I frequently hear from women about how their inner critic runs the show, and I have struggled with it as well. If you feel that mental battle going on inside and you want some relief, this episode is for you. Today I’m going to share a powerful strategy that truly transformed how I relate to the inner critic and has been an incredible tool for helping women find freedom.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT QUIETING YOUR INNER CRITIC IN THIS EPISODE:
- [2:04] Why it is important to manage the inner critic
- [5:25] How most of us deal with the inner critic
- [6:40] Why the inner critic exists
- [7:57] How to respond to the inner critic with a different mindset
- [10:46] How God speaks to us when we are upset and comforts us when we are afraid
- [17:39] Steps we can take to respond to the inner critic with compassion
[2:o4] Why it is important to manage the inner critic
First, I want to say that we are never going to fully eliminate the inner critic. That’s not our goal. She’s there for a good reason, and she is part of our hard wiring. We’ll talk more about why she’s there soon, but it can be damaging to us if we don’t manage her.
When the inner critic is speaking in our head, we continually have these battles in our mind. Often, that voice can be louder than the voice of God. It isn’t good for our health to have these ongoing mental battles – we certainly have enough things to think about and work through without the inner critic being in the way.
Also, this is not the loving voice of compassion that God has for us. It’s not a kind voice.It’s not a voice that wants to lead us to healing. It’s a voice that is harsh and hateful. We have to understand that the inner critic is not the voice of God, but it is important to learn to manage it and deal with it in a productive way.
Before we delve deeper into this topic, I want to mention something that I sometimes get resistance too. To be honest, I’ve felt resistance around this as well. I didn’t feel like I really wanted to fully get rid of the inner critic, and I think that’s because she was helpful to me. She helped me to stay motivated, to push harder, and to meet goals. If you are a perfectionist, a workaholic, or somebody who gets stuff done (hello, I’m an Enneagram three!) you know that kind of mentality and mindset. Sometimes, an inner critic can be helpful.
When I was working through this, I discovered a hidden fear of mine: If I let this voice go, will I still be motivated? Will I still want to show up in a big way? Will I still be able to push through and to accomplish all that God has for me?
The answer is, yes. I am able to do all of these things, and from a much healthier perspective. When we’re trying to motivate ourselves from that inner critic or harsh mindset, there can be growth but it’s not joyful growth. We don’t enjoy the process of seeing transformation. We don’t celebrate our victories. There’s never an end to the growth. We feel like it always has to be better, or bigger. There is no satisfaction in our work. We know that even when God created the world, He rested and felt satisfied with the work that He did.
God calls us to be satisfied with the good work that we do, and we are called to celebrate it. When we have an inner critic pushing us to that goal, it’s not the kind of satisfaction or progress that we need to have.
[5:25] How most of us deal with the inner critic
When the inner critic strikes, we typically tell her to be quiet and to go sit down. We fight back with our thoughts by telling ourselves, “It’s not true. That’s a lie. God doesn’t say that about me.” We respond in anger, telling her to go away. We don’t respond with love. We respond with hate and we go on the attack. We tell her she’s wrong, and that it’s ridiculous to feel that way. Then, of course, guilt sets in. We wonder, “Why do I still struggle? Don’t I know by now that God has this? That God is going to take care of me? Why is this fear and doubt still here?”
When we let the inner critic run rampant, it’s so easy for the enemy and his lies to come in and continue to build on that. It is important to get this under control, and clearly dealing with the inner critic with anger is not the answer.
What if we responded to the inner critic with a different kind of mindset?
[6:40] Why the inner critic exists
Before I reveal this mindset strategy, I want to give a little bit of background about why the inner critic exists.
The inner critic is a normal part of our brain. It’s part of our brain’s ability to keep us safe and protect us. Some people have called her a “risk management expert”. She’s the one who can detect if there’s something wrong, and who wants to help us take steps to avoid pain, hurt, embarrassment, and humiliation. She also speaks with more volume when we are about to try something outside our comfort zone.
[7:57] How to respond to the inner critic with a different mindset
When we’re doing something bold, it’s really easy for that voice to step up. We’re risking being vulnerable and putting ourselves out there. As I mentioned before, the goal is not to eliminate that, because we want to be aware in times when we’re doing something that might be harmful or hurtful. The problem occurs when it goes into overdrive and keeps us from doing what we need to do. It becomes this hurtful dialogue inside of us, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.
We need to stop beating ourselves up for not being able to get rid of the inner critic. I love how Tara Mohr puts this concept in her book, Playing Big. She says, “The day of unfailing, gorgeous confidence isn’t coming. Self-doubt will always be a part of what we each work with as we take steps to play bigger. The name of the game is not eliminating self-doubt. The name of the game is learning how to let the inner critic do its thing, without taking direction from it. The goal is to hear the inner critic’s voice but not let that voice determine your choices.”
