How to Disarm Your Inner-Critic
I live with an inner critic who loves pointing out my faults, failures, and shortcomings. I’m never good enough for that bastard.
How about you?
“In all my years of coaching, I have never worked with anyone who was not substantially sabotaged by a persistent Judge character… Your Judge Saboteur is your private enemy number one.” Shirzad Chamine, author of, “Positive Intelligence.”
Shirzad said, “The Judge Saboteur constantly finds fault with:
- Our circumstances.”
I’m so used to – comfortable with – his voice that I fear I couldn’t succeed without him. I mistakenly believe he drives me to success. But, my inner fault-finder never shows me the path to success and happiness. He yells, but he never yells, “Go Dan! You can do it.”
Discerning without judging:
What would I do if I didn’t judge – find fault – all the time? Wouldn’t I lose passion for excellence? Don’t I need the judge?
Shirzad says we should discern rather than judge. “Discernment is paying attention to the state of things as they are…”
Shirzad suggests we watch for persistent emotions like anxiety, resentment, or frustration. It’s likely your judge is at work.
As I write this, my inner-critic is yelling, “You’ll never be rid of me.” I’m not judging him; I’m observing him and he doesn’t like being observed. He prefers that I judge him.
Shirzad suggests we observe and label our Judge Saboteur. I’m calling my Saboteur, “Bastard.” I’m not angry at him – he loves my anger. He hates the light.
Not your friend:
Your inner-critic isn’t your friend. He never enhances relationships. He never enhances happiness or satisfaction. He believes satisfaction is a dangerous enemy; you don’t deserve satisfaction.
Freedom from the Judge enables investigation, curiosity, and the joyful, passionate pursuit of excellence.
What label might you give your Judge Saboteur?
What strategies does your inner-critic employ?
Recommended reading: “Positive Intelligence”
I call the inner critic, Resistance.
Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art” is all about creation. My favorite quote from the book; “Resistance is lying and always full of shit.”
It’s one of those books you’ll refer to again and again.
I love The War of Art.. You remind me that I want to dig that out again soon.
Here’s to fighting through Resistance!
I call mine ‘Doubt’. I certainly recognise resentment in there too. For me, I read my positive statements each day which act as my reminder, then if I start hearing the voice of doubt and resentment, I listen, acknowledge where that might be coming from, then say to myself something like – ‘Yep, I hear you, but I choose not to listen.’ I think that voice resides in our Reptilian Brain, the part that is always trying to keep us out of harms way. These days ‘harm’ could just mean a bad feeling; failure, apprehension, anxiety etc. Anything that causes those feelings will be viewed by the critic as threatening.
Your ideas about the origin of the inner critic aling with Shirzad’s… He believes there was a time in life when the inner critic served a useful purpose.
Here’s to doubting DOUBT!
Finally some honesty in a post, good job! I do believe there are a lot of folks who suffer from this ailment or character flaw, but lack the honesty or the courage to admit it.
Sometimes naming and owing something is the hardest step..:-)
You had me laughing out loud again. My inner judge is the most effective and most persistent “person” I know. I talk back to her (mine is a woman) out loud. I argue with her out loud when I am alone. I don’t know why I put up with her. If she were flesh and blood I’d beat her up. I’d move across the country to be rid of her.
My internal positive message I give myself after she goes a round with me is “Doubt the doubt. Doubt the doubt. Doubt the doubt. Don’t doubt yourself. Doubt the doubt.” Some days I need to say this to myself all day long.
Lots of days she forces me to raid my encouragement folder. It is full of nice notes people have given me. I have to read them to break through the way she tries to paralyze me. (She has the powers of a stun gun).
I’m a writer, but sometimes she scoffs at my words. Oh she can be so rude. I have to read something I have previously written to even put my fingers on the keyboard on the days when she is after me.
I wish someone would give her a reality show on a channel I couldn’t access. Give her something to do so she would leave me alone.
