Spiritual Growth and Encouragement for Christian Women

4 Ways to Disarm and Calm Your Inner Critic

4 Ways to Disarm and Calm Your Inner Critic

Do you struggle with an inner critic—an inner negative voice that yells at you and tells you you're no good? Do you feel like there's an internal battle continually going on inside you between the truth you want to believe and the negative thoughts you hear in your head?

Most of us are so used to living with this harsh, critical voice that we can't imagine life without it.

Today, we will talk about a seemingly counterintuitive strategy for managing that inner critic. It's not something that will probably come naturally to you, especially if you struggle with perfectionism or wanting to be in control. In fact, if you're like most of us, you've been doing the exact opposite of this strategy most of your life to combat the inner critic.

How Most of Us Manage Our Inner Critic

When the inner critic strikes, most of us instantly tell it to sit down and be quiet. We get angry with it and tell it to go away. We let it know that it's wrong and that what it's saying isn't true. We think attacking the inner critic will make the inner critic go away. The inner critic's voice is loud, shrill, and mean, so we believe that should be our best response. After all, it isn't speaking the truth, and, according to 2 Corinthians 10:5, we're told to take captive any thought that sets itself up against God's truth, right?

Let me ask you this: Has yelling at your inner critic allowed you to silence her lies and accusations? Do you walk away feeling victorious after this sort of encounter? If you tell your inner critic to go away, does she never return? Right. Yelling, denying, or ignoring our inner critic's words doesn't work.

I believe there's a different approach that supports Scripture and allows us to reflect on God's loving, compassionate voice as we speak to the inner critic.

Where Does the Inner Critic Come From?

To better understand why yelling at our inner critic doesn't work, let's first discuss where the inner critic's voice comes from and why it's there. The inner critic's primary goal is to keep us safe and protected from harm and, as such, is part of our brain's primal subconscious programming. Think of the inner critic as a risk management expert—a highly sensitive, overactive school playground monitor whose job is to prevent accidents and ensure perfect harmony.

The inner critic is there to keep us safe from risk, failure, and disappointment. When it sees a potential risk ahead ("That could not work out! You might get hurt!"), it goes into full protective mode to try to keep that danger from happening. The inner critic will remind us of the potential dangers, including other times when we were hurt or ways we could possibly be hurt in the future. It doesn't like new things. The inner critic loves the status quo because, even if the status quo is not ideal, the status quo is predictable and safe. And it thrives on predictability and safety.

The inner critic usually speaks loudest when we are about to step outside our comfort zone and put ourselves in a place of real or perceived vulnerability. That's why we often hear its school playground monitor "whistle" more often when trying new things and confronting old ideas.

How to Deal with the Inner Critic

Ironically, our goal is not to eliminate the inner critic. It plays an important counterbalance in our thinking, and God has hardwired it into our brains as part of our primal security system. But naturally, we don't want our lives to be run by an inner fear-monger who's potentially hindering us from growing, changing, and being our best. And it's certainly not okay for our inner critic to hurl insults or speak lies about us. Even our inner critic needs to come under the authority of Christ (like 2 Corinthians 10:5 advises).

Instead, we can best work with our inner critic by thinking of it as an angry, scared, and panicky child. What does a child in that state need? To be heard. To be acknowledged. To be consoled and comforted. Therefore, what if, instead of yelling at our inner critic, we offered it compassion and love? What if we allowed our inner critic to experience the restorative healing found only at the Cross of Christ? What if we comforted its fears with the soothing words of our powerful Savior?

Our goal is to learn how to listen with empathy to its concerns but not let that scared, irrational, often-overbearing voice determine our choices. We can offer it compassion and bring it to the foot of the cross, pouring God's love and grace over the inner critic's fears.

By understanding the inner critic's purpose and seeking to console it, we can learn how to lovingly dance with our inner critic instead of pushing it off the dance floor.

4 Ways to Respond to the Inner Critic with Compassion Instead of Anger 

1. Listen to the inner critic's voice with kindness and compassion.

What are the inner critic's big fears? Ask it, "What are you trying to keep me safe from?" Why are its fears plausible? What may have happened in the past or could happen in the future that may be triggering its alarm? What deeper fears, especially related to feeling loved, worthy, and enough, may be at play here?

2. Discern what's true and not true about the inner critic's concerns. 

What parts of what it's saying are true, and what parts aren't? You can say things like, "It's true that this specific concern could possibly happen, but even if it was to happen, it's not true that (it's a reflection on my character, my future would be ruined, etc.)." The inner critic often speaks in black-and-white statements and extreme-case scenarios, so try to discern the gray areas where the truth resides.

3. Comfort the inner critic's fears with godly compassion.

As you acknowledge the inner critic's concerns as real, what scriptural truths can you share to calm its fears? What reassurance can you give (for example, about God's character, about your identity as God's child) to bring peace and meet the real need? Some comforting verses could include Psalm 119:50, 52, Psalm 23:4, Psalm 10:7, and Psalm 22:24, but I encourage you to determine what words the inner critic needs to hear in order to calm the specific fears she's expressing.

4. Decide where you will emotionally dwell.

Once you've acknowledged and comforted the inner critic, determine the specific thoughts you will choose to dwell in moving forward. What truths will be your foundation in this situation? If you feel God continuing to guide you forward despite the inner critic's fears, then what loving words can you share with the inner critic that will serve as your anchor? One example of this could be, "Thank you, inner critic, for noticing the potential risks and wanting to keep me safe. It's understandable why you're afraid, and I'm grateful that God is here to comfort us both. I'm so grateful that we can both rest in God's capable hands and know that God's got this as I move forward to follow His calling."

I encourage you to experiment with these mindset skills the next time you hear your inner critic's voice. To learn more about the inner critic and finding lasting healing (based on brain science and the Bible) for the root behind these toxic mindset patterns, join me for a free workshop here.

Related Articles:

5 Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic

7 Questions to Help You Identify and Heal from the Root of Perfectionism - from Alicia Michelle

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Photoboyko

Alicia Michelle is a certified NeuroCoach and host of the award-winning Christian Mindset Coach Podcast. She loves equipping Christian women with practical brain-and-biblically-based tools to overcome anxiety, perfectionism, and self-sabotage so that they can cultivate godly confidence. Get her free training on how to overcome negative thoughts and manage anxiety at VibrantChristianLiving.com.