How to Kill the Inner Critic Inside Your Mind

How to Kill the Inner Critic Inside Your Mind

Inner critics.  We all have one – especially if we’re writers. It’s that insidious little voice in our minds whispering words of doubt into our mental ear.

Inner critics stop us from making a fool of ourselves. Stop us from taking risks. Stop us from learning. From being more than we are right now. From having fun.

Inner critics are evil creatures set to hold you firmly where you are right now: going nowhere and full of fear of what might be out there. They do their job very, very well.

And why not? Your inner critic has years of practice. It knows exactly which buttons to push to grind your gears to a halt. It knows exactly what cuts most, what scares you and which whispers to use on you.

Your inner critic is a master manipulator.

I think of my inner critic as a tall, handsome, cunning man. I’ve never seen my inner critic, of course, and worse, I can’t recognize him easily. He disguises himself by using different voices to seed doubt in my mind.  I’ve heard him use my grandmother’s voice, my parents’ voices, the voices of my ex-lovers and even those of long-ago friends.

He’ll say things like:

  • “You know there’s something wrong with you if you think like that.”
  • “You know that they’ll just laugh if you show them what you wrote.”
  • “You’re too fat to be any good at riding horses. Way too out of shape.”
  • “You’re ugly. It doesn’t really matter how you try to fix yourself up.”
  • “You’re lazy and a failure—and it’ll always be that way.”
  • “It’s never going to change.

I guarantee your inner critic has whispered similar evilness to you at some point in your life – this happens to everyone.

And if you’re a writer, or if you write for your business, I’m convinced you’ve felt the work of your inner critic before. Self-doubt and self-criticism are rife in the writing world – we’ve even coined the term “writer’s block” for when we let our inner critic win and rob us completely of our ability to write.

Most people don’t recognize when their inner critic is working its magikery. Some never learn to recognize their inner critic’s evildoings at all.

But I’m beginning to – and that’s why I want to tell you this story.

The other day, I was thinking about a friend who hadn’t called me in a while, and my inner critic stepped in smoothly to take full control of my thoughts, feelings and some of my actions.

The whispers began. “You must have done something wrong. Why else wouldn’t she call?”

That whisper took firm hold and played itself over and over in my head all morning. I tried desperately to think of what I’d done wrong. I racked my brains. Losing this person’s friendship scared me to death… and my inner critic knew it.

By the time I spoke to James that day, I was overwhelmed and ready to burst into tears. With a single sentence, my inner critic had shredded every ounce of my confidence and convinced me I was about to lose a cherished friendship – I was a wreck.

That’s when James reminded me that I have full control of my mind – and that while I might have an inner critic working dark magic, I also had a knight in shining armor ready to defend me: the Voice of Reason.

The Voice of Reason would say something like, “She probably didn’t call because she’s been so busy. Or her cell phone battery died. Maybe she dropped it somewhere and it broke!” Sensible answers that were completely plausible and more than likely.

Answers like that warred against the inner critic’s whispers.

That’s when the idea hit me: If I could imagine what my inner critic looked like, why not imagine myself a voice of reason as well? When I began thinking of what this new voice would look like, there she was! A female warrior with streaming red hair in fighting stance, fists ready to fly in my defense.

Something marvelous happened then. I realized my inner critic wasn’t really as savvy or as smart as he’d like me to think – I’d let my mind airbrush him into more than he should be, and I’d given this imaginary critic way too much control over me.

Now I could imagine him looking a little afraid as I created this new champion to have at my side. In fact, I let the war begin – my new voice of reason battles every whisper my inner critic utters in a war to put him in his place.

The battles aren’t always easy. Sometimes it’s full out war. But the inner critic is already losing ground, and I’m sure my voice of reason is going to win.

I’m sure I’ll win – and I’ll never let my inner critic take control of me again.

I’ve shared my story with you – will you share yours with me? Tell me about a time your inner critic took control of your feelings. How did you take it back?

Post by Kari

Kari is a full-time content manager, editor and in-house blogger at Men With Pens. In her spare time, she writes fiction and is working on her first novel.

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  1. My inner critic? ALWAYS there when I need her least. Recently, this happened:

    Inner critic: I KNOW you want coffee, but the room is full of colleagues who are speaking in French. You, my dear, don’t speak french well enough yet, so save yourself the embarrassment return when there are fewer people around.Don’t go into that room!’

