Befriend Your Inner Critic to Live a Happier Life
Updated: Feb 3
It’s likely no surprise, but you talk to yourself… a lot. We all do.
Unfortunately, much of what we say to ourselves is negative in the form of criticism. The nasty little voice we hear in our head telling us we suck most of the time.
This is called the inner critic.
All too often, we listen to it too. It says things we would never say to the people we love. Yet, we still listen to the mean voice and take what it says as the truth.
Some people might not recognize this voice as separate from their own. Believe me, it is. It’s an accumulation of the negative experiences you learned as a child, not as an adult. The ones that were repeated or left a deep impression.
As you grew, these experiences may have been reinforced, but it all started from a child’s brain.
Let’s face it, we know how rational a child can be, especially an irritated one. Temper tantrums, the attention span of a minion, overreacting and little to no self-control. Plus, just saying whatever comes to their mind — even when it’s hurtful.
This is the sum of our inner critic.
The question is, how do we change what this negative little bugger has to say?
The most helpful way I know of to be happier, is to become friends with your inner critic.
I know I sound completely off my rocker right now. Just bear with me.
Becoming friends with your inner critic means you’re no longer giving it full power to determine your life and potential lack of happiness.
When you’re friends with someone and you share a true and deep connection, you can be open with one another and tell the other person how you feel. You take each other’s feelings into consideration and you hear each other out.
You don’t fuel your friend’s negativity. Instead you try to support them, to help them see the light and to move forward. Surprisingly, this also works for your inner critic.
All it wants is to be recognized and heard, just like your friend.
The same goes for the child I mentioned earlier, which is where your inner critic starts from — your negative childhood experiences.
Here are few things to help you befriend your inner critic to live a happier life.
Become more aware of what the negative voice is saying In order to make the friendship work, you first need to listen to what the other person is saying.
Your inner critic has a lot to say. Often too much.
It may say things like: You’re not good enough. You’re not worthy. That person will never date you. You should feel guilty or ashamed for what you did/said. You’ll never get that job, so don’t even apply. You’ll never lose the baby weight, so stop trying. It also likes to use words like always. For example “You’re always late.”
Start by listening to your inner critic for one week. Write down everything it says. This is key to hearing it and becoming aware of the type of messages it’s telling you.
Understand what your inner critic is actually trying to do
While it does a very poor job of it now that you’re an adult, your inner critic is actually trying to protect you. It wants to keep you safe from those childhood embarrassments and shameful experiences.
This is what it did when you were a child. This is what it’s still trying to do today.
Unfortunately, being that it’s in a child-like temper tantrum throwing state, it really doesn’t know how to protect you properly anymore.
Once you start to hear it and recognize it’s simply trying to keep you safe, you can start to kindly (like speaking to a child) guide it in the right direction.
You can say things like “I hear you feel like you’re not capable enough. Let’s look at times when you were capable.”
Then list at least 3 times when adult you was capable enough (good enough, skillful enough, worthy enough, etc.).
See your inner critic as separate from you This might sound a little crazy, since your inner critic is inside your head. However, to start befriending it, it helps to see it as a friend and let’s face it, our friends are separate from us. Well, I hope yours are.
It’s a voice in your head, but it is not your voice. Again, it’s the childlike voice that started forming when you were, well, a child. Try to see it like this, outside of your adult mind.
Use the example in the last section as a way to talk to it as a separate being. The more you talk to it and see it as separate from you, the more heard it feels and the more you can distance yourself from it.
Give your inner critic a name Ok, now I know this sounds off the charts weird. Just think about it for a second.
Say your name is Nelly. Imagine now everyone started calling you Negative Nelly. How would it make you feel? Annoyed, right? You might get so annoyed that you shout back. Maybe give someone the finger. Who knows, maybe you’ll even tell them how much they suck. Sound familiar?
To me, this is exactly how your new friend “inner critic” likely feels. Not only is it unseen, unheard, and not recognized, it also has a terrible negative name to encourage the negativity.
Try naming it. Give it any name, but a nice name (dumb-ass and stupid face don’t count as nice names). I use Linda, although she’s nothing like my nice aunt Linda. This name just came to me.
Stop fuelling the negative voice When you agree with and reinforce your inner critic, you only add fuel to the fire. For example, when you say negative things about yourself out loud to your partner, friends, family members, co-workers, you are only encouraging the negative talk to continue.
You know what I mean. Things like “Can you do this please, I suck at public speaking?” At this point, your inner critic is going “Yup, you totally do suck at public speaking and PowerPoint presentations for that matter.”
Adding fuel usually means the negative voice will bounce back with a double whammy to make sure it hit home.
Accidents will happen and you’ll make the slip. Simply return to becoming more aware of what the voice is saying.
Be compassionate with yourself and your inner critic This is probably the most important thing on this list. Being compassionate with yourself means treating yourself the way you want others to treat you and the way you treat the loved ones in your life.
Learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself, stop judging yourself and move on, but nicely. The same goes for your inner critic. Think of it like a child who will never leave. You’re stuck with it, so why not make your life easier and be nice to it. Plus, it’s like a child and all children should be treated with kindness.
In Conclusion We all have an inner critic. When we take what it says as the truth, we tend to feel worse about ourselves, often like we’re not enough. Being that it will never fully go away, if you want to live a happier life, it helps if you become friends with the negative voice in your head.