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5 Immediate and Easy Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” ~William Shakespeare

I love to paint. I’m not a professional artist. I have no technique, and I am not trained. But I love how the brush feels as it dips into color and moves across a white page.

Painting allows me to be free, to have fun and play. It also does something else: It shows me how I judge myself and how I can get in my own way. It reveals what I believe about myself that stops me from creating whatever I want.

Even as I take joy in the process of painting I still hear the inner-critic in my head:

“This flower is not pretty enough. It should be purple, not red.”

“Make this face look good so others can recognize what a good painter you are.”

“You can’t paint just for the sheer joy of it—you need to be doing more productive things with your time.”

“It’s ugly, and when people see it, they’re going to think you’re weird.”

The judge inside me likes to tell me how bad I am. He mocks me, teases me, and pushes me around. He’s mean, insensitive, and determined to hold me back.

When we engage in a project, whether it is the beginning, the middle, or the end, the judge loves to get involved. Although the judge is very unoriginal and speaks to each of us very much the same, his judgments take on hundreds of forms.

The judge is most definitely a thief, robbing us of our innate goodness, worth, talent, values, and ability. He makes us believe in illusions, wreaks havoc on our spirit, and causes chaos in our mind.

He likes to break our ego and tell us we are not enough and bad. He likes to tell us we are not loved and not cared about—that we don’t matter.

He even likes to stroke our ego and puff us up, telling us how good we are, how special and how unique. “Look how beautiful that purple flower is. Look how very talented you are. When people see this, they’re going to find you very special.”

He loves to break us and stroke us. He loves to seduce us and tempt us. He loves to make us doubt ourselves.

So how do we silence this inner critic and put him in his place?

The first and most important step is to identify the judge. Much of the time we have become so accustomed to his woven web in our mind, we aren’t even aware when he’s speaking.

If you’re working on something and all of a sudden you start questioning yourself, if you feel your energy decreasing, if you’re getting stuck, bored, or tired, recognize the judge is speaking to you.

Listen, but don’t take his words to heart. See him so that he doesn’t hang out in a distant corner manipulating you from above.

Identify him with presence rather than pushing him way. Because what we resist will persist!

Once you see him, here are 5 immediate and easy ways to respond to your inner critic. It’s so simple that it may seem unrealistic, but it works. Memorize it and keep it close like a mantra.

When your inner critic acts out, say:

1. So what?

So what if you think that? That doesn’t mean it’s true.

2. Who cares?

You think your judgments means something to me? They don’t!

3. Big deal!

Oh seriously, big deal! Really, big f’n deal!

4. Why not?

Why shouldn’t I do this? You’re telling me I can’t? I won’t? I’m not worthy of it? Why not? I’m going to continue doing this anyway, because I can! No matter what you say, I’m going to just keep diving in.

5. What if it doesn’t matter if I am __________________ or not?

Fill in the critic’s judgment here. For example, what if it doesn’t matter if it’s good enough or not? If it’s weird and people might find me strange?

What if it doesn’t matter if it shows my talent and I will be recognized by others for it or not?

And even, “What if it doesn’t matter if it’s beautiful or not, because I’m going to keep giving myself permission to keep on painting anyway no matter what you say!”

Feel how these questions empower you, and whatever you are doing, keep doing it anyway. Keep meeting the dream, the project, your creative expression.

Keep going, forging ahead, building one block at a time.

The inner judge rarely goes away. As long as we have minds, he will continue to find ways to torture us. But we can identify him and say: “I see you, judge!”

When we identify the inner critic like this, we take away his power and regain our own.

Avatar of Lynn Newman

About Lynn Newman

Lynn Newman’s (aka Lynn Zavaro) book and card deck set, The Game of You™- An Interactive Way To Know Yourself, Create The Life You Want offers a powerful, profound and FUN experience of self-discovery and transformation. Her board game, The Game of Insight comes out soon. She has currently finished her memoir. Visit her at gameofyou.com.

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  • Anonymous

    I have been reading your site for a while but haven’t posted a comment as of yet and i just have to say that i love it! It’s so wonderful to wake up in the morning and read a post or two, its refreshing and goes great with my morning cup of coffee.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks so much, Miranda! I love running Tiny Buddha, and I always appreciate that so many inspiring writers share their stories and insights with the community. Lynn’s posts have really resonated with me, as it sounds like we have had some similar experiences. Incidentally, if you’d ever like to contribute to the blog, you are more than welcome! I have submissions guidelines here:

    http://tinybuddha.com/get-featured/

    Happy Tuesday =)

    Lori

  • Anonymous

    I am always amazed at what comes before me just when I need it.  Thank you for this post on a day I am in need of shutting up my inner critic!

