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Stop Beating Yourself Up: 40 Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic

Depressed Little Girl

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

If you’re anything like I used to be, your inner critic packs a powerful punch.

You’ve got a vicious voice bad mouthing you for much of the day. And when it’s in one of those moods, wow, are you going to suffer.

It’s no wonder you feel small, disappointed, and ashamed of who you are.

It’s the reason you lie in bed at night feeling like a failure, convinced you’re a nobody, certain you’re a serial mistake maker.

It was exactly why I used to just lie in the dark, a lot. Most days in fact. Not sleeping, not even thinking, just lying.

I was forever longing for my life to go away. I’d gotten so good at beating myself up that each day seemed to present more opportunities to fail, to feel insignificant and never good enough.

Alone in the dark, I could pretend that all my problems disappeared and that I was free of the stress. I could make-believe that the pressure had evaporated.

You see, I’d taken on one of those jobs, one of those supposed leaps up the career ladder. But hell, being the head of a college department turned out to be a bad life choice … given my oh-so critical inner voice.

Every day added to my imagined portfolio of failures. Every day blew another hole in my smokescreen of having any confidence in my ability. And every day, I became more fearful of being exposed as the ‘fake’ I believed I was.

I felt like I was constantly aching yet feeling numb at the same time, which became too painful to bear. I dragged my shameful self into the college and quit. I left my entire library of books on the table along with my resignation.

Four years on, even though I’d tried to move on, even changing countries, I still felt the same. No more confident and no less self-critical.

That’s when I learned that even if I hadn’t packed any belongings, I still took a devastating amount of baggage with me. Even worse, I’d allowed my inner critic to ride passenger.

That voice—that mean, vicious, ever-present voice—had to go if life was going to be worth living.

Consciously and patiently, I set out to understand why this self-critical person had become such a huge part of me. I learned how to recognize and counter the habitual negative messages and destructive behavior patterns. I learned how to beat my inner critic, for the most part.

And now it’s your turn.

Because it’s time you felt free from the pain of constant self-criticism as well. It’s time you finally stopped beating yourself up over everything you say or do. And it's time you were able to breathe, smile, and be pleased with yourself, just as you are.

How? With one simple, small action at a time.

Some of these ideas will speak to you; some will shout. Others will only mumble. Try a handful that grab your imagination. Add in others from the list over time as you learn to build them into an inner-critic-beating habit.

1. Keep a self-praise journal.

Pocket-size is best. Each time you feel pleased by something you’ve done or said, jot it down. Flip through the pages every time you feel your critical voice starting to pipe up.

2. Write a positive self-message.

Use a permanent marker and inscribe it on the inside of your shoes.

3. Diminish your inner critic’s power.

Repeat a negative thought back in a silly voice.

4. Update your Facebook status:

“Happy to be me. Work in progress.”

5. Send yourself a loving text.

Keep it, and re-read it often. Appreciate yourself.

6. Add a positive self-message to an image.

Put it on your phone and laptop.

7. Draw a caricature.

Give your inner critic a silly feature that makes you laugh. Stick it on your fridge.

8. Make a face or blow a raspberry.

At your inner critic, not yourself!

9. Visualize your inner critic.

Imagine it as an evil gremlin squatting on your shoulder. Each time it speaks up, turn and flick it away.

10. Look in the mirror.

Smile and compliment yourself on one quality or trait you like.

11. Keep a list of self-forgiveness quotes.

Or sign up to receive daily emails from Tiny Buddha.

12. Write a list of qualities others like about you.

Keep it in your purse or wallet.

13. Write a list of qualities you like about yourself.

Add it to your purse or wallet as well.

14. Remind yourself

“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” ~Unknown.

15. End each negative thought with a positive.

For example, “But I’m human and I can learn not to make the same mistake,” or, “But I have the power to change this.”

16. Jot down one thing you’d like to be better at.

Then take one tiny step toward that.

17. Remember “not good enough” doesn’t exist.

“I don’t know a perfect person, I only know flawed people who are still worth loving.” ~John Green

18. Ask yourself why you think you should be good at everything

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Concentrate on your strengths.

19. Find one thing each day to reward yourself for.

Make it something you truly look forward to.

20. Apologize to yourself.

Do this every time you recognize self-criticism (tell yourself you’re sorry out loud if you can).

21. Ring someone you haven’t spoken to in ages.

Tell them how much they mean to you. The best way to feel better about yourself is to make someone else feel better.