I love “Doubt the doubt.” Thanks.
Thanks for sharing your story. Like Greg, I love “Doubt the doubt.”
I remember you mentioned your encouragement folder some time ago. I think it’s a great idea.
I don’t know where perfectionism fits in here but I think that’s part of the mix too.
The strategy that works for me is to examine the truth of the question and the assumptions. According to Katie, it is the unexamined questions that cause us pain. Examine the truth and question the judge. The judge will have to go look for something else.
It also helps to have positive people in your life who love you and lift you up; people who can see and applaud things in you that you cannot always see, or don’t always choose to ackowledge.
I don’t know that I will ever get rid of the judge altogether, but I can stop fanning the flames, and move forward.
Thanks for adding the value of positive people in our lives. How true.
I want to be a positive person for others and love being around positive people… 🙂
Always a pleasure,
Great post Dan. One trick I learned About dealing with my inner critic is to treat him like a real person.
I first acknowledge his existence and thank him for his diligent work in protecting me from harm and dangerous situations – he is quite efficient!
Next, I start to re-train him to speak softly rather than constantly yelling.
After this, I begin to give him assignments to help me look for the most efficient and effective ways ton operate. After all, this is a much safer way to avoid harm. It is a lifelong process, but progress happens quickly.
Thanks for sharing your story and strategy. I can see that just quieting the inner critic’s voice is a giant leap forward.
I’m going to start thanking my inner critic for all his good work.. 😉
Hi Dan, Great topic. I agree that a mature human being does not need an inner critic to keep us on the right path. Most of us get pretty beat us by ours.
Good advice from Martina and David on how to defend against it. I would also recommend “Soul Without Shame” by Byron Brown – it offers practical advice for what you can do.
Thank you for sharing your insights and a recommended resource.
You remind me of Jay Eliot, former VP at Apple, who said that good people beat themselves up enough… his role as a leader was to encourage.
Best to you,
Great post. We’ve all got one. Seems mine has been over active lately. Thanks for this.
I have been trying to train my inner critic to be more objective. If the discussion in my brain goes on and on, I tend to go from disappointment, to frustration, to fear and finally to alarm or panic. If I can stop and look objectively at the situation, I can stop the cycle before I get too far down the path. I am getting better at identifying where I am and stopping the process. If I could just teach my inner critic to be objective and beleive what those outside of me are telling me, I wouldn’t waste so much time on negative, unuseful, unhelpful emotions.
Good thoughts. It always amazes me how I often i find myself thinking of something that happened years ago, and feeling the same hot emotions. That can really derail anything positive. Naming that voice and then dealing with it as a separate entity is a great idea. Think I’ll call mine Eeyore.
Hi Dan – It has been a while since I have been able to respond to your posts. I read them daily and really appreciate the thought provoking messages you send. Today’s post is very timely and I am thinking of a name for my inner critic. Like another responder, I talk to my inner critic and try to rationalize how I can learn from the conversation and how I can turn the criticism into a useful and positive experience.
When I first starting consulting/coaching 20 years ago, a psychologist with whom I was teamed said: “In order to do this work you have to have self-questioning and self-confidence in about equal measures.” I found myself questioning too much and decided that 51% self-confidence, the sense that I knew what I was doing, was necessary to keep me from falling into ineffectiveness.
Excessive self-questioning is crippling. Awareness is everything. When I catch myself being negative, and aware of it, I pause and find something that feels better to think about as quickly and for as long as I can. Whatever we can do to break the vicious cycle of self or other judgment is life affirming.
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“Relax and Push” from my old Cross Country Coach comes to mind, imagine your out of go and running up a hill the resistance is the hill and you trying to conquer. you relax and let loose, you conquer the hill and cross the finish line eventually. I believe eventually you can conquer the inner you with relaxing thoughts and put aside the inner you that judges often so harshly.
