How to over-ride your inner critic

Posted by Karen in Benefits of Life Coaching

Tips to get you through those though moments

Over the years, I’ve come to realise that no matter what clients come to me with – stress, feeling stuck, lack of direction or control over life, low confidence or unhappiness at work – the underlying cause of their unease stems the from a harsh, self-critical inner judge that holds them back, sabotages their wishes, longings and best intentions.

By helping clients to look within, many discover that their inner voice is far from playing the role of a supportive friend (treating themselves with empathy and understanding) and is instead a constant critic, pointing out personal failings and leaving them feeling demotivated and unhappy.

This discovery often comes with an understandable sense of sadness. The discovery that they are standing in the way of their own happiness. However, once they come to terms with how harshly they treat, belittle and undermine themselves, there follows some relief because they can make sense of what’s been going on for them and they can start to do something about it.

“You showed me how to look at things differently and this had an immediate effect on how I felt about myself. Since then I am more forgiving and gentle with myself in similar situations. I feel less exposed and am therefore freer to be how I naturally am.” Christine

Christine, a client, was finding it difficult to connect with others in social situations and this in turn was affecting her self-confidence. Working together, Christine came to realise that the narrative in her mind was full of self-judgement, and this was undermining her confidence.

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and show self-compassion – treating ourselves with kindness, love and forgiveness,  in the words of Dr. Kristen Neff , a pioneering self-compassion researcher, author, and teacher, “we feel safe and accepted enough to both see ourselves clearly and make the changes needed to be healthier and happier.” 

Practising self-compassion?

Self-compassion has three core components:

Mindfulness – the ability to hold painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness; i.e. experiencing and seeing them for what they are rather than over-identifying with them. To do this, we need to pay attention to how we feel when something difficult happens even if we feel uncomfortable. Be with the feeling: “Ah, I feel frustrated, I feel upset, I feel anxious. That’s how I feel. It’s difficult, I don’t like it and that’s how I feel right now. It’s okay to feel like that.”

Common humanity: We need to remember that other people feel this way, that we are not the only ones that experience difficulty – rather than your experience making you feel separated and isolated from others. We all struggle at points in life and can relate to frustration, disappointment, anger, sadness as well as feelings of joy and contentment. “Yes, I feel frustrated and sad that I didn’t get the job. That’s normal and human.”

Self-compassion– being kind and understanding towards yourself when you experience pain or failure rather than being harshly self-critical. We need to ask ourselves: “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness, warmth and understanding to myself?” And we can continue saying: “There is only one job and many applicants. It’s not about me personally. I did the best I could. I have learned lots from this that can help me with my next job interview.”

We can learn and practice these components and use them in tough moments. Here is a powerful, helpful and one of my favourite self-compassion exercises, The self-compassionate break (from Dr. Kristin Neff).

Situations we like and dislike happen all the time, in a never ending stream of events through day to day life. Many of these events are not in our control, and yet we often find ourselves looking to the external world for solutions when what we really need to do is to look within for answers.

Check out my August blog for further reading on self-compassion: What’s good for you: self-compassion, the road to greater resilience.

As always, I am curious to hear how you are getting on.

With warm wishes,



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