5th December, 2023

How to Deal With Your Inner Critic

With Rachel Morris

Dr Rachel Morris

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On this episode

We can learn how to say no to other people, but often don’t say no to ourselves or to our inner critic who’s always telling us we can do more or be better. We become our own worst enemy when it comes to setting boundaries and prioritising our own needs. This is why we need self-compassion, and to overcome the toxic self-talk that often fuels our negative self-talk.

In this quick dip, Rachel will help you name the critical voice and acknowledge its presence, explore the underlying triggers and needs that contribute to self-criticism, and treat yourself with kindness and understanding, just as you would a close friend.

When we pay too much attention to our inner critic, we risk feeling more stressed, putting strain on our relationships, and overall negatively impacting our wellbeing. So it’s time to challenge that negative self-talk and replace it with compassionate. No only will it benefit you, but it’ll benefit those close to you, too.

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Reasons to listen

  • To discover the impact of toxic self-talk and how it affects our relationships and self-perception.
  • To explore the importance of self-compassion and its role in enhancing relationships and personal growth.
  • For practical tips and techniques for dealing with your inner critic and cultivating self-kindness.

Episode highlights


Toxic self-talk






Boss bitch


When our amygdala goes too far


Motivating with the stick, not the carrot

Episode transcript

[00:00:00] Rachel: I’ve been talking a lot recently about how to say no and deal with pushback. And in my head, it’s always been about how to say no to other people. And I’ve realized recently that actually the person I struggled to say no to the most is myself. It’s not in fact, anybody else.

[00:00:18] And I know, lots of you will be thinking right now, Yeah but actually they’re the ones asked me to do this and my contract says this and it’s the patients that are coming in and the management tell me I need to do this. Yes, absolutely. Other people exist and other people want stuff. But if a perfect stranger came up to you in the middle of the street and said I need an hour of your time. To do this task for me, please, unless they were in dire need. You’d probably send them packing. You wouldn’t feel guilty, you’d think Well, that’s just ridiculous being asked to do that. So we are plenty able to say no and set boundaries with some people, but not with other people.

[00:00:54] Even when, on the face of it. It’s the same request. Can you give me an hour of your time, unpaid out of the goodness of your heart? And the thing that’s different for us is how we’re thinking about that request. We are the person that we can’t say no to, so that’s got me thinking. If we’re our own worst enemy when it comes to saying no, and the person we can’t say no to the most is ourselves in what other situations are we our own worst enemy?

[00:01:24] This is a You Are Not a Frog quick dip, a tiny taster of the kinds of things we talk about on our full podcast episodes. I’ve chosen today’s topic to give you a helpful boost in the time it takes to have a cup of tea, so you can return to whatever else you’re up to feeling, energized, and inspired. For more tools, tips, and intoo.Hts to help you thrive at work, don’t forget to subscribe to You Are Not a Frog wherever you get your podcasts.

[00:01:52] And I’ve noticed in myself that, when I muck up or do something a little bit wrong. I’ve got in my head that other people are criticizing me heavily about it. And when I look at reality, actually, nobody is criticizing me as much as I’m criticizing myself. And when I catch the language that I’m using in my head, it’s really not very nice. It’s along the lines of that was so stupid. Why on earth? Did he do that? No one else does that. They’ll just think you’re awful.

[00:02:21] Rachel: It’s really, really toxic stuff. You’re not good enough. You’re really bad. That was a bad dreadful thing to do. Even when it’s something like, I don’t know, butting into a conversation, or talking a little too much at a dinner party. Really, I have a very, very strong inner critic.

[00:02:41] And it wasn’t till recently that I realized how loud this inner critic was. I was talking to one of my friends who’s going through a really, really tough time with one of their kids at the moment. And we were talking about what was helpful and what wasn’t helpful. And he said that at the beginning, people kept coming up to him saying it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault. And he said, well, you know what? I never ever thought that it was my fault. So it was really all the people saying that to me.

[00:03:07] And immediately I thought to myself, well, of course it wasn’t your fault. I would never have thought that about you. But then I started thinking, you know what, if that happens to me, I probably would have thought it was my fault.

[00:03:17] And me and my other half quite a lot of the time, blame ourselves for issues that the kids are facing. Even when it’s nothing to do with us, we often go to what have we done wrong as parents? Or could we have been better? Or is there something else that we could have done? Straight to self criticism, straight to self blame.