Hopefully this doesn’t come across too soft but I’m going to call mine “ole Grumpy”. At 55 yrs of age I’ve decided one of my main missions is to fight off the urge to be a ‘grumpy old codger’ – a temptation that seems to lurk around most every corner. The first step at having a positive impact on a needy world must surely be to remain optimistic and interested and that really won’t leave must room for being a sour puss.
Dan, I love reading your posts. You always give me plenty to think about.
Today, by unexpectedly calling your inner critic a ‘bastard’, you almost made me spit my coffee out on my laptop from laughter.
Just read Michael Hyatt’s recent post about vision. http://michaelhyatt.com/why-vision-matters-now.html
I’m there. Needing to recast and grab ahold of fresh vision as we walk through one of the most difficult seasons we’ve had as small business owners.
That bastard inner critic of mine has been right there on my shoulder like a pesky circus monkey. Today, I feel encouraged to brush him off, and focus forward.
The inner critic or Saboteur (the Judge) develops in us from a young age – it is actually the voice that protects us when we are young… mirroring the voices of parents, teachers, leaders in our lives – all there to make sure we in some way, ‘fit in’… (you’re too loud, too different, too… whatever / or / you should, you shouldn’t…), a survival technique.
If instead of resisting this voice or fighting it… it can be more effective to recognize it, name it, and then acknowledge it (NOT agree with it), be kind to it – it is exists to protect you. Thank the voice for showing up, tell it you don’t need him/her today, and then put it away, gently, on a shelf, on a bus to Siberia, wherever!
What we fight or resist, persists.. plain and simple. So stop resisting it. Be with it, briefly, recognize its value, and move beyond it… and you may find that it shows up yelling at us less and less as time goes on.
You are so ‘right on’….. Our inner voice is all about survival techniques. Our job today is to acknowledge those patters of reaction/response and be clear if they continue to serve us. If they do not, we can create anew! Thanks. -d-
This hit home for me- I tell myself when you do get something right why can’t you basque in that just for a moment instead I tend to feel guilty -well I didn’t quite get this right or not sure I handled that right but overall you did it. I like the idea of naming it- I think this will go a long ways for me personally. Hmmm…now what shall I name her 🙂 Thanks Dan!!
I think I’ll call mine ‘Nemesis’ as I’m aware that his function is to stop me in my tracks and prevent me from reaching my dreams.
It’s important, once we recognise our inner critic, to acknowledge how easily we empower him/her to our own detriment.
Naming and shaming him before challenging him with positive and affirming self talk is what I find helpful.
It’s not always easy, and I do still on occasion find myself succumbing to his saboteur nature. However, with practice comes growth.
I generally recognise him when he causes a resistance by nit picking at the very moment I’m about to embark on something that pushes me out of my comfort zone.
Like commenting on this blog for example… victory!
Nice post! Tom Cassidy calls the inner negative voice “the Script” and says it’s basically the default we all end up with from our childhoods and social programming. He describes it this way because he says giving in to this voice is not something to feel bad about, it just happens automatically when you don’t have something to override it. In order to override the Script we need to make a conscious choice about what to think about. Obviously it’s better for us if we override The Script with our chosen positive thoughts, but when we find we have defaulted to the Script we can just say “Woops! There it is again, it’s the Script” and go back to our positive self without beating ourselves up about it. We humans are such strange creatures sometimes. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of making ourselves feel bad about feeling bad.
I so needed to hear this today! Thanks for your post!
My inner critic is called over whelmer. She paints a giant picture of a mountains that I’ll never be able to get over so why try.
Thanks for the post I look forwared to them.
Wow! Very powerful message here!
I created my blog last week. 10 seconds after that I knew that I had to put my post i had planed off until next week because what Steven Pressfield calls the resistance jumped on me hard and I had to write about it! How many people live their life never knowing this dynamic even exists! Thanks for inspiring people to look the resistance in the eye and call him who he is.
