The Inner Critic: When to Acknowledge it and When to Ignore it


Criticism, when it is constructive and relevant, can contribute towards growth, achievement and new perspectives. Constructive criticism or feedback helps us consider the pitfalls or loopholes of our work and/or ourselves, and, provides a scope for us to work on it. Destructive criticism, however, only hinders growth and can cause massive damage. It not only prevents us from taking a step further but can also lag our steps and diminish our achievements so far.


Inner Criticism

Many thought leaders and psychological research talk about how criticism is not always bad and instead of focusing on the destructive aspect of the criticism, we should program our minds to convert the destructive criticism into a constructive one, and, make it work in our favor. Nevertheless, this view is most common when talked about receiving external criticism.

However, when we usually address the criticism we receive from our inner voice or inner critic, we tend to consider it to be the negative thoughts in our subconscious mind that wear us down. These are perceived to be the thoughts that we have when we are already feeling low and doubt ourselves; and this critic just adds more fuel to our problems, thus, preventing progress in our work and our lives.

Even though it is a prevailing notion regarding the inner critic, there are times when the inner critic benefits us by pointing us towards what our bare eyes cannot see. This positive critic is otherwise known as our intuition or “gut feeling”. Sometimes, our intuition informs us when there is a room for improvement in our work and our lives. When we practice listening to our intuition, it is easy to heed to what the inner critic has to say; but, when we do not pay attention to our intuition that often, it is easy to fall prey into thinking that our intuition is being negative even about a positive circumstance.

Factors influencing our minds

Overall, we have days when we feel optimistic and days when we experience pessimism. What our inner critic tells us, is somewhat impacted by what we feed our mind. If, and when, we surround ourselves with toxic people and negativity, the inner critic tends to be negative most of the time. As a result, we seldom understand that it is just the negativity and not the real thing, because, we fed our minds so much negativity that it just seems usual. Jim Rohn mentioned, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. This is an indication that the people we surround ourselves with, impact our lives profoundly. When we surround ourselves with positive and optimistic people, our minds tend to reflect more positive thoughts and can filter negative thoughts easily. This is simply because we are feeding our minds what we know to be good for us.

We feed our minds not only by being around positive people but also through learning and experiences we have in our lifetime. As we step out of our comfort zone and expand our horizons, we come across many perspectives that did not exist or was limited in our lives before. Mistakes and failures also contribute to our learning. When we learn from our past mistakes and failures and figure out where we went wrong and why it becomes easier to take a decision. Even when we do not understand the cause of the mistake and/or the failure, our intuition tends to prevent us in the future from making the same mistake or error as before.

Recognizing and embracing the positive criticism

Before fully accepting and embracing our inner feedbacks and/or positive criticisms, it is vital to be able to identify them. Tone and wording play key roles in the identification. Statements like, “you can never do this” or “you are not good enough” tend to highlight negative emotions. Whereas, statements like, “you can do better than this” or “be the best you can” help in inflicting positivity and furthermore assist in self-improvement. Even when it is easier to accept the former negative criticism, we need to train our minds to focus on the bigger picture and less on the obstacles. This can be achieved by practicing mindfulness and self-acceptance.

When we learn to live in the moment and are conscious of our surroundings, we can learn to let go of the negative energy that tethers us. Also, by accepting ourselves completely, with our flaws and imperfections as well as our strengths and attributes, we can determine what really triggers positivity within us.


Reconstructing negative criticism

While receiving external criticism, when we hear something negative, we either work towards proving the critics wrong or pay attention to their criticisms and work on ourselves. Similarly, when we unintentionally provide ourselves with negative criticism that can hinder our work or life, we can work towards achieving our goals and improving ourselves more diligently to be able to reject the negativity in our minds.

 “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”-  Vincent Van Gogh

Another alternate method to reconstruct the negativity into positivity is by questioning the negativity. For example, if the inner critic says, “You can never do this” then question it with “Why not?”. If it further responds with “You do not have what it takes to accomplish the task” then further question it with “What makes you think so?”. Questioning your own self can be challenging and may sound irrelevant, but, here is the thing, if we cannot question our inner critic and challenge it, how can we challenge external critics?

With time and practice, it is possible to win over the negative critic and listen to the positive critic. It is essential that we listen to our intuition because by ignoring our intuition, we let go of many opportunities and scope of improvements which, later gets indicated by external reviewers.


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