How To Quiet Your Inner Critic: A Four-Step Approach

Updated February 23, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The inner critic is usually the inner voice that tells us we're not good enough when we've made mistakes. For example, it might say, "Why did I give up so easily?" or "I could have done so much better!"

For some people, the inner critic might be a friend. It may push them to improve and give gentle reminders to get back on track with their goals. For others, however, the inner critic may provide so much criticism that they experience lower self-esteem or self-doubt.

This guide focuses on the latter situation, exploring simple steps that might help you quiet your inner critic or reduce its impact on your life. These are an example of things you might learn in therapy, so keep reading to learn more.

Four Steps To Quiet Your Inner Critic

Quieting Your Inner Critic Alone Can Feel Overwhelming

If you believe your inner critic has progressed beyond helpful and is lowering your self-esteem or bringing up self-doubt, you might benefit from quieting it. Here's a four-step approach that might help you find relief from ongoing critical self-talk. 

1. Cultivate Awareness Of Your Thoughts

Awareness has the potential to create change. For example, becoming aware of your inner critic's thoughts and how they affect you might help you change how you think about yourself and what you tell yourself when you make a mistake.

Next time you mess up, you might stop and listen to your inner voice. Ask yourself questions like: 

  • What are you telling yourself? 

  • Do you think these types of thoughts often? 

  • How do they make you feel? 

  • Would you say these words to someone you love?

These questions may help you bring awareness to your inner critic, which could be enough to start seeing changes. For example, research suggests that self-awareness can drive behavior change and reprogram your mind

2. Stop Yourself When You Notice Your Inner Critic

When you notice a critical thought, it may help to stop and redirect your mind. You might do this after asking yourself questions like those from the previous section. Here are some ways that you can try to redirect your mind for a few moments: 

  • Take five deep breaths and count them

  • Quietly listen to the sounds around you for 30 seconds

  • Listen to your favorite upbeat song

  • Go for a short walk

  • Notice what you are experiencing from your five senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing)

These small actions might give your brain enough of a break that you can stop the critical thoughts, even if it's only for a few seconds. As you practice this, you may be able to stop them for longer each time. 

3. Replace Critical Talk With Positive Thoughts

After observing your inner critic and redirecting your mind, you might benefit from replacing critical talk with positive thoughts. Consider the situation you experienced and find something uplifting to think about or say to yourself. And if this is difficult, it may help to consider what you would say to a close friend or small child in the same situation. 

If thinking something positive about the thought doesn't feel like it fits you, that's okay. Instead, you could try thinking about something that makes you happy and is unrelated. For example, if you finished a job interview and you've noticed critical thoughts, you might think about something funny your pet or child did recently. Or visualize a peaceful spot (real or imaginary) that you find beautiful or calming. 

You don't have to avoid critical thinking – you can revisit the issue later to explore and learn from it. The idea is usually to give your mind a break for your inner critic. 

If this process brings up challenging emotions for you, or you'd prefer a different approach, consider finding a therapist to help you. Methods like internet-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have been shown to help many people change or redirect their thoughts. And a therapist who can teach you CBT may be able to help you identify the source of your critical thoughts so you can better explore them.

4. Practice And Repeat

Quieting Your Inner Critic Alone Can Feel Overwhelming

Behavioral changes like quieting your inner critic take time for most people. You might need to practice and repeat these steps several times before you feel that you've succeeded even once. But by continuing to bring awareness to your critical thoughts, give your mind a break, and introduce uplifting thoughts, you may see noteworthy changes in your thinking over time.

Here are some things that might make it easier to practice these steps: 

  • Leave reminders about these steps where you can see them often (e.g., sticky notes on your refrigerator or reminders on your phone). 

  • Celebrate yourself when you use these steps with something small, like a five-minute break from work or a healthy snack you enjoy. 

  • Start therapy and ask your professional to help you explore the source of your critical thoughts and new ways to quiet your inner critic.

  • Journal about your progress at the end of each day to reflect on what worked for you. 

  • Spend time with people who inspire you and help you feel more optimistic. 

  • Read books, listen to podcasts, or watch videos that you find inspiring.


Many people may find it difficult to quiet their inner critics, especially when experiencing a mental health disorder. In addition, everyone needs different things to foster growth and change, and these steps might not be the right ones for you. That's okay! 

If you find this process challenging, consider contacting a mental health professional for assistance. Having an unbiased outside party to talk to can be beneficial, and a therapist may help you understand your thought processes better. And if you're not sure you have time for therapy, consider online treatment – it's just as effective as face-to-face therapy. Plus, it eliminates drive time and gives you a more comprehensive list of professionals to choose from. 

For those interested in online therapy, BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist or counselor based on your needs and preferences. You can schedule sessions via phone, via, or in-app messaging on your time. In addition, you can message your therapist at any time you need to, and they'll respond as soon as they can. 

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