  • Summer

    WOW - amazing!  Thanks for such great, inspiring, intellgent information!

  • http://ponder-the-pre.posterous.com Kate Britt

    Excellent advice, Lynn. I thought everybody had an inner critic or judge, don’t they? always there in the background? I too am a casual painter and an inner critic. I have a suggestion to add to your list of ways to deal with my critic. Retraining!

    As an artist and writer, I have had to learn to deal with other people’s criticism. One way I deal is to seek the grains of truth in what the person is saying. I figure there’s always something to improve in my work, right? So instead of getting insulted or upset, I try to remember to seek that kernel of truth and then turn inward to see how it might contribute to my own improvement. It helps take the sting out of the criticism.

    So then I figured maybe I could get my internal critic to be just as helpful as external critics. I like how you described the first step: “Identify [her] with presence.” So I’m like, “OK, if you have something to say to me, please make it constructive.” Takes a while to cut through the surface thoughts, but behind my inner critic’s comments I can often find hints of a new direction I might take, or a change for the better, something to hone, or something to add to or subtract from my piece that might enhance it. Sometimes it’s that very critic who can help me get past a block or stuck place in my creativity — she gets me mad enough to stop what I’m doing and listen to something different.

    Funny thing is, when I try to put the inner critic to work constructively, quite often she’ll just shut up — perhaps she’s just too lazy to do the real kind (the good kind) of work, LOL!

  • Adele Uddo

    God knows I’ve wrestled with a pretty mean inner critic most of my life (I like to call him “Choid”). He’s always there reminding me of how defective and unworthy I am. And then, as you point out, on occasion he tries convincing me of how Brrrriliant I am! Welcome to my inner seesaw-psychology. I LOVE the mantra you recommend of “So What, You Cares, Big Deal, Why Not.” This is very helpful and practical advice I will take to heart next time Choid starts ranting about my flaws (or raving about how special I am).

  • Chiromanx

    Wow. Great advice.

  • Rashmie @ Gorgeous Karma

    Realistic article and rings true in my heart. Most of us have that detractor within us that’s bigger than the biggest naysayer outside. This detractor is always testing us and teasing us. Only way we can override this negative voice is to listen to the voice of our heart and soul with clarity and respect. The inner voice that emerges from the soul has the power to silence that negative force.

    What an amazing platform you have provided, dear Lori, for a writer to express his voice – no matter how famous or not she/he is. Thank you for the daily dose of inspiration.

  • http://medtopicwriter.com/ Samantha Gluck

    Really nice post! I’ve gotten better at discerning which critical thoughts truly need addressing (and there are plenty) and which are simply brain trash. That’s what my hubs calls unfounded self-criticism — brain trash. He says, “Just like you have to take out the trash every Monday and Thursday from your home, you’ve gotta take out the trash from your brain as well. Keep criticisms that are valid and burn the rest.”

  • Ahwongsifu

    This is exactly what happen when I sit down to meditate 5am in the morning. The judge is always there, sometimes stress build up, my  work come into picture, conflict at work, strong opinion on matters, unresolved problem. If I dwell into it, I will build up emotion from those judgement. I build anger, frustration, hate and even revenge. I will soon give up and forget about my precious morning meditation. If I can’t resolve this judgement, I will never get to meditate. I soon found some methods to resolve such judgement. What ever come to my mind it is always attached with some form of emotion such as anger, frustration, revenge, etc and most of the time it is very emotional. I will just let it go without further judgement, whether it is good or bad or ugly. I just let it go. Stop every thought, break up every emotion, find a way to let go. Come back to the now and don’t drift into the past. Soon you can just stop those judgement with a word, and that is how the guru(s) maintained their inner peace.
    Every morning I spend sometime on this blog because it has beautiful photos and usually these photos give me some form of inner peace. Example sunrise, those photos in this blog give me a true picture of sunrise and its so beautiful. One way of letting go is to have that image in your mind all the time. 
    But sometime the judgement will not go away. I may have to “look into the judgement”, “look at it as it is”. Without mental projection or imagining the problem to be worst than it should be, If we think bad about the problem, it becomes bad. If we think good about it, it becomes good. But most of the time we will tend to look at it from the bad angle. “It isn’t what happens to us that causes us to suffer; it’s what we say to ourselves about what happens.” ~Pema Chodron – You told me this. 
    To me, Meditation is to tame the judge. Once the judge is tame, you build up good karma (compassion, emptiness, mindfulness, serving others, etc), with years of taming and good karma you most probably have a good rebirth. This is how meditation link to your past, present and your future lives. Well, this is my personal view at Buddhism. This is a very important article.