22. Remember that self-hate is not an option.

You’re the only person you can guarantee you’ll be in a relationship with from birth to death, so learn to love yourself.

23. Remember there’s no shame in messing up.

You’re trying to do something, grow, and contribute.

24. Break the cycle.

Admit you made a mistake and ask, “Now what can I do about it?”

25. Look at a mistake or “failure” in context.

Will it really matter in a week, a year, or ten years from now?

26. Recognize that you make fewer mistakes than you think.

You just criticize yourself repeatedly for the same few.

27. Drown out your inner critic.

Put on your favorite feel-good music.

28. Stop trying to do too much.

Strike one task from your to-do list that won’t stop Earth from revolving if it isn’t done.

29. Reflect on how you’re only on this planet for a short time.

You can either spend it beating yourself up and being miserable or learn to love yourself and be happy.

30. Stop focusing on the one thing you got wrong.

Focus on the many things you got right.

31. Recognize the good you do for others.

The more you beat yourself up, the less good you do.

32. Keep a daily, written tally of positive self-messages.

Increase this by at least one each day.

33. Physically pat yourself on the back.

Do this for everything you’ve done well this week.

34. Look at a satellite image of the earth.

Realize that you are an important part of this amazing creation.

35. Realize that over six billion people in the world don’t care.

Only you care that you made a mistake.

36. Think of a fun, positive adjective.

Adopt this as your middle name so that every time you criticize yourself by name, you’ve described yourself in a positive way.

37. Buy a houseplant.

When you tend it remind yourself you need this much love and attention.

38. Note down kind words from others.

Write them on slips of paper and keep them in a compliment jar. Dip into this whenever you need to counter a negative self-message.

39. Halt a negative self-thought.

Use an act of self-care. For example apply hand cream, or give yourself a neck rub.

40. Stop comparing yourself to others.

Remember Dr. Seuss: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You!”

Stop Beating Yourself Up Once and for All

Beating yourself up leaves you feeling horrible.

All that constant self-criticism is exhausting. It leaves you aching inside.

Small, simple actions can bring great leaps in breaking this negative cycle—for good.

Let these ideas speak to you. Pick the ones that shout loudest.

Defeat self-depreciating thoughts you’ve heard over and over with conscious, positive acts of self-compassion.

Stop letting your inner critic overpower you. Fight back with self-love.

Depressed little girl image via Shutterstock

About Laura Tong

Laura Tong is a regular contributor on The Huffington Post and other top blogs. Grab her free cheat sheet: 5 Guilt Free Ways To Say No Without Offending Anyone (Even If You Hate Conflict). Laura also hosts the Re-write The Rules In Your Life interview series where she shares awesome happiness and positivity tips from experts around the world. Click here to listen free to the latest episodes.

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  • Ann Davis

    Hey Laura and Mark- WOW- great post and many tips to choose from. #7 is my favorite- I must give it a shot.

  • This is an amazing list and resource Mark and Laura – and I love the humour that’s seeded through it. We can all laugh at ourselves a little more!

  • So many great thoughts in this Mark and Laura – I’m bookmarking it!

  • andreastill

    Mark & Laura, what a neat and useable compilation of tips for smacking down the monkey chatter! Definitely sticking this in my notebook for easy access… 🙂

  • Therese Sibon

    succinct, practical … wise. Great thoughts, for myself and other loved ones!

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Ann, glad you found this useful. We love #7 too, and combined with #8 – it works a treat. There’s no harm in popping you caricature into your purse and pulling it out whenever you feel that mean inner voice pipe up! Enjoy.

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Ellen, we’re firm believers in humor being a fabulous tool, particularly to defeat something as earnest as self-criticism.

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Elle, so pleased some of these ideas speak to you. With a little practice, our inner critics can be defeated, certainly for the most part.

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Andrea, what a fabulous phrase: “monkey chatter” I love it! Mine used to be one of those super loud, super chatty monkey guys – not any more. So pleased you found this useable.

  • lv2terp

    Beautiful post!!! I love your list, truly inspiring, and wonderful tips!!! 🙂

  • Susan Mary Malone

    Love this, Laura! And this one just tweaked me: “2. Write a positive self-message. Use a permanent marker and inscribe it on the inside of your shoes.”
    Something about that just resonated! Next to my soul I guess 🙂
    Thank You!

