4 Steps to Conquer Your Inner Critic

Enjoying the sunMost of us are familiar with those nagging thoughts that tell us we are not good enough, that cast doubt on our goals and undermine our accomplishments. These thoughts might be there to greet us when we first glimpse at ourselves in the mirror in the morning. “You’re so unattractive. You’re fat. What a slob. Just look at your hair, hips, waistline, etc.”

This inner critic might meet you at work. “You’re under too much pressure. You’ll never get everything done. No one even notices you. You should just give up.”

It’s even there to critique your closest relationships. “He/she doesn’t really love you. No one could care about you. It will never last. Just don’t be vulnerable.”

Every person is divided; part of us is goal-directed and self-possessed, while another part is self-critical, self-denying, and even self-destructive. This “anti-self” perpetuates a negative thought process, which my father psychologist and author Robert Firestone refers to as the critical inner voice.

Watch a Whiteboard Video on The Critical Inner Voiceinner critic ecourse CIV

The critical inner voice is formed out of painful early life experiences in which we witnessed or experienced hurtful attitudes toward us or those close to us. As we grow up, we unconsciously adopt and integrate this pattern of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others. When we fail to identify and separate from this inner critic, we allow it to impact our behavior and shape the direction of our lives. It may sabotage our successes or our relationships, preventing us from living the lives we want to lead and becoming the people we seek to be. So how can we challenge this inner voice? How can we recognize its commentary and differentiate from its directives?

Four Steps to Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice

We all possess an inner critic or “critical inner voice.” We experience this “voice” as a negative internal commentary on who we are and how we behave.

Common critical inner voices include:

  • “You’re ugly.”
  • “You’re so stupid.”
  • “You’re fat.”
  • “There’s something wrong with you.”
  • “You’re different from other people.”
Step 1: Identify Your Inner Critic

Try to identify what your critical inner voice is telling you. Acknowledge that this thought process is separate from your real point of view. Remember that your critical inner voice is not a reflection of reality. It is a viewpoint you adopted based on destructive early life experiences and attitudes directed toward you that you’ve internalized as your own point of view.

Step 2: Separate From Your Inner Critic

One way to help you differentiate from your critical inner voice is to write these thoughts down in the second person (as “you” statements). For example, a thought like “I can’t get anything right. I’ll never be successful” should be written as “You can’t get anything right. You’ll never be successful.” This will help you see these thoughts as an alien point of view and not as true statements. Notice how hostile this internal enemy can be.

Step 3: Respond to Your Inner Critic

You can respond to your inner critic by writing down a more realistic and compassionate evaluation of yourself. Write these responses in the first person (as “I” statements). In response to a thought like, “You’re such an idiot,” you could write, “I may struggle at times, but I am smart and competent in many ways.” This exercise isn’t meant to build you up or boost your ego but to show a kinder, more honest attitude toward yourself.

Step 4: Don’t Act On Your Inner Critic

Remember not to act on the directives of your inner critic. Take actions that represent your own point of view, who you want to be and what you aim to achieve. Your critical inner voice may get louder, telling you to stay in line or not to take chances. However, by identifying, separating from, and acting against this destructive thought process, you will grow stronger, while your inner critic grows weaker.

About the Author

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. Dr. Lisa Firestone is the Director of Research and Education at The Glendon Association. An accomplished and much requested lecturer, Dr. Firestone speaks at national and international conferences in the areas of couple relations, parenting, and suicide and violence prevention. Dr. Firestone has published numerous professional articles, and most recently was the co-author of Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships (APA Books, 2006), Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice (New Harbinger, 2002), Creating a Life of Meaning and Compassion: The Wisdom of Psychotherapy (APA Books, 2003) and The Self Under Siege (Routledge, 2012). Follow Dr. Firestone on Twitter or Google.

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Thanks for posting this blog about 4 Steps to Conquer Your Inner Critic. I really need that because my inner critic dominating me. Now I will definitely follow your 4 steps and try to make a change in my life.


Interestingly, the entire problem of loneliness and constant “down putting” of one’s self is the fact that..>>you have no one to talk to. Each feeds upon itself and the end result is an even fewer number of people that find you in their “friendly” radar and have any desire to be around you.

Worse is that loved ones and “old” friends feel you WISH to be alone since your actions indicate such when invitations are put aside or we ourselves do not instigate some type of activity to do together.

Notice the switch from “you” to “we”? Easily done and often the case simply because I live within such a life.

Sadly, even online no one wants to hear it, and if some did, would not that “feed” the ever growing sense of being alone when our only “chat partner” is thousands of miles away?