[00:03:35] And so for me, just talking to this person, It was a real eye-opener that other people maybe didn’t have such a loud, critical voice inside their heads. And this person as a result was able to show themselves much more compassion when things went wrong or they made a mistake, and was much less defensive. And actually is able to show other people huge amounts of compassion themselves.

[00:04:02] Because I realized that when I’m criticizing myself and beating myself up, I’m then unable to show kindness to other people. I judge them much more harshly. And the critical voice over spills from me towards others. And I’m just not that nice to be around.

[00:04:19] I was listening to podcast recently when they were talking about self-compassion and talking about the importance of being self compassionate. And one of the main reasons for me is that it makes you a better person, it enhances your relationships. Because when we’re not self compassionate, when we’ve got a very, very strong inner critic, and someone then maybe criticizes us, we react incredibly defensive, or we see criticism in stuff that’s not even there.

[00:04:48] So, for example, if I’m criticizing myself for the house being in a little bit of a mess, and one of my family comes in and comments about the fact that there are shoes everywhere, I immediately take that as a massive criticism and what happens? My internship Springs to my defense, and I’m not very nice to be around.

[00:05:06] So this strong, inner critical voice that we have, this voice that berates us, tells us we’re just not good enough and tells us where quite a bad person gets in the way of relationships. It gets in the way of us being able to do what we need to do. Setting boundaries, for example, or being very clear because we’re so worried about saying or doing the wrong thing.

[00:05:30] And this has come up a couple of times on recent podcasts. I remember talking to Corrina Gordon-Barnes about how to be a working mother. And she was talking about shame. And is it possible for other people to shame us? And she mentioned that if someone says something to her, for example, somebody makes a comment about her parenting and she feels ashamed she’d always think, well, who thought it first? And no one really can make you feel ashamed unless you’ve already feeling ashamed about it.

[00:05:58] If you go back to the stranger in the street is if a stranger in the street came up to me and said, you’re absolutely dreadful at podcasting and they’d never heard a podcast I’d done, it wouldn’t bother me. But if a regular listener came up to me and said, actually, last podcast wasn’t very good, I would say that very badly, probably because it want to produce good podcasts. And site note, please do give me feedback and tell me what we can improve on the podcast.

[00:06:22] But the question "Have I thought that first?" is quite helpful to knowing actually is what I’m feeling due to my inner critical voice?

[00:06:30] The other thing that’s really struck me about this inner critic is Charlotte Housden when when she was saying about this governance that she hasn’t had brain. This person is constantly berating her and sending her she’s not good enough, not working hard enough, not trying hard enough. And as she mucks up, well, honesty you could have done better.

[00:06:47] Now I’m very lucky. I work for myself. I founded my own organization and we have a lovely team. So big shout out everybody who’s involved in Wild Monday. But I don’t have a boss. So in theory, I could see what I like. I could finish when I, like I can start when I like. But often I’m working at weekends, work in the evenings because I want to put out the good stuff and I have this boss that’s telling me I’m lazy if I take time off, that tells me that it has to be perfect, that keeps me thinking about work all the time and makes me feel a little bit guilty if I take time off. And yes, that boss is me. Isn’t it? It’s my inner critical voice.

[00:07:28] And you know, that boss is a real bitch. She really is. And it’s just like Charlotte says with that inner governess, that inner voice that just constantly goes on and on and on at you.

[00:07:40] Now, we can go into where this voice comes from, stuff that happened in childhood, I think a lot of the time as medics, we’ve always been judged by how much we achieve. We often mean pushed hard, and a lot of that loud, loud, critical voice comes from past experiences and perhaps past trauma.

[00:07:56] But I’ve been thinking about how to deal with my toxic boss, that toxic self critical voice I have. And there are a few tips and techniques I have found helpful recently. The first one is doing exactly what Charlotte suggested.

[00:08:10] Name it. Give that voice a name. I’ve named mine Hilary. So Hillary. Often criticized this. She tells me I’m not good enough. She tells me I’m a bad person and I’ve mucked up and I’m a little bit too much. And I’m giving advice where it’s not needed. And I’m not managing stress very well. I know you probably don’t really want to know about all these inner workings of my brain do you? But honestly, that’s what happens quite a lot. But if I name that voice, if I name it Hillary, if I acknowledge that voice first of all that will help.