  • Lynn Zavaro

    Yes! Try keeping your focus on the guarding point (your breath, heart or even a small nimita in the area of your upper lip) if your mind wanders off, lovingly remind yourself to return to the object of your attention. Then, as you continuously and compassionately return soon you will become absorbed! Light to your practice – xoxoxo Lynn

  • Apple

    AWESOME!

  • http://www.thegreatnessmind.com Parin Patel

    Nice post Lynn!

    Really like, and completely agree, with: “the first and most important step is to identify the judge”. We need to identify it before we can silence it!

    Personally, I find that the “criticism” from the inner “judge” seems to always be related to some sort of fear: Fear of Failure, Fear of Not Being Good Enough, Fear of Embarrassment, etc.

    But, it’s just a matter of identifying it like you mention, acknowledging the criticism, and making a conscious decision to move forward with what ultimately makes you happy, and connects with your inner self. :)

    PS: Not sure if you’re familiar with the work of Seth Godin, but he also speaks of the “inner voice” we have. He calls it “The Lizard Brain” – the voice of “the resistance”. I’ve posted a great video of him demonstrating and giving tips on how to face our “Lizard Brain” here – I think you’ll enjoy it! :)

    http://www.thegreatnessmind.com/2010/12/19/seth-godin-quiets-the-lizard-brain/

  • Mellymutton

    Thank you!!!!!

  • Oroboros

    At the same time, having an inner critic also fortifies you from potential criticism of others. Being hard on yourself is no excuse to stop working.

    I mean, I am a graphic novel creator and nobody is a better or more harsh or incisive than I am of my work. I know what looks good, or what works, and what doesn’t. Once I am satisfied with what I’ve done, then anybody’s critique has no more bite than mere opinion.

  • http://www.wiseatwork.net Susie @ WiseAtWork

    Lynn, I like that the entire post was about the Inner Critic and appreciate your perceptions!

    Two things come to mind as I deal with a rather rowdy Inner Bully.

    One, is that I don’t need to “put him in his place” because this is the part of me that feels so unworthy, unlovable, and disregarded.This Inner Bully just wants my attention. “Ahh, there you are — the Inner Bully.”

    Two, the Inner Bully seems to be the part of me really wants my nurturing — to identify the painful emotions, sensations, and thoughts and step through them. With the offer of reassurance and wholesome soothing that I am OK, the Inner Bully just steps aside.

  • Megan

    I can’t tell you how true this article is. For a couple of years now, singing (my passion and future career) has become a chore and something that I don’t look forward to, and now I understand why! I am my worst critic and that little judge inside my head that seems to know my every mistake keeps telling me I’m not good enough-distracting me from enjoying the music. After every concert and recital, family members, friends, and even strangers used to tell me how much they enjoyed watching  how much I enjoyed what I did. I rarely receive that compliment any more. Thank you, I can’t wait to get back to my passion and silencing that little voice inside my head.

  • Lynn Zavaro

    This rings music to my ears!!! Brava Megan! Go girl go!!!

  • Lynn Zavaro

    Beautiful wisdom – yes!!!

  • Lynn Zavaro

    I understand your point:)

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  • Anya

    How utterly unbelievable that I can read a post on a topic when I need it the most.  My inner critic is running rampant and reading the article and ensuing  
    replies is just what I need to have a good night sleep. I can use these strategies to shut out the inner critic, redirect the negativity and even use it to find the kernel of truth that can help me improve and move forward in even just a small way. 
    Thank you all so much for sharing – an amazing community to which I feel bonded and privileged to be a part of.

  • honey

    I think it is good not to “fight” the judge. Instead just realize that the judge is your mind and not you. The problem comes when we begin to almost merge the judge with our own identity, especially when the judge is being critical.

  • KateGladstone

    These 5 things don’t silence my inner critics, who just laugh and sneer at them, and even grow stronger from them. Then they laugh and sneer at me for supposing that anything I could try against them would ever work.

  • john barbieri

    To counter the inner critic dialog, I often reply to it using the internal phrase – “Compared to what?” That helps quiet it down.

  • http://www.owoos.com/ Ejaz Karim

    Great post Lynn.

    I know I’m professional in my skills and when I do start I do what I should do BUT the problem is the judgment or product_not_process mindset before even I start. I just can’t start anything for example it took many hours to start reading this post I had opened this in the browser tab and I was just staring it before I could start. However, I read the post.

    If something is new to learn or to do, I can’t wait to start. I always have great motivation for new things but when I live with it for sometime motivation fades away and I resist myself to restart that process. This is one of the habits I don’t want to live by. Do you have any tips for me? I would highly appreciate anything like Post, Book or any course.

    Regards.