Quietening your inner critic

14th January 2024 | Well-being

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We all have inner critics but some shout louder than others. Exploring effective strategies to quieten our critical voice and foster mental well-being comes up frequently in the counselling room. Being an integrative therapist, I draw from a number of approaches to address this with clients, like ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy), Positive Intelligence, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and the transformative practice of self-compassion and meditation.

The ACT Approach: Disempowering the Inner Critic

Using the ACT approach, we identify the inner critic, labelling it as such, observing what it does without judgement, and letting it go. We can acknowledge and practice gratitude for the critical voice trying to keep us safe, and name our inner critic. Some people call it ‘the saboteur or ‘the demon’ (we can call it ‘Dave’ if we like – anything to help create distance from us and our negative thoughts).  This approach can help us gain perspective by realising that not all thoughts in our heads are facts, allowing us to observe our thoughts more objectively.

Positive Intelligence: Outsmarting Our Inner Judge

We can also label and observe our inner critic as judge. Its judgments can be discredited by acknowledging its presence and anchoring ourselves in the present moment through sensory exercises (like the one listed below) can help us feel more grounded and reconnect with our rational brain.


Using your five senses

•         Sight – open your eyes; look around; name what you can see; connect with them; (this is my mobile phone, there is a bird in the sky above me, etc.); realise that you are an adult; look at how tall you are

•         Sound -listen for sounds going on around you and name them; let them bring you closer to the present; talk to yourself inside; say comforting things (I am okay, this will pass etc.)

•         Taste – suck on a mint; chew gum; drink coffee; use tastes that are connected with being safe and being an adult; carry something with you at all times

•         Smell – use scented hand lotion, a cotton ball or handkerchief soaked with perfume or essential oils, carry something with you that you can use anywhere

•         Touch – hold a safe object; feel textures and let them bring you closer to the present; pet your cat, dog or soft toy; connect with a loving person in your life and let it help you remain in the present; carry a note or small object from someone you love

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): Reasoning with the Inner Critic

We can also explore the logical side with CBT, which is based on the idea that our inner critic produces irrationally negative interpretations and assessments of ourselves and others. There are numerous activities available, like the one listed below which can help us to identify cognitive distortions and challenge negative thoughts. By working with a therapist to uncover irrational interpretations and biases, you can disempower the inner critic’s message.


We use this exercise to interrogate our automatic thinking and encourage the exploration of alternative theories / opinions by asking ourselves the following questions for our critical thinking (A) and then repeating the same questions again adopting a more rational/kinder approach (B).

The problem is… {Theory A example, I am rubbish at speaking to other people and I make every social interaction awkward for everyone. Theory B example, I tell myself that I am rubbish at speaking to other people and I make every social interaction awkward for everyone. In actual fact, it may not be that bad, but by convincing myself I am going to struggle, I often do.}

What is the hard evidence that this is true? {Theory A example, I often run out of things to say when meeting new people and the conversation fizzles out. Theory B example, I feel very anxious about meeting new people as I worry they won’t like me or find me interesting. This is making me overthink situations where I am expected to make conversation and this makes it harder to relax.}

What do I need to do if this theory is true? {Theory A example, avoid situations where I need to meet new people so that I don’t make myself look stupid and make the other person uncomfortable. Theory B example, notice when I feel nervous and reassure myself that I am getting things out of perspective and remind myself that as long as I am polite and friendly, people are unlikely to think badly of me.}

Self-Compassion and Meditation: Nurturing Inner Harmony

A powerful way to tackle our loud inner critic is to practice self-compassion as we would with a friend. If we imagine it is a loved one or our childhood self that we are speaking to, rather than our adult selves, we are more likely to use kind words and actions during our struggles.

Practicing mindfulness and meditation can also help to silence overwhelming mind-chatter.  Giving ourselves a break and allowing ourselves to be present in the moment will calm our nervous system, which will in turn enable us to access the more rational side of our brains and gain perspective.


By being open to trying new ways of thinking and seeking support where needed, our inner critic’s noise can be transformed from a barrier to progress into a guide for personal growth. 

If you’d like further support on quietening your inner critic and improving your wellbeing, complete the short contact form to book a free initial consultation.

#InnerCritic #MentalWellness #SelfCompassion #Mindfulness #CBT

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