Tame Your Critical Voice and Increase Self Esteem

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“Self-Confidence is something we build and maintain, it not something we have.” 

Mary Welford

Often we are our own harshest critics.  The lecture that plays in our head is much more unkind than any thing spoken out loud by our bosses or associates.

You must be careful and aware of how you talk to yourself because you are listening and it does affect your self esteem.  

Your inner critical voice has three main themes:

  •      You should be perfect all of the time      
  •   Normal people don’t have these problems
  •     Problems of any kind are bad

The inner critic will never be satisfied.  The inner critic wants you to believe that you will do better if you feel deeply ashamed.

Your inner critical voice comes on stronger when:

  •       Someone else criticizes or judges you
  •       You are under stress or pressure
  •       You are triggered by certain personalities

You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. In fact severe, unrealistic self-criticism is a common precursor to addictive behavior. 

Try offering yourself some compassion and see what happens.  Talk to yourself like you would a small child. The inner critic says, “you deserve to feel bad,” self-compassion says, Cherish yourself in the midst of pain.” (Germer, 2009.)

Compassion Focused Research

According to Paul Gilbert, research shows the more compassionate we are toward ourselves, the happier we are and the more resilient we become when faced with difficulties in our lives.  In addition, we are better able to reach out to others for help, and we feel more compassionate toward other people too, making us a good friend.

Compassionate thoughts don’t make you soft

Compassion does not mean turning away from emotional difficulties or discomforts or trying to get rid of them.  Compassion means noticing when we have been critical of ourselves in non-helpful ways and then making a deliberate choice to be compassionate and generate inner support and encouragement towards ourselves.  (Gilbert, 2013) 

How to ignore negative childhood messages

John Curtis is the current mayor in Provo, Utah.  He shares some insights regarding elementary school teachers treatment of boys by divulging his kindergarten report card written some 50 years ago.  It is hilarious to read but also it is a good example of not internalizing childhood criticism. He shares it with elementary school children and pokes fun at himself.  

Here is the link: http://provomayor.com/2013/10/08/spelling-bee/

Self Compassion Exercise 

Find a place where you can be relaxed with no distractions. Take several long soothing breaths.  Calm your mind and your body. 

Can you think of someone in your past that comforted you in a kind nurturing way? (The comforting person may be a pet if you are having a hard time coming up with a nurturing moment from your past.) 

Picture that memory in your mind.  Try to recall as many details about the experience as you can. 

What did their voice sound like? 

What expressions did they use? 

What does this feel like in your body? What does it feel like in your heart?  In your brain?  In your stomach?  

How does this affect your posture?

Do you feel a sense of well-being? Sympathy?  Empathy? Sensitivity? Non-judgment? Feel the warm.  Feel the compassion.  Feel the courage and strength.   

What does this feel like in your body?

Bookmark this moment in your mind so you can return at another time. 

Can you recreate this feeling for yourself at a stressful moment of discouragement?

How can you learn to be a compassionate coach to yourself? 

  • Call yourself by your given name. If you address yourself in third person, it flips a switch in your cerebral cortex and it feels more believable. 
  • Be tender. Brene Brown advises, “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”  
  • Give advice like a friend. It is easy to give advice to your friends, but when it comes to yourself all of us our much more harsh.

Good advice for taming your inner critical voice!  You will be emotionally healthier if learn these skills. 

Camille Curtis Foster, LCSW 


Contact Me: / 801.472.7134/ 1fosterconnect@gmail.com


For a good laugh, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWOx95nje4Y

Interested further?  Check this out:


Also check out: https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201505/the-voice-reason?collection=1074786

Another post on self esteem:


I love this concept on body language and self esteem:



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Books on the subject:

The Power of Self-Compassion: using compassion-focused therapy to end self-criticism and build self-confidence by Mary Welford

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: freeing yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions by Christopher K. Germer, PhD

The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert