So, whilst you find yourself criticising yourself, ask yourself questions from the other side of the coin: what did I do well? What do I like about myself today? What did I learn? How am I different to the person I was yesterday? If I made a mistake, what is the context behind why that happened?

Allow yourself to see the full picture of your growth and to celebrate yourself. It can sometimes be harder to accept a compliment (especially from yourself), but you deserve it. Compassion will help you thrive, criticism won’t.  

INSPIRATION: Ask a life coach: How can I stop comparing myself to others? 

5. Find your cheerleading squad  

It's common for people who have a strong inner critical voice to be attracted to other people who are openly very critical. 

When you are used to hearing the negativity of your own thoughts, it feels more familiar to surround yourself with people who equally have high expectations and criticisms towards you.

Take a moment to look at your current circle of loved ones. Who brings you up? Who brings you down? Be more intentional about who you give your time to, and find a circle of people who can hold you up and cheer you on when your inner critic is getting you down. 

Tasha's book, Real Talk: Therapy Lessons in Healing & Self-Love is out now.

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