How Harmful Is a Constant Inner Critic?

I often wonder, why it is that we have such a hard time accepting ourselves? We are usually our worst critic and often unhappy with not just one thing, but with many things about ourselves.

We have developed relentless inner critics that drive us worse than anyone out there would do.

Of course, the other end of that phenomena is to blame someone or something outside of ourselves and we see plenty of that too, but I want to focus on the serious inner critic that for many people can be so crippling.

The study of human potential is fascinating. Psychology has spent years in determining the ways and means that we develop and realize our full potential. Also there are hundreds of self-help books out there to attest to the fact that many Americans do believe that they can and maybe even should be more. So there does seem to be some inherent drive to evolve which can help us bring out our best selves, grow and learn. But at the same time, there also seems to be a harsh perfectionist for many that is never happy even with the process of our growing.

Do I set the standard too high or do I have a too low bar for what I will actually do? It’s a good question to ponder. Most of us would like to give it our best shot (at least a good part of the time) but do we ever feel like it’s out best shot? I think these are important questions to consider.

Criticism starts early in most lives with words like, should, shouldn’t, ought to, why don’t you, need to, must do. Our teachers and parents and everyone else who held some authority over us were probably meaning well and wanted to raise us to be contributing and conscientious members of society, but it leaves its toll on us. We can grow up feeling less than, needing way too much approval from outside sources and leaving us not secure and confident in ourselves. It can impact self-esteem and without good self-esteem problems arise.

If we feel too bad, we can end up with less than desirable behavior to numb out the pain of the harsh criticisms. We turn to a drink, reckless behavior or maybe food to feel better. It can definitely be one of the reasons for emotional eating. Since health, wellness and weight loss is my area of work, my focus is on turning to food as a relief from the hard words of our critical inner voice.

Are we destined to be slaves of this voice or are there alternative choices? What then can we do? Yes, there are lots of choices; but I want to focus on just two of them. They are such powerful and useful tools not just to use for emotional eating, but for other areas of unhealthy behavior. So what is this magic formula? Well, the two tools of this magic formula are quite simple but, of course, the challenge is in the creating of the mental habit.


pause and pose a questionThe first tool is called pause and pose. That is, pause before eating and pose some new questions.

As an example, you finished a project and the inner critic starts in. You could have done more, they won’t like it, I missed a key part, etc. Next someone asks a question that makes you conclude they were less than happy. Now the critic starts to unleash a verbal assault. Not only do you feel bad, but fear is setting in. An entire story line is being created just from that voice, without any factual basis.

But instead of listening, ask new questions:

Did I accomplish my goal?

What part of the project is outstanding?

Did I do my best?

What will be the positive outcome of this project?

Become a detective and gather information. If you then want to go into growth and improvement, ask if there was anything that might have been done differently to improve whatever.

This pause and pose tool keeps the critic at bay. It’s a re-shifting of the focus.


200 LikesThe second tool is to celebrate every little success that you have. The celebrating of small victories can be very helpful in positively impacting our self-esteem. To celebrate small victories we decide and actually look to find something that was good about every event! This can shift the focus from the feelings that can drive the binge. Once there is a shift, we can get back to some questions as the in pose and pause method.

What was so upsetting?

Was there anything else I could have done in response to the event?

Was there any other way to view the event so that it wasn’t so upsetting?

Emotional eating is frequently a result of not feeling good about oneself. Because of a strong inner critic, one gets sabotaged frequently. Then you feel bad. And then food becomes a form of comfort, at least for a while. It’s at this point that we seek the comfort of eating.

If you choose something other than food, it’s a success. You will feel awesome and celebrate how it feels to be empowered to make a new choice.

Once the inner critic gets a foot in the door, we often engage in more useless behavior and then feel worse. And that negatively impacts our self-esteem.

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