It’s important to acknowledge and see the inner critic as part of a healthy, working mind, while also keeping her within the healthy parameters of how God sees us and God’s ability to keep us safe and protected. Keeping her within her right realm should be our goal. We want to hear the inner critic’s voice, but we don’t need to let it be the voice that changes how we respond. We don’t need it to be the one that’s in charge. The inner critic absolutely needs to be heard and understood. We need to have compassion for her, and that is the mindset shift that we have to make.
We need to let the inner critic be understood, acknowledged, consoled, and comforted. We need to stop telling her she’s crazy for feeling the way she is. She is the risk management expert, and often, she has a reason for feeling the way she does. When we can give her the space to have the floor and explain why she is feeling that way, we can help her to understand what that is about. Then we can work on quelling that voice and replacing it with a different thought, but it has to start first with that compassionate, understanding voice.
We need to take her to the cross. We need to let her hear the soothing words of our powerful savior. We need to let her be understood and held by Jesus in the way that we know he holds us. Of course, when I’m speaking about the inner critic as a “her” – this is a voice inside of us, but we need to allow that part of ourselves to be approached in that way.
[10:46] How God speaks to us when we are upset and comforts us when we are afraid
With that in mind, I want to share some scriptures about how God speaks to us when we’re upset, how He comforts us, and how we can draw some inspiration from that when we are comforting and speaking to our inner critic.
First, God comforts us with his promise.
God’s promises of never giving up on us, always being with us, never forsaking us, loving us to the end of time, the fact that he never changes and always provides – He takes care of His children – all of the promises of God. That is what comforts us. That is what gives us strength. He gives us comfort through reminding us of those truths.
God also comforts us with His presence.
Psalm 23:4, Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and staff protect and comfort me.
This scripture, is from Psalm 23, a very famous Psalm. This is a scripture of a shepherd walking beside a sheep. The rod and the staff are the instruments that a shepherd would have to control his sheep, to reign them in, to keep them in line, and to help them to do the right thing.
God’s promises of keeping us safe gives us comfort. I want to draw to that part of the verse that says, ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me’.
He has not abandoned us to our fear. He comforts us with his presence in the middle of the anxiety, fear, and chaos that may be coming in what the inner critic is trying to express.
Another way that God comforts us when we’re upset or afraid is that He reminds us that He hears us and that He is going to help us.
Psalm 10:17, Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.
God knows the hopes of the helpless. He knows when we’re hurting; He knows our hopes for something better and He comforts us through it.
Psalm 22:24, For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help.
God is not ignoring us when we have these feelings of pain. That’s why it isn’t helpful when we get angry at ourselves for hearing this inner critic's voice. That’s not how God made us to be healed. He made us to be healed by hearing the pain, but not dwelling on it. We need to acknowledge it, recognize it, have compassion for it, and sit with it – not belittle it.
Our inner critic usually has a good reason for what we are experiencing, and we need to help her see what that is and recognize it. God recognizes what we are going through, He sits with us in the pain, and then He gives us a new perspective to focus on.
Psalm 34:4, I prayed to the Lord and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.
God gives us freedom from all the things that keep us trapped in anxiety and fear when we can let Him take them, and when we can pray to Him and trust His answers.
Psalm 31:22, In panic I cried out, “I am cut off from the Lord!” But you heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help.
I love this verse because it really speaks to this idea of us being so panicky sometimes. We get afraid that God is never going to fix this and He has left us – all the things we think sometimes when we’re in these states of true emotions. He’s still there. He’s still there in the mess. That’s the God we serve, and that’s how we can respond to the inner critic.
This gives us a new perspective to consider: How can we help the inner critic? We see this most powerfully in that very famous verse in Philippians 4:6-8 – I’m going to share it here, and I want you think about it in this new context of the inner critic:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
So He allows us to have the opportunity to vent those things to Him, to recognize them. He doesn’t just say, “Hey, have a new perspective. Stop being so stressed. Stop being ridiculous about this. You don’t need to worry about this. What’s wrong with you for having this feeling?”
Instead He says, “Pray about everything. Tell me what you need. Thank me for the fact that I’m with you, and that I’m going to resolve this. I’m going to help you through this. I want you to take on this new way of looking at it.” So again, that’s the attitude we can have with the inner critic.
Lastly, I wanted to share that God’s very character is to be loving and compassionate. This is who He is. This is the foundational part of His entire being. We see that both in the Old Testament and the New Testament – there are so many verses about this.
I could devote an entire podcast episode to those verses, but now, I just want to share two: one from the Old and one from the New to show you that it is the entire picture of who God is in Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father.
Exodus 34:6, The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.”
Matthew 9:36, When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
God is compassionate. God understands. He is slow to anger, but quick to listen. This is the model that we get to have as the one who brings us comfort, and this is how we can choose to look at and manage our inner critic.
[17:39] Steps we can take to respond to the inner critic with compassion
Let’s talk about some steps we can take to help us respond to the inner critic with compassion instead of anger. I’m saying, “us” because this is an ongoing process that we all have – but it does get easier.
