The Surprising Solution to Tame Your Inner Critic (That Actually Works)

Mother kindly caring for scared inner critic (child) in living room

As you may already know, the Inner Critic is WHY Fierce Kindness Exists.

And in this article I share a surprising tool to help manage our critic.

Because the ‘usual’ methods to get rid of our critic don’t work long term…

Most people think that the way to deal with our critic is to simply block or ignore it.

Another common response is to browbeat our critic with anger and ferociousness, cowing it into submission.

And these solutions can work temporarily. In fact here are a couple of articles with some short-term/instant solutions to give you a break when you need it:

But just like a child having a meltdown, if you don’t pay attention, your critic will only panic more and try stronger measures to get you to listen. And if you force your inner critic to shut up with anger and fear (a form of bullying), you create a terrible push-pull (victim-villain) dynamic.

At the worst, if you ignore and/or are mean enough to your critic you simply amplify the anxiety your critic feels. And it’s really unpleasant to have a terrified inner critic…

…my own personal experience

And this is exactly what happened to me. I was so rigid in ignoring my critic (it stopped me from doing what I wanted to do) that my (inner critic’s) anxiety would ramp up to the max, falling just short of a full-blown panic attack. And often over very small things.

Eventually (because I refused to acknowledge it), my critic’s overblown negative response became a deeply ingrained and unpleasant habitual response.

But at the time I had no idea what was going on. All I knew was that I would feel a twinge of anxiety. I would ignore it. And then Bam! Suddenly my heart was pumping a mile a minute—and I had no idea why.

It took me literally years to figure out the real problem…

An unexpected solution

Here’s what I eventually learned: do the OPPOSITE of everything I’d been doing so far.

I was shocked to realise I needed to pay closer attention to my critic, not less!

I learned that we shouldn’t dis-engage and disconnect from our critic, instead we should lean-in and embrace it.

Why? Because it was my very detachment and refusal to engage with my critic that turned mild (and often perfectly natural) anxiety about something into full-blown fear.

Remember that our inner critic is really a child

As we learned in earlier articles, the critic was formed when we were a child—and while we have grown up, it has not.

When our critic comes out to play, it’s simply trying to communicate with us.

But because it’s a child, it doesn’t know how to communicate with us in a mature, adult way. And worse than simply being a child, it’s a frightened child whose response to us doing things that make it uncomfortable is to kick and scream, panic and wail, and make us feel terrible until we listen…

The inner critic is like a dangerous dog…

Did you know that the most dangerous dogs are not the angriest ones? The most dangerous dogs are those that think they need to be in charge—but are afraid.

Our inner critic is like that dog. It unconsciously learned it was the boss of protecting us. But it’s a toddler who doesn’t understand the world as we do. It gets scared. And when it’s scared it doesn’t think straight. It just wants whatever it’s afraid of to stop and go away. And it will do whatever it takes to make us pay attention—and prevent that scary thing.

So “getting rid” of your critic is not the answer

Nope. Instead we need to lean closer. we must learn our critic’s habits and rules: What does it want? What matters most? What does it get upset about? What is stressful?

And crucially, we must give our critic attention and love.

Because children, especially frightened ones, need love and support—not distance.

Instead we must build a relationship with our critic

We must nurture the relationship with our critic ‘child’ so it learns to trust us, reveal its fears and inner workings—and backs down when we need it to.

We need our critic to trust us. And we need to remove the weight and responsibilty for protecting us from our inner critic, and teach that frightened little critic that: “We’ve got this”.

So in order to help our critic relax and stop worrying, we need to:

  • Step into a nurturing parent or adult role.
  • Be kind, yet firm.
  • Listen and hear our critic’s fears and concerns (without judgement).
  • And then do something: either soothe our critic’s fears—or act on them.
And we must be fiercely kind!

Which means being strong and assertive, understanding and respectful and compassionate—no matter how badly our critic behaves.

Your feelings are the key

When our inner critic ‘attacks’ it uses the powerful emotional tools of fear, anger, shame and blame to get you to do (or not do) something—and crucially stay safe. Because it’s habitually protecting you, even though you’re now an adult.

