4 No-Fail Ways to Curb Your Inner Critic

Get a handle on negative self-talk with these smart and simple strategies.

happy woman taking mirror selfie

Medically reviewed in February 2022

Updated on May 11, 2022

“Mediocre.” “Procrastinator.” “Wavering.” This is how my friend described herself—and I was stunned. She is, in fact, successful and beautiful and somehow manages to bake goodies for her family in her free time. Yes, bake! (I am baffled, because I do not understand baking, or how one finds time). But, on this day, the negative self-talk was winning, seemingly steam-rolling all of her successes.

Can we talk about negative inner monologues? Why do we tolerate self-vitriol that we wouldn’t aim at our worst enemy? I promise, you are doing a better job than you usually let yourself believe. And with that in mind, here are four tips to quiet the self-doubt.

1. Stop dwelling and start executing. Fixating on a bad outcome distracts us from finding a solution. Instead of wasting time on self-defeating thoughts, “mastery-oriented thinking” advises redirecting that energy onto what you could do differently. What actionable steps or new approach could change the outcome now, or the next time you face a similar situation? Being goal-oriented is empowering and lifts our focus beyond the current frustration.

2. Be gentle with yourself. Envision how a loved one would feel if she heard what you’re saying about yourself. When I am self-critical, I ask myself if that is how I’d want my daughter to see herself. Just that thought alone pushes me to tone down my self-criticism.

3. Challenge your negative conclusions. Does one critical memo from your boss really mean your work is subpar? Does losing your cool at your child mean he’ll need therapy for life? Ask yourself if your automatic self-critical conclusion is actually true. What facts support it? Then be your own devil’s advocate and identify all the facts that counter it. Note: It can be tough to see both sides when you’re upset. For your hot-button issues, take a moment to calm down before going through this process.

4. Get out of your own head. One of the best ways to stop dwelling on our own shortcomings is to focus on making others happy. So, let’s start there. Remember how amazing it feels when a friend says something awesome about you—pays you a compliment that just makes your day? Do that for someone else, right now. Then keep doing it.

Someday I hope we all are able to quiet the negative voices on our own, but until then, we need each other’s help. It takes a village. So, today, use your village to drown out the self-critical whispers with a supportive and loving shout.

Article sources open article sources

American Psychological Association. Probing the depression-rumination cycle. November 2005. Accessed May 11, 2022.
Chris Aiken. Overthinking, Worry, and Rumination. Psych Education. October 26, 2020. Accessed May 11, 2022.
Mayo Clinic. Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress. February 3, 2022. Accessed May 11, 2022.
American Diabetes Association. Make a Difference with Positive Self-Talk. 2022. Accessed May 11, 2022.
Nemours Kids Health. Self-Esteem. June 2018. Accessed May 11, 2022.
Walden University. How Positive Self-Talk Can Make You Feel Better and Be More Productive. 2022. Accessed May 11, 2022.

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