It is essential for your self-esteem to silence your inner critic and not judge yourself so harshly.
When we want to judge ourselves, we are always (or almost always) wrong in situations where self-esteem is at stake.
We have the impression that we are observing ourselves, but in reality, we are judging ourselves. But, unfortunately, to judge is “not to understand.”
The inner critic or critical radio in psychotherapy is the almost constant self-criticism going on in our heads. This steady stream of negative self-talk is our own worst enemy, harms our self-esteem, and causes self-dissatisfaction. Luckily, we can use this feedback to accept and improve ourselves.
In this article, we will learn why it is essential to stop judging yourself and silence your inner critic.
Table of Contents
Silence your inner critic: Introduction
One must realize that no view of oneself is neutral. Self-esteem is, in essence, an observation and a judgment of oneself.
One could even think that it is a double judgment or a judgment under pressure since the judgment we make on ourselves is also redoubled by the judgment of others.
We judge ourselves according to what we think, rightly or wrongly, about the judgment of others. Other people’s gaze will make us judge ourselves and pressure us.
Therefore, this leads to a first problem: instead of understanding and analyzing ourselves, we judge ourselves.
Then as a second problem, one could think that this judgment is often too severe.
But finally, what is judging? This could be defined as a fact related to a value.
It should also be noted that the values of people with self-esteem problems are toxic because they are too high and too rigid.
Their desire for perfection appeases their desire for protection. So why is there this tendency to judge oneself and one’s actions?
Silence your inner critic to protect your self-esteem
In psychotherapy, the inner critic is defined by the constant negative and limiting judgments that one has towards oneself, this almost constant self-criticism.
The inner critic is also this permanent and biased distortion of what happens to us, whether in success or failure.
Indeed, we will think that what failed is our fault and that what is successful is thanks to luck.
But how do we cope with this? Simply by believing that it is a form of clarity and necessity.
Sometimes, we can even think it is a severity towards ourselves that will benefit us somehow.
Harsh self-criticism is only a caricature of a normal phenomenon of hindsight and necessity.
However, there is no benevolence or flexibility. This comes at the cost of many errors such as: generalizing, dramatizing, or drawing conclusions without evidence.
Some characteristics of the inner critic
The inner critic seemingly only provides information while, in fact, it is purely self-intoxication. Therefore, the inner critic never learns from its failed predictions.
For example, when its “it won’t work” is overturned, it will remain silent or think that it won’t last and that there is no need to get too excited.
But, when its predictions come true, it triumphs by saying:
“I told you so.”
Another characteristic is that the inner critic is constantly in action:
- It gives predictions before taking action:
“Don’t bother trying, it will never work.”
- It adds comments during the action:
“Look at how badly you’re doing it.”
- And finally, it comes to conclusions about the action:
“You sucked today.”
Therefore, the inner critic is considered a real intimate enemy within ourselves.
The critical radio
Another way to describe this inner critic is the term critical radio.
Indeed, this steady stream of negative self-talk can be like a radio set slyly hiding in the corner of the room.
Nobody thinks to turn it off or listen carefully enough to realize that it is spouting nothing but horrors and exaggerations.
As you will have understood, we are our own worst enemy. In fact, we are the ones who create this inner critical radio, listen to it, host it, obey it, and we are always the ones who believe it.
By listening to it, we get lost in these negative thoughts and believe that these stereotyped thoughts are well-founded and correct.
This is why this inner critic concept is used in therapy. Namely, to introduce a little distance from this negative self-talk within each of us.
The more you think about it, the more you end up believing it
Now that we have defined this inner critic, it would be interesting to know where it comes from.
Usually, it is so ingrained that we no longer pay attention to its critics’ exaggerated and stereotypical character. In that case, it is because it has been in place for a long time.
Most often, the inner critic comes from the internalized parental conversation:
- Either our parents gave us forbidding and limiting speech regularly, permanently dissuading us from acting or rejoicing during our childhood.
- Or our parents verbalized their own inner critic out loud by saying phrases like:
- “Why did I get into this mess?”
- “I should never have tried.”
- “Everything is ruined.”
- “It’s my fault again, what a disaster.”
- Or our parents have taught us that inner criticism should be considered an essential value of the relationship with oneself:
- “Never be satisfied with yourself.”
- “Always criticize yourself if you want to progress.”
After our parents, teachers at school, and superiors at work have been able to take over this kind of conversation, always instilling self-dissatisfaction.
In addition, the people around us (friends or spouses) can also participate in this type of conversation in all kindness and good faith:
“I tell you this to help you, don’t take it the wrong way.”
However, the problem is not that we receive messages of criticism or that we are questioned. But, of course, this is normal and useful, and we must know how to listen to this feedback and accept it.
The real problem is to receive only this kind of critical feedback in a constant and distilled way, almost light and natural.
The inner critic will be all the more toxic if we are used to it and no longer pay attention to its nature.
The toxicity of self-judgment
Unfortunately, this negative self-suggestion is effective and can fuel many self-esteem problems.
It is what makes our positive life experiences unprofitable because any success or recognition is immediately put under the microscope of biased criticism:
- “This is an illusion.”
- “It won’t last.”
- “It’s not that important after all.”
Contrary to what it tries to make us believe, the inner critic does not help our overall progress as a person.
Indeed, it is only a dissuasive and limiting conversation, which makes us fear, dread, tremble, and dissatisfied.
The inner critic does not pull us up. On the contrary, it brings us down towards more stress, inhibitions, dissatisfactions, tensions, and consequently less self-esteem.
Moreover, the inner critic is based on pathological and ineffective perfectionism.
However, even though it can sometimes help to achieve goals in specific and limited areas by increasing the pressure (such as in academic, professional, or sports performance), its emotional cost is also significant and proves very stressful.
In fact, the inner critic weakens the overall self-esteem.
Among people with high levels of self-criticism are:
- Frequent feelings of helplessness:
“It’s not possible. I will never be able to cope with this situation.”
- Dysphoria: characterized by a mood that is often gloomy and sullen, with bouts of anxiety or irritability.
- Vulnerability to stress: we are quickly destabilized by minor daily stressors.
The inner critic also acts as a filter, pushing the benefits of our successes away from us and constantly bringing us back to our failures.
As such, self-congratulations are not very credible, while self-reproaches are instantly seen as very reasonable and deserved.
- Dunkley, et al., Self-critical perfectionism and daily affect: Dispositional and situational influences on stress and coping, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003
- Josephs, et al., Self-Esteem Maintenance Processes: Why Low Self-Esteem may be Resistant to Change, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2003
Silence your inner critic: Conclusion
Every person has an inner critic that can lower their self-esteem.
It is essential to know how to listen to this inner critic to improve yourself, but you must not fall into the trap of believing everything it says.
Knowing how to question yourself can help improve your self-esteem, but the most important thing is to accept yourself as you are with your faults and qualities.