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.


Nice understanding on empathy, good work, great research, I really liked it, thanks


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