Positive attitude hundred ideas, negative attitude, million excuses.
However accepting mistake is a positive attitude which make future decision effective.
Muhammad Naeem Ul Fateh, PhD
Dan, great topic. Lots of tremendous comments. I call my inner critic fear, although fear may be what drives him rather than who he is. Regardless, it is the emotion that prevents me from being all I was created to be. I know he will show up from time to time. I’ve been lest resistant to him showing up because I have learned what an impostor he is. The only real power he has is what I give him.
Generally, I smile, and tell him thanks for the visit, but I have real work to do and since he isn’t going to help me, he can leave.
I just wish I had learned to see him for who he is and kicked him out awhile ago. Oh well, at least I figured it out.
I like the piece about discernment, and your comment from Jay Eliot re: encouragement. So true.
My circle of professionals calls this “The Committee” and for me they are are group of bitches that live in my head…..love this, thanks! My blog is basically a hit man I created to kill them with kindness.
Holy cow, I’m experiencing this big time right now! x_x;;; That pic up there of the girl yelling of herself = Perfect Description!
This is going to be a crazy summer for me, and I’m freaking out about it. I’m so, SO worried I’m not “Good Enough” in some way…but I know I am. That’s why when that inner critic starts yelling, I’m trying to ignore her.
But man, she can be really loud sometimes. D:>
Thank you for this!!
I can completely relate to this. It has been a long hard battle for me with the inner critic. She has always been there telling me my faults and telling me I’m too stupid to do anything. My confidence level has flip-flopped over the years. My friends and family have really helped me to quiet down the Bully that is my inner critic. She will never fully go away, but I am at peace knowing that I am good enough. It is great to realize that she is wrong and I don’t have to listen to her. Thanks for such a great post!
I’m of the opinion that the degree to which your inner critic is helpful or hurtful is fairly well proportional to the degree to which you’ve been around constructive criticism or its opposite, abuse. If you’ve matured with good models for positive correction, you’ll be able to represent that in yourself. If you’ve known mostly negative and abusive treatment, your self-talk is probably going to be iterative of that process. It takes a long time to break the second pattern.
In my realm, the “inner critic” is known as the “itty bitty shitty committee” and is comprised of all the people in my history who have raised shame in my self. Some of those people have also told me good things, but the cutting words somehow go the deepest and rise up when I’m starting to feel insecure or unsure about what I can or cannot do. I’m working on silencing, or at least cloistering, those voices. I stick out my tongue at them and tell them to just shut up. I also like the “doubt the doubt” mentioned above. I’ll have to try that!
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‘He yells, but he never yells, “Go Dan! You can do it.”’ THIS, is basically what my parents do to me.
Like just few 15 minutes ago, I just finished my painting, it was some kind of piano, trees, and buildings on the side.
I asked my mother what was she thought of it, then after that I asked my little brother who was I think as a better painter than I am, and what my mother said was:
“Oh, Lulu. You’re always never satisfied with praises.”
I asked because I felt insecure because the tones I used for the colours were not a good enough combination, not because I wanted someone to admit my art. Never that.
So I was um… I don’t know what to say. It just happens to me everyday.
Thank you for the article, a very good, full-of-reality work.
Great post Dan. This is a constant struggle for me a on a daily basis. I guess it is more about succeeding without allowing resistance to slow me down. How do we turn off those voices of doubt in our head?
another great post!
Great post. This one in particular speaks so much to me. My inner critic tends to run rampant in my head. I need to find how to apply some duck tape to him.
I really enjoy your posts, it is true “you and be your worst enemy”,
If you read Ephesians Ch 6 you will find everyone of us has a demon who has listened to every word we have ever spoken.(the were assigned to us at birth) This demon lives there with complete anonymity. He can speak anything into our mind he wants to but the only way he knows we believe whatever he tells us by the Words we speak. Our words
locate us. This is why EVERYONE is so biased.