And while your critic’s fears and worries feel real—it doesn’t make them true.

Feelings are simply signals to pay attention.

And when we listen (and take action as needed), those feelings are no longer needed and they pass.

But if we block or ignore those signals, our feelings remain stuck: they still have something to say and will just pop up another time.

And in the case of our inner critic, those ignored messages and signals quickly ramp up to anxiety, fear, dread and terror.

How to ‘get rid of’ your critic?

Well if the critic is a part of ourselves that desperately needs love, care and attention, why would we want to?

Instead, lean in! Build a strong, nurturing relationship. Get to know your critic deeply—and care for it.

Be firm, kind, strong, respectful and open. And listen.

Show your critic that whatever situation it’s stressing out about, you are more than capable of handling it.

Then your critic can see that it’s no longer needed: it can relax because you’ve got this.

Now go and be yourself!

If you want to live, to truly feel alive, you need to feel. Everything. And you need to be you—the wonderful, fabulous, unique you.

But your terrified inner critic is in the way.

Take a moment to imagine what your life would be like without an overactive inner critic: What parts of yourself could come out to play? What parts of you could you grow? What would you do differently? And who would you be?

Being fully ourselves takes huge courage, and it’s both the most terrifying and thrilling journey you will ever go on.

You’ll never be the same again.

  Some homework questions to ponder:
  • What resonated with you in this article? What do you agree or disagree with?
  • What strategies do you currently have for dealing with your critic?
    • Which strategies are (and are not) working?
  • What is your current habitual pattern when your critic is activated?
    • For example: block or ignore, override, bully back or intimidate into silence, ridicule, and merge with your critic and join the panic?
    • Is there a common sequence?
    • How do you feel during and afterwards?
  • When your critic is activated, do you become the villain (eg. ignore or override your critic) or the victim (eg. you lose yourself and get swept up in the fear and criticism)?
    • How does that feel?
    • How might it feel to be kind to both yourself and your critic?
  • What would your experience of life be like without your inner critic?
    • Describe a day in your life without your inner critic.
    • How would your career, home life, relationships and fun activities feel? What would be different?
    • How do you feel at the beginning and end of the day?
  • Make a list of the parts of yourself that could come out if it weren’t for your critic.
    • What parts of you could you enjoy or grow and nurture?
    • Which parts would breathe a huge sigh of relief?
    • How would you be different? What would you do differently?
  • Lastly, what does your critic think about this article?!
    • Is it scared/hopeful/excited/relieved/skeptical/apprehensive? (or something else!)

Wrap-upFierce Kindness Logo

So the surprising solution to tame your critic is this: Lean in.

Feel. Look within. Take charge yet truly listen. And be kind to what you find.

Because ultimately, Inner Critic work is about becoming you—all of you.

It’s exhilarating and terrifying work, and it’ll be the hardest thing you’ve ever done…

This journey is about becoming whole instead of perfect. It’s about learning to cherish you as you are—not as you wish you were.

Yes, it’s always safer not to take risks, to stay in the cocoon of critic-approved behaviours, actions and goals.

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. Elbert Hubbard

But I know that’s not for me. Limiting myself makes me unhappy and depressed. And even though stretching and challenging myself to discover who I am (and what I’m capable of) is anxiety-inducing for my critic—I’m doing it anyway.

Will you join me on this journey?

Share your thoughts on this article in the comments below!

For some great tips and ideas on how to be kind to your critic try:

And if you liked this inner critic article, you may also like:

  1. An Introduction to The Inner Critic – Mine and Possibly Yours Too…
  2. Who, What & Why: A New Understanding of Your Inner Critic!
  3. What is the Inner Critic? And What to Do When You’re Under Attack!
  4. Draw Out Your Gremlin! Coaching Tool | Meet Your Inner Critic (.PDF printable)
Change the world. Start with you!

Image of Mom and child having a reassuring moment by Prostock-Studio via Shutterstock

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