  • Sue Anne Dunlevie

    Hi, Laura,

    Starting a self-praise journal this very minute! Love this article and list.

    Thanks,
    Sue

  • Awesome Laura! Something about writing in your shoes and saying negative things in a goofy voice really hits home. Maybe because I write positive messages to my son and stick them in his shoes before I leave for work. And the funny voice thing…ever seen the movie “The House Bunny”? She remembers names by repeating them in a deep, growling voice. Good stuff.

  • Cherryl Chow

    Hi, Laura & Mark, What an awesome post! I can relate to this so well! You gave us 40 ways to deal with that pesky inner critic! There’s definitely more than a few I can use. I’m going to share this link with several people who could benefit from your sage advice.

  • Talya Price

    Story of my life. I am always beating myself up and I don’t even know why. Why do I feel like I am cursed?

  • True story Laura & Mark: Today in my morning pages I was reminded that I must find ways to neutralize the negative energy of other people. As I wrote the words NEUTRALIZE THE NEGATIVE, I was reminded that this applies to my own inner negativity as well. And then I find your wise and thoughtful post this afternoon. Thank you for the great ideas. 🙂

  • Helen McCarthy

    Wow Laura, what a comprehensive list. #35 is my fav. It’s my go-to reminder when my perspective gets out of whack. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jamie

    This is a GREAT article! Lots of good advice. I’ve already shared it! Can’t wait to hear more from y’all!

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Therese. I’m delighted that you’ve found some practical ways within this post – we’re great fans of taking action and have genuinely found these work for us.

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks lv2terp – so pleased that you found some inspiration in this. Enjoy putting those tips to work for you.

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Susan. Sometimes it’s the simplest thing to do that makes such a big difference. I love this one too, there’s something about having that message tucked away out of sight but so close to you and therefore, so much more in your thoughts. Of course, you can always adapt this and marker pen your underwear too – that actually makes us laugh as well as remember the positive self-message 🙂

  • Laura J Tong

    Hi Sue. That’s excellent! Being a bit of a stationery fan, I have a gorgeous little notebook with a beautiful cover. It’s makes me doubly keen to add to it. Enjoy reminding yourself of all the things you’ve done and said that you’re pleased with. I sometimes add a tiny stick picture to go with my journal entry which helps too. Enjoy.

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Blaine. I’m really happy that some of these tips resonated with you. A positive shoe message is a great way to step through your day with self-appreciation. And sometimes being childish with things like using a goofy voice is the best way to move away from negative self thoughts. I’ll be sure to check out “The House Bunny”, it sounds great – maybe I’ll get some new voices to try out too – thanks.

  • Sue Anne Dunlevie

    Great idea. I’m heading to a big box store later and will get a new one (I’m a stationery fan also and don’t need much of a reason to buy a journal or notebook!)

    Thanks,
    Sue

  • Laura J Tong

    Hi Cheryl. Thanks for your kind and enthusiastic comment. So pleased that these ideas gave you some inspiration. Thanks too for sharing. Enjoy showing that mean inner voice you’re not going to take it anymore.

  • Laura J Tong

    Hi Talya. Thanks for commenting. I’m sorry to hear that this is something that really troubles you. You know, being self-critical is such an easy habit to fall into, sadly. We aren’t helped by all the impossible ideals that magazines and TV shout so loudly, that’s for sure. It can be hard to keep things in perspective, especially if you have perfectionist tendencies too. I used to beat myself up really badly so I know just how you feel. The greatest turning point for me was when I took a long hard look forward and realized that I’d feel that way forever, unless I could find some self-forgiveness and self-compassion. For me, practical actions worked really well and with the addition of a bit of humor these tips have really kept me on track. I wish you every success in getting your inner critic in line and send you lots and lots of positive thoughts. xx

  • Laura J Tong

    Hi Linda. Thanks for sharing your great coincidence. I’m intrigued what are your morning pages? Is it a positivity type journal? And that is a great phrase ‘neutralize the negative’, I shall use that in my own journal- what a fabulous exchange, thank you.

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Helen. I’m delighted that you found some tips in here that speak to you. We love #35 too. Our inspiration for this came from a long cycle trip we did years ago which included lots of countries, many with a huge population compared to what we were used to. And you know, all we found were millions of people who were so welcoming, helping and hospitable – they were inspired by what we were doing and had no interest in anything else, including all the mistakes we’d made in the past! We still use a mental picture we have of standing in a town square in China surrounded by thousands of smiling faces whenever we are tempted to criticize ourselves for something we’ve done. Enjoy.