    Ms Rational: ‘So what? Switch to english for a bit and see what happens’.

    And so I did. I got some coffee. Had a chat. All was well in the world.

    • Razwana, that’s awesome! Seems like what we should do is almost the direct opposite of what our inner critic says sometimes, eh?

  2. Solomon V says:

    Thank you for the article ! I needed it more than ever. I’m still battling my inner critic who says that my book was not so up to the mark. I needed to work on it more…and never give me the confidence to bring it out (send to publishers). I’m struggling so much with it. thank you once again !!

    • Solomon, I’m glad the article hit the spot for you!

      One thing you might do if you’re having problems sending your book to publishers because of your inner critic not thinking it’s up to snuff is to gather a few beta readers, a few people who you trust to give you valuable feedback on your book — i.e. not “oooh, I love it, send it to everyone” but why they like it or what worked for them or what didn’t work for them but in constructive ways — and have them read it and then provide feedback.

      A good critique group can provide you some of the most valuable information and feedback that you can get as a writer. I even wrote a previous article on the subject: http://menwithpens.ca/critique-group/

      After all, the inner critic is but one voice and if there are more voices telling you that you should go for it, perhaps, then you should :)

  3. Definitely needed this, this week. My inner critic thought he was winning earlier this week but I pushed past him and when I got feedback on my writing. I was blown away by how positive it was. Glad that I was able to push past that voice in my head and hit send. It was totally worth it. One battle won. The next one will be much easier.

    • Katie, awesome job! Sometimes you just gotta move forward, eh? Nice to know that little voice doesn’t know everything, isn’t it? :)

  4. You have spoken many words of truth.

    My inner critic took me down when I woke up from sugary. I felt like it was my fault that I couldn’t pay most of the medical bills. Like, I was to stupid to not save up money. I wouldn’t have to pay this if I was smart about planning my future.

    Then I thought to myself. It’s going to be ok. I just have to learn from this and plan better next time, you know?

    Sometimes myself can get the best of myself…

    • Alexander, oh wow, that can be a hard one. Especially since you’re physically not feeling well to begin with. But, you’re right — life happens. and you deal, learn from experience and move on. Hope you’re on the mend and feeling better now!

  5. Colleen B says:

    Great article! Thank you! So true…my inner critic “makes” me do things I don’t want to do through powerful manipulation and guilt! Like your article though, I am really noticing how this voice does not help me fulfill on my dreams and goals. And life is short and I have a lot of dreams to manifest.
    I have coaches (yes, plural) who are helping me notice where I get in my own way. One of them sent me this post. They are acting as a mirror so I can see and hear my inner critic. And naming it seems to be the best way to notice and lower the volume. I have named the Inner Critic….Betty-Beat-Me-Up. I laugh at that name….it helps lighten up her very whiny and annoying voice. I have also noticed and named my warrior goddess….Queen Zoe….yippee….who is powerful, intuitive and ready to battle the whiny Betty. Have a great day everyone.

  6. I’m sick and tired of my inner critic kicking my ass. As I get ready to release my ebook, she says that you’re not good enough (yeah, she – I’m sure that it’s my 1st grade English teacher). “Take another writing class. Read another ebook. Do another edit to make sure that you didn’t make any mistakes.”

    Part of me knows that my writing is good but I’m scared to take it public. I’m comfortable posting my writing in the Damn Fine Words forums, but what happens when my peers aren’t around to pat me on the back? I need to create my website by I’m afraid to write the content. What if it flops and no one notices my hard work?

    The only way for me to defeat my inner critic is to punch her in the nose and step over her bloody body (even though she’s a woman, she’s an evil woman). I imagine myself looking back at her and saying, “See. You can’t stop me anymore!” On to victory!

    Thanks, Kari. I feel better already.

  7. Hi Bill! You know, sometimes you just gotta do it. You do it for you first. Then you can start market it to others because you’ll believe in it. And nothing is easier to market than something you’ve created, something you personally believe in. You know the ins and outs of it.

    Tell your 1st grade teacher that she’s out of her league. You’re not in elementary school anymore. This is your life and you got this. :)

  8. Great post. When I think less of myself, my inner critic has less mental space to chatter.

  9. I find my inner critic is more powerful when I’m tired. Some days I’m just too tired to fight back and she wins. Other days, I put on my super hero cape and stuff her into her box. I have decided that my inner critic looks like a rag doll with horns and lower-jaw fangs and is no friend of mine. I wouldn’t let a “friend” talk to me the way she does. LOL! Great article. As you can tell, I’ve been in an epic battle with my inner critic for a while.

