7 steps to tame your inner critic and create a happier, more meaningful life

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Do you ever feel like you’re your own worst enemy? Do you often feel like your thoughts are holding you back?  Are you sick of feeling stagnant and unable to move forward in life?

If so, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle with our inner critic, that voice in our head that tells us we’re just not good enough and will fail.

But what if I told you there are things you can do to swap your inner critic for your inner coach, and make deliberate intentions to create a happier, more meaningful life.

Here they are.

1) Be aware of the voice in your head

According to Ethan Kross, a leading expert on the conscious mind and psychologist in his book, Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It most, if not, all of us, have a voice in our heads. The trick is to swap the inner critic for an inner coach.

Kross says, we often hear the advice to “live in the moment,” but this can be difficult for humans because we are wired to think about the past and plan for the future. Language is a powerful tool that we rely on to help us do many different things.  Silently using language to “talk to ourselves” lets us keep information in our minds, plan, work through problems, remind ourselves of important goals and make sense of our experiences.

But we can also use language in a harmful way, and this is what is called chatter or as many of us call it, the monkey mind! Science defines chatter as getting stuck in a negative thought loop in which you’re narrowly “zoomed-in” on a problem and can’t work through it effectively. Chatter involves negative, self-defeating thoughts that can consume us and make us feel overwhelmed and stuck.

Many people struggle with this chatter, but there is hope. Rather than trying to silence our monkey mind, we can try to educate and motivate it.

2) Understand the difference between the inner coach and inner critic

 Your inner coach is like your best friend, encouraging and supporting you every step of the way.  The inner critic, on the other hand, tends to focus on defeating and negative self-talk.

The inner coach wants to help you build self-confidence, resilience, and reach your full potential.  However, the inner critic is motivated by fear, trigger feelings of anxiety and self-doubt and has a desire to protect you from failure or disappointment.

The inner coach and inner critic represent two different aspects of our inner voice.  Essentially the inner coach is like your most supportive and encouraging friend while the inner critic is like your worst enemy!

3) Learn to use cognitive reappraisal

This involves reframing your negative thoughts in a more positive light. This step and the following 3 are from Ethan Kross who offers practical strategies and tools to help you harness your thoughts and internal chatter.  Rather than jumping to negative conclusions or interpretations, it’s an opportunity to increase your confidence rather than focusing on the potential for failure.

For example, instead of telling yourself “I’m not good enough,” you might try and reframe your thought and say instead, “I’m doing the best I can.”

4) Use positive and encouraging self-talk

This involves using supportive language, focusing more on solutions than your problems. Kross says by learning to control the way we talk to ourselves; we can improve our mental and emotional wellbeing. We can learn to cope better with challenging situations. This technique can help to boost self-esteem and reduce feelings of anxiety or depression.

For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by a task and feel it is too much, you could tell yourself instead that you are capable of completing it and that in fact you have overcome challenges in the past. This can help to build self-confidence and motivation.

When you’re going through a tough time, use your name and the second person “you” rather than “I” to refer to yourself. It helps you be more objective, less consumed by your thoughts and make wiser decisions.

5) Distance yourself from your thoughts and emotions

This involves taking a step back from your thoughts and emotions and view them objectively, as if you were an outside observer, rather than being consumed by them.  This can reduce the intensity of negative emotions and stop them from overwhelming you. For example, if you’re feeling angry with someone, you could try to view the situation from their perspective and consider why they are feeling that way.  This can help you to be less judgmental and not consumed by your anger and resentment.

6) Practice self-compassion

By treating ourselves with kindness and understanding, we can break free from the cycle of negative self-talk and judging ourselves harshly become more accepting. Self-compassion is strongly linked to our mental health and wellbeing. Studies have found that those who are more compassionate towards themselves tend to have less mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and stress. 

Through increased self-awareness, cultivated through mindfulness practice, it is possible to shift the quality of harsh, critical self-talk towards a more loving accepting relationship with ourselves which leads to greater wellbeing.

A good example is when you failed at something you can practice self-compassion by acknowledging that we are all human and we all make mistakes.  See it as an opportunity to learn and grow. As they say, failure is the best teacher.

7) Coach yourself to a more fulfilling and intentional life

This involves taking a more active and intentional approach to personal growth and development through a structured process, using a variety of tools and techniques.  In following this process, you will become more self-aware, manage your emotions and thoughts better, understand your core values, develop a compelling vision for your future and an action plan you will monitor.

 Harnessing your inner coach, the voice inside you that encourages you to take risks, believe in yourself, and pursue your goals is a source of inspiration and is an integral part of this self-coaching process.

Coaching yourself involves using a variety of other tools and techniques, such as journaling and reflection, goal-setting and techniques on how to cultivate positive habits, to help you develop the skills and mindset you need to live a happier, more fulfilling life.

If you want to learn more about these powerful tools and strategies, I invite you to check out my latest YouTube video:

My Life Journal online course gives you the skills to coach yourself through a structured, step-by-step process so you can build positive habits, stay accountable, and make lasting changes. Whether you’re looking to improve your health, relationships, change career, head into retirement or any other area of your life, Life Journal can help you get there.   

I am currently offering a free 5-day challenge, Reset Your Life Compass to help you navigate your way to a more intentional, purposeful life you love.

Each day consists of a 5-minute video and an activity from the Life Compass workbook.  By doing this challenge, you will have completed the first 2 modules of Life Journal. Click here to learn more.

Don’t let your inner critic hold you back any longer. Join me on this journey to self-discovery and inspiration.


Jeanette Brown

I have been in Education as a teacher, career coach and executive manager over many years.
I'm also an experienced coach who is passionate about supporting people in finding real meaning and purpose in their lives, building a resilient, grounded inner self and achieving their desired goals.

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