If you know of one that appears to WANT to be alone, take that extra effort to find out if it’s actually the case or……….life has left them with too many “gone” friends and lovers and it has left them feeling rejected and their only plans are to exist till they die.

I see them daily when I go to town. One recognizes such easily when we ourselves are living the same way.

There is no “easy out” that can change what people though out life have beaten into your thoughts, even when we know our thoughts are from negative actions of others.

God Bless


Hi Steve. Thank you for your real words. I would love to be one to hear you as i fight a similar battle. Life is supposed to be friendly, yet we are bent on chasing people away rather than reaching out.


I too live in this world. I have pushed away more potential friends than I can even count, all because we truly feel not worthy of anyone. The other day at work, it was announced over the loud speaker that I had a phone call. My initial reaction “Who the hell would even bother calling me?” I don’t want to be isolated but as my inner circle of friends dwindles, my thirst for negative thought grows, and that is what is driving them all away. 🙁

Estelle Agnes

It was helpful reading of feelings on empathy. It states a lot of truth. I am also interested and found it helpful reading about the (Critical Inner Voice). Personal growth is important.


it seems to me this article talks about the inner voice as if it’s something completely different from our point of view, but it’s not that simple. even when I’m perfectly lucid, I do think I’m ugly, I do think many people don’t like me, and I don’t want to step away from acknowledging reality. I’d just like to attack myself less harshly.

Paul Piwonka

I’m now, 61 and although my uncle was a Psychiatrist, and at 24 as I was sobering up from alcoholism, he diagnosed me as such, recommended many books I read. In-spite of having been gifted and offered football college scholarships, RECIEVED more admirations I deserved, years later I was offered a USA tour on a cd I cut. I felt I deserved Nothing, and demeaned myself. After earning millions before 30 in business I sabotaged all. I am beginning to understand why. Please don’t do this to yourself, or you may find yourself alone, in a RV as I. I lost my desire to participate in life per betrayals, trust repeatedly broken. I’m not wanting any pity, just warning. ITS clear to me now, that there are the opposite types that WILL KNOWINGLY USE YOU UP. Thanks be good to yourselves. Own your life. Reach out for help. THEN RUN LIKE HELL from those that prey on good people.

Zuhura Amanda

This has made a bigger change in my life today… it’s a great step for me..on learning how to understand my inner critics as an empath… Thanks alot.


It is so hard to find other empaths. I would not feel so alone and different if I could really find them. And I am not speaking about ones that say they are empaths and aren’t. It is so obvious to me who really are empaths. It does not have to be spoken.


Suffering from this since my childhood it really
iis painful experience.it tells me I am ugly,stupid,
Worthless,unworthy,different and problematic.
It tells me how fd up I am in every way.it
Makes me to have low self esteem,low self image
,Low self value and makes me the 1 enemy of
Myself.may God bless us all.
Peace and love


This is just my exact experience. I’ll be 31 in April and before now, I was so scare and afraid for my life. Not been able to accomplish anything , always been limiting myself on all side. I’ll put all I’ve read to practice and hope it’s comes out fine for me. Thanks


The question I asked Google led me to
this article (and others). It would’ve been
my brother’s birthday today, yet sadly, he
took his own life six years ago. I have a
hell of a time coping still. We were close.
Some days I can’t function (multiple days
every month). I have to carry a bag full
of kleenex ALL the time, because I never
know when I’m going to break down. A
chord, note, song, thought, sight, memory,
can trigger my empathic nature and
send me down the rabbit hole. It isn’t
just thinking about my brother that
does this to me. Often I find myself
crying thinking about other’s pain
(knowing there are people and animals
literally starving to death, for example,
but the list is very, very long).
Sometimes I just cry for this screwed
up world and wish God would just take
me to end my pain and suffering. But
there is still so much that I want to
do before my life ends. My own
personal cluster*uck! “Sessions” don’t
help and I’m medication resistant! I
get so worked up I can’t understand
why my heart hasn’t exploded! I’ve
read articles, books, been in counseling
for years, and nothing seems to alleviate
my symptoms/reaction to past, present,
and future events. Yeah, they call it
“anticipatory anxiety attacks”! I find it
very difficult to relax, have a good time,
not worry about the world (past, present,
and future)! Now I have high blood pressure
to add to the list of ailments! Yikes! I’ve
just accepted it as my “cross to bear”.
I wish everyone peace, health, and
happiness, including me!!!!! God bless!


I’m so sorry for your pain try to comfort yourself with your inner critic talk to her as she is you as a 5yr old , I go through similar thoughts it’s a struggle. It wears me down but we must be gentle & give ourselves self love ❤️ sometimes others close to us are unable to help. Be you own best friend❤️❤️❤️🤗

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