First, I would encourage you to just listen to the inner critic’s words with kindness and compassion. What are her fears? Ask her, “What are you trying to keep me safe from? What is that thing that you’re trying to protect me from? What does that mean?” Sit with the answers and try to understand where she is coming from and why she could be feeling the way she does.
Second, consider what parts of what the inner critic is saying are true, and what parts are not true. Remember, she is trying to keep us safe and often her voice is rooted in fear. What does she fear might happen that is difficult, bad, or scary? What are actually things that could be relevant? What do we want to run away from or avoid, and what can we step into with a trust in God? Sometimes she is saying things that just aren’t true. If we can understand what is and isn’t true about what she is saying, that helps us to decide how to respond.
Third, how can you acknowledge her concerns as real, and then point her to the cross? What reassurance can you give about God’s character? About your identity as God’s daughter? What can you remind her of? You don’t have to dismiss her, but you can say that you understand and share the truth that you know about God. You know how He made you, how He is protecting you, and how He is going to walk with you through anything.
Lastly, what thoughts are you going to choose to dwell in moving forward? What are you going to say? You can take what she is saying and recognize that there is risk involved. There is some fear involved, and fear can be healthy in protecting us as well. Fear can also be something that we can give to God, to help us to step into fear. Sometimes we have to step into fear to get to that next level.
I’m going to give you a very personal example of something the inner critic has been talking to me about lately. Many years ago, I worked as a magazine editor and wrote for a Christian magazine. I loved working as a writer, and I would like to get back to that work. I know God has given me some specific things to share, and I feel like it could be very helpful to do that.
Here, however, is what my inner critic has been saying:
“You can’t write for that magazine. They’d laugh at you if you offered to write an article for them. Who do you think you are? No one wants to hear from you. You have nothing worthwhile to say.”
So, instead of just yelling at her and telling her to go away, here is an example of a dialogue that I could have – and this is something I’ve been working through.
Me: “I see that you’re trying to keep me from something. Thank you for wanting to protect me. What are you trying to protect me from?”
Inner Critic: “Well, I don’t want you to look like a fool. I don’t want you to look silly in front of others. I’m trying to keep you safe from being hurt.”
Keep in mind, the inner critic often blares when we step into doing something new and big, and she also tries to revert back to some of those old, unhealthy soundtracks in our minds. For me, that soundtrack is perfectionism, workaholism, and people pleasing. I now have a new strength to respond differently to her because of the work I’ve done in the past.
She still sometimes calls upon those old fears, so I’m grateful that God showed us a different way to respond. Just be aware that sometimes when she attacks, she will attack in ways that have been an Achilles heel in the past, or using things you’re trying to work through.
Me: “Thank you for trying to keep me from getting hurt in this area. You know how painful it’s been in the past for me to feel rejected by others, or to feel like a failure about things that I care deeply about. And I see that there is a potential for that to happen, but here’s the thing: I don’t have to worry about if I get it right, or I don’t have to worry about even if I get it right, ever. I don’t have to worry about what others think. I’m trusting God in this process. I feel God calling me to do this, and so I’m trusting that He is going to help me to know what to share and how to share it.”
Inner Critic: “I’m putting this in God’s hands. He’s got it. He’s able.”
So I didn’t just say, “You’re wrong. You’re bad. What is wrong with you?” I acknowledged that it made sense that she was trying to protect me in this way. She has walked with me, and has seen me hurt in the past by others’ criticism and rejection. I’m saying, “I feel that. I know that. Thank you for reminding me to be aware. I am aware, and here is how I’m choosing to handle it. I’m choosing to say that God’s got me. He’s taking care of me, and I’m going to be okay. God is directing this, and he’s going to give me what I need.”
You can hear the difference in the tone. It is not condemning and yelling back and a voice that is being critical and harsh. It’s responding the way God responds – with love and compassion.
That is the mindset switch. Offer understanding, love, and healing to the inner critic. Take her to the cross. Let her find that place where she can calm down and rest. We can then step forward and do what God has called us to do.
Other Podcast Episodes on Mindset Strategies to Manage Your Thoughts:
- Ep. 113: Mindset Matters: Why Renewing Your Mind Matters
- Ep. 114: Mindset Matters: 7 Weapons of Warfare to Renew Your Mind
- Ep. 115: Mindset Matters: How to Stop Overthinking Everything
- Ep. 116: Mindset Matters: What is Mindfulness and is Mindfulness Appropriate for Christians?
- Ep. 117: Mindset Matters: Time for a Mindset Makeover to Renew Your Thoughts
- Ep. 127: Mindset Coaching: “How can I stop thinking I’m not good enough?” with Heidi
- Ep. 128: Mindset Coaching: “How can I overcome my fear of pursuing my calling?” with Stacey
- Ep. 129: How to Identify Toxic Thinking Patterns and Break Free From Negative Thoughts
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