How to Challenge Your Inner Critic

Ellen Lees
By Ellen Lees,
updated on Feb 5, 2020

How to Challenge Your Inner Critic

Our inner voice is incredibly important, but sometimes it can be a little cruel. By understanding its concerns, and welcoming it as a friend, we can reclaim our power

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” - Marianne Williamson.

Self-doubt affects us all. While some people will hear this voice whisper in their ear every now and then, others will hear it loud and aggressive. For some of us, it is an obstacle that prevents us from reaching our true potential.

What is self-doubt?

Psychotherapist Neil Turner says: “Many people fear that without self-doubt, they may become arrogant. This is a common misconception, as actually, it is self-regulation that is our moral compass, and is tasked with getting our self-expression safely out into the world.

“Both are a part of our internal querying mechanism, but self-regulation is rooted in reality, while self-doubt comes from fear, informing us that the world is neither safe nor ready for us. Each can be observed as energetic movements within the body and with this awareness, we can shift out of the cycle of limitation, and instead into a cycle of possibility,” says Neil.

I hear this voice often. It’s not always there, but it returns. For me, this voice creeps in when I’m on my own, reflecting on what was said or done in the days prior. Admittedly, I’m not very good at letting go of things that upset or embarrass me. I will replay the scene in my head over and over, thinking of all the things I should have said.

man looking doubtful

But in recent years, I’ve made a conscious effort to say ‘no’ to the voice. What’s the worst that can happen, really? Maybe that comes with getting older, or maybe something just clicks. Either way, it’s much more enjoyable.

This voice, the often feeble but sometimes assertive voice, I suppose is trying to protect us – from embarrassment and shame, from heartbreak, from harm. But this protection isn’t always needed, or wanted. When we give in to this voice, typically we’re missing out on potential opportunities for growth or success.

So what steps can we take to overcome the voice of self-doubt and reach our true potential?

1. Acknowledge the voice

Talk to the voice, be kind and understanding and, most importantly, welcome the voice as a supportive and encouraging friend, instead of an enemy.

“Self-doubt has the power to hinder and prevent us from following our dreams,” counsellor Beverley Husbands says. “It can bring feelings of disappointment, which often leads to unfulfilled needs being met. Self-doubt has a way of overtaking us in an instant, which can leave us feeling powerless.”

Beverley explains: “A familiar scenario: you’re applying for your dream job. But when the time comes to hit send, you are suddenly overwhelmed with the voice of self-doubt. Thoughts of ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘It’s a waste of time’, ‘What if I’m called for an interview?’”

Let your self-talk be a supportive and encouraging friend, instead of an enemy

2. Acknowledge the doubt

It is a vicious cycle, so it’s important for us to notice, and be aware of, our own personal default button to engage with this negative chatter. When the inner doubts kick in, and the negative thoughts begin, gently notice them within your awareness.

3. Talk to the voice

Don’t let it get out of your control. Talk to the voice to prevent it growing from a dull chatter to an unbearable shout. Saying things like, “No, we are not doing this today. This is really important to me,” helps stop the inner doubt, and disrupts that negative thought pattern. Take your time, this will take practice.

4. Welcome the voice as a supportive friend

Remember that how we talk to ourselves really does matter. Let your self-talk be a supportive and encouraging friend, instead of an enemy. Welcoming the inner voice will give you your power back. Embracing the support will allow you to make small, achievable steps towards your goals, without judgement.

Psychotherapist Neil Turner and counsellor Beverley Husbands are both members of

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