  10. Thank you so much, just what i needed. My inner critic has been telling me that i am not ready to publish any book. Every time an opportunity arise to get a manuscript reviewed; he always steps in instantly saying “you are not ready yet or it’s not good enough yet”. Now i know that i have been listening to a nobody…i’m ready to publish anything because i know it and my voice of reason says so.

    Thank you a lot!

  11. So glad you wrote this article Kari. It’s an important and fun subject and not enough writers address it. I’m sending it off to several friends, hoping they will take it seriously and stop ‘Locking Down’ on themselves and their work…that is part of the great value in your article
    I first learned of my inner critic – my ‘Gremlin’ – in coaching school and have loved the subject ever since…it comes up early with coaching clients and when studied seriously the results are thrilling to see — people gain more personal confidence when they acknowledge their Gremlin, they get happier too, take more risk and shift out of ‘I Can’t’ into, ‘This is what I want and I’m going after it!’ Some of the benefits of knowing your inner critic.
    There’s a positive side to our inner voice too — it can become our best friend, our promoter and guide. How to make best friends with your inner critic — is a deep and fun opportunity.
    Thanks again for your excellent writing here Kari. You’re brave too in the way you talk about yourself. Looking forward to learning more. Michael

    • Great post Michael,
      I am also a Coach and you are so right that the technique of noticing and then studying produces amazing results. And I also agree with you that sometimes my inner critic just wants me to pay attention to something that I am always overlooking…so she screams at me to get my attention! LoL…And I’ve noticed that the more I ignore her, the louder she gets. So now, I acknowledge the inner critic and thank her for pointing “that” out to me. She quietens right down. So cool. By the way, my specialty is Archetypal patterns (noticing the patterns in our saying and doing) and there are more voices than just the inner critic…humans have a whole community in their minds….the Jester, the Seeker, the Caregiver, the Warrior, etc. And it is fun to notice and “play” with the patterns to actually design your life.

      Thank you Kari for your article, I’ve shared it with a bunch of people and now we are all in conversation about our Inner Critic….you have made a difference! Colleen

  12. Barny Nash says:

    I can so relate to this. My inner critic has an unlimited reservoir of nasty things to say, constantly monitoring every experience I have, every exchange with other people. Your blog reminded me of another article I just read http://www.psychalive.org/2009/06/critical-inner-voice/ I highly recommend it.

  13. Hi Kari,

    One’s inner critics determines virtually the direction you are meant to go. For instance, when I was about creating my new launched blog, my inner critics created doubts, fear in me….on why should I abandon my old blog for a new one….the fear of starting all over again, building authority, my subscribers e.t.c.
    All I just had to do was close my heart and mind to the pessimistic cravings…and went ahead to build the blog.

  14. Hi Kari,

    You’ve a wonderful post here!

    My inner critic is my worst enemy as I am talking down to myself without even being consciously aware of how much I do that. It usually happens when I have public speaking nerves. I tend to control that as I know I should be mindful of my own negative self-talk. And so I believe now – With awareness comes liberation!

  15. Thanks for this post..! My Inner Critic has been controlling me life and I am now working on re-gaining control and showing it who is boss.

    In case anyone is looking for otehr resources.. I recently started to follow @innercriticdoll on Twitter.. there are some really helpful Tweets there.

  16. Currently working on three different projects, instead of only one, because everytime I start working on one, the ‘IC’ tells me: ‘This is bullshit, no one’s gonna believe that, why don’t you just give up, you f—in’ fat ass failure?’. Sometimes he’s attached to me so hard, that I’d have to smash my own head to silence him, but then again, that mo’f—er’s in one room with my ideas… crud!

Trackbacks

  1. […] like this idea from Kari on the Men With Pens blog. Basically, she suggests personifying your inner critic – give it a name, a face and a […]

  2. […] that voice, at one time or another. You see signs of it everywhere. Writers have strategies for beating back the inner critic long enough to get a first draft done. A shame and vulnerability researcher talks about […]

  3. […] How to Kill the Inner Critic Inside Your Mind […]

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