  • Laura J Tong

    Hi Jamie. Thanks so much. I’m really pleased you found some practical advice in this. Thank you for sharing too – I’d love to pass some inspiration to anyone who would benefit from these tips.

  • drgardner

    It just seems hopeless.

  • Oh good, the link went through anyway. 🙂 Enjoy!

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks for explaining and for the link too, that’s great. I always love to hear of a ‘life-changing’ experience. I’m off to check it out now.

  • Thanks Laura for this great post! Our inner critic is powerful – but only if we let it. A great resource to come back to when we need to be reminded who’s in charge 🙂

  • Janne Pitkänen

    Thanks Laura and Mark! What a captivating style of writing.

  • Some of us are susceptible to negative self-talk. This negative attitude hinders us from achieving our goals. Our actions are manifested by what we have implanted in our minds. If we change the way we think, we can start to change the actions we take. Developing a positive self-talk habit can help us improve ourselves and inspire us to make positive changes in our lives. Thanks Laura for posting this. 🙂

  • John Anderson

    Yeah if you have to live with yourself, you might as well get along. 🙂 Tons of great advice here. Thanks!

  • qeurich

    Great list Laura & Mark!

    I’m all about making fun of my inner critic and you’ve given me some new ways to do so!

    Thanks!

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Cylon. You’re so right, our inner critics feel very powerful but with small steps we can be the ones in charge. We find using fun strategies as much as possible is the best way to win.

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Janne. So pleased you enjoyed reading this. Hope you find some of these strategies work as well for you as they have for us.

  • Nicki Lee

    Great ideas! I’m starting with #36!

  • Michelle Gale

    Your post seems to have struck a nerve! If there’s anyone on earth who can’t relate, I haven’t run into him or her yet. One of my little “things” is that I have an affectionate name for myself. The only other people who know it are a couple who, coincidentally, call each other by the same name.

    There are a lot of personal refinements we can make, but I don’t think there’s anything more important than learning to love and support yourself no matter what.

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Aris, I agree that some people are more susceptible to negative self-talk but thankfully they too can also benefit strongly from these strategies. We believe in taking action wherever possible to overcome any personal obstacles but getting our thinking in line by building the habit of positive self-talk is absolutely key.

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks John. So pleased you found some practical advice amongst these strategies. And it’s bizarre that the voice we hear most often is our own, inner one and yet realizing that this too is a relationship like those we have with others certainly took us years to come to. Have a great life with yourself 🙂

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks querich. That’s an excellent approach you’ve taken to beating your inner critic. If you have any other ways to ‘make fun’ of that mean voice, please share them here. We’d love to hear them. Thanks.

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Nicki. Really delighted that you found this a helpful post. And #36 is really fun. We love names, especially fun, silly or interesting ones to say and use this as a powerful strategy in lots of ways. We’ve used this to change our feelings about physical attributes we had negative thoughts about too, for example I’m pretty short, as things go a lot of kids are way taller than me, so for a while I used the adjective ‘giant’ as my middle name which made me giggle each time because it was so wide of the mark. It definitely worked for me. Enjoy choosing your middle name.

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Michelle. And thanks for sharing your great strategy too – an affectionate name is a great way to counter negative self-talk. We’ll be sure to adopt this one ourselves.

  • 🙂

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  • Sihem Abawi

    Wow Laura as if you’re reading my thoughts,really your advices are healing me,you’re wonderful.

  • Mollie Elizabeth

    Thanks for this great list of wonderful ideas and strategies! I am going to start using these!!:)

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Mollie, I’m delighted you found some strategies in this list that appeal to you. Come back and let us know which you found the most powerful.

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Sihem, I’m so pleased these strategies speak to you. Don’t be afraid to adapt them to suit you.

  • I love nr 31: recognize the good you do or others. It’s very true that most people are so concerned with what (they think) they DON’T or CAN’T do that they can’t see the good they’re already radiating out into the world. Great advice, thank you!

  • Laura J Tong

    Thanks Linda. You’re absolutely right. Our perception is rarely the one that others have of us – they can list a whole raft of positive qualities and characteristics that we don’t see… unless we take conscious steps to do so. Asking ourselves directly “what good have I done (or do I do) for someone else?” is a great starting point.