[00:08:43] If I just tell it to get lost, I think she’s going to come back banging on the door. But if I acknowledge that voice and say, actually, thank you, you have helped me there. You’ve alerted me to something, you’ve given me the boost I needed to get that podcast done on time. And you have helped me get where I’ve got to today, but you know what? You can go off and have a rest. Thank you for the alert. I’ve got it. But off you go. Go off on a bit of a sabbatical look off on holiday. Then what I’m saying. I’m acknowledging what’s going on. And I’m being kind to Hillary as well.

[00:09:16] Because in here, it all gets a little bit meta, I have often been coaching people and I’m like this myself, and I’ve talked to loads of people that beat themselves up for having a critical voice. So we recognize it and then we say, oh, and I’m doubly bad because not only am I criticizing myself, I shouldn’t be criticizing myself and then there’s another should. So we criticize ourselves for criticizing ourselves and we feel quite shamed by that. I just want to normalize it and say, it’s there for many, many of us. So let’s acknowledge it and say, thank you for what you’re giving me and actually recognize what it is giving me. And once we’ve done that, boot it out the door. Tell it to go on a nice little sabbatical or have a little lie down.

[00:09:57] And then I think to myself, well, why, what is behind it? What are some needs that I have that I’m not getting? And often the need behind it is a need for safety, a need to feel that I’m okay. because our a amygdala, our threat detection system makes us tell ourselves these stories to push us forwards, to keep us safe. Actually, Hillary’s motivation is probably quite good. She wants to stop bad things happening. And in her mind, if we work really hard, if we make everybody love us, if we make sure that we have avoided all threats, all things that could cause us discomfort, and we pleased everybody, we kept everybody happy, then we’ll be okay in life.

[00:10:39] We know that’s not how life works. Maybe it used to work like that when we ran caves, but Henry’s actually got it wrong. She’s got the wrong world view.

[00:10:48] The other thing that Hillary is wrong about. Is that talking badly to someone and criticizing gets the best out of them. She thinks she could motivate me by telling me how rubbish I am, by criticizing me. It’s just not true. Is it? I mean, we know that with kids, you criticize them, they crumble, you don’t get the best out of them, they just get more and more stressed.

[00:11:10] So we don’t do it to kids. Would we do it as her best friend? Would we criticize them and tell them how rubbish they are? No, of course we wouldn’t. If our friend comes to us, Having mucked up, then, what we say to them is, oh my goodness, don’t worry, everyone does it, it’s okay. We tell them about how much we love them, how much it’s normal to muck up and be human. So actually we know how to be empathetic and compassionate, but a lot of the time it’s empathy and compassion towards other people, not towards ourselves.

[00:11:40] So, how do we deal with this? Well, first of all, just recognizing that voice, recognizing when your inner critic, Hilary is there and you’re beating yourself up and you’re feeling really, really bad about stuff. Recognize that. Recognize what you’re feeling. And acknowledge it, acknowledge your feelings and name them. Are you scared? Are you angry? Are you stressed? Are you sad? Once you recognize them, name then, and acknowledged what’s going on, we can say, oh, okay, thanks Henry. Because so often the voice just become so part of me that I can’t see it for what it is. And I end up thinking that it’s true and that it’s fact, when actually all it is, is the inner critical voice.

[00:12:20] So recognizing and acknowledging what I’m feeling, noticing my thoughts noticing when Hillary has got control, is so, so important. And then investigating where that came from. What’s triggered that what’s been going on for me? And half the time it may just be that I’m hungry, angry, late, tired, sad, I just need a good night’s sleep. So asking myself, what do I need now? What do I need next? How can I show compassion to myself? Do I need to lie on the floor in a dark room for three minutes and just get my shit together? Do I need to go for a cup of tea or a coffee? Do I need an early night? Do I need to phone a friend and chat with them?

[00:13:03] So while we are listening to that inner critic, to that toxic boss, to that governance, to Hillary. I’m not going to be performing well because I’m going to be in my threat zone. I’m not going to be able to be kind to other people because I’m feeling so criticized myself. And I certainly won’t be thinking in a straight and rational manner.

[00:13:24] So identify when those voices are loud. Give them a name. Thank them for what they’ve given you. Then kick them out. Recognize what you need and show yourself some kindness. Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. And you’ll find that everyone else thanks you for it.