Do you ever find yourself frozen at the thought of what you’re trying to do? Or perhaps you’re trying to do something and keep starting it again and again, and you never get any further. You may think you’re doing no work, but I can tell you, there is someone who’s working very hard, and that’s your inner critic. So in today’s episode, let’s have a think about inner critics and how to help you if your inner critic is giving you a hard time. I don’t know about you but I certainly find that when I’m doing something, like trying to run my private practice, my inner critic can really have a field day.

And the reason for that is that running a business is not something I ever thought I’d end up doing. I trained to be a counsellor and I didn’t expect to be running my own business. And so it’s a growth area for me. I think it’s when we’re trying to do something different and new, and we’re finding ourselves in that situation where we’re having to change and master new skills. It’s at that point that the inner critic can often get going.

Alternatively, sometimes we never even get to the point of trying something new because the inner critic is there telling us that we can’t actually do it. So I think it’s really important to have a look at the role of the inner critic in our lives and how it is affecting us. And also really how can we calm that inner critic down so that we can actually live up to our potential and begin to live the lives we really want to live, and to experience the joy and fulfilment of doing the work that we feel that we’re being called to, or that we’re born to, or that we just really want to do. And I think there’s 3 ways that our inner critic can get to work, and that’s in the future, it’s in the present, and it’s in the past. So, if we’re thinking about doing something new, our inner critic can often tell us things like, this is not going to work’, It might say to us oh, you’re no good.

There’s no point you trying to do something like this. Then, if we’re actually engaged in doing something in the present, for example, listening to a client, the inner critic may well sit on our shoulders saying, you don’t know what you’re doing here. You’re an idiot to say something like this, or who do you think you are? And then, of course, the inner critic quite often has a field day with us after the event. Why did you say that?

What will they think? And why did you even try? It’s pretty relentless. So what can we do about it? For me, often the problem is that I don’t really hear the inner critic as a distinct voice.

For me, it’s more of a feeling. And I wonder if you recognize these feelings too. The inner critic might manifest as a feeling of heaviness or depression, a sense of uselessness and a lack of motivation, and often a desire to eat as much chocolate as I can find in the house. It might turn up as me being frozen, unwilling or unable to take action, and procrastination. As someone said recently of the Good Enough Counsellors Group, suddenly cleaning each kitchen tile with a toothbrush becomes really important.

I find the inner critic is sometimes evidenced by my reactions to other people. I might be angrier than usual, I might be more withdrawn, or I find that I’m comparing myself unfavourably to others. So I think the first step in helping yourself with the inner critic is self awareness. Noticing when you’re particularly feeling the effects within yourself. And once you’ve noticed your feelings, it can be really helpful to wind back a little and ask yourself, was there a trigger that set off the inner critic?

Perhaps there was an internal ‘should’ and you feel you failed to reach the mark. It might be that you set an unrealistically high bar for yourself, and I think this can be particularly true if you’re doing something new. You might have very high expectations, or you may have been brought up to have high expectations, and possibly you’re not very comfortable with failing. And if that’s the case, here’s something that I find really helpful in order to soothe my inner critic. It’s about remembering that when you’re learning, you’re moving from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence.

You have to think quite carefully about that. So the first step is actually becoming aware of your incompetence and if that’s the case, hooray, you’re already learning, you’re moving to conscious incompetence. Then after that you can move to conscious competence and ultimately it just becomes normal. You don’t have to think about it anymore and you’re working at that unconscious competence level. So once you have the awareness of what you need to do to grow, you can work on it and practice and you’ll improve over time.

So it’s all about being kind to yourself and remembering that it’s unrealistic to expect yourself to reach a 100% success straight away. Well, actually, at all. There’s always going to be room for improvement. And after all, that is what makes your task interesting. You can always reflect and try out different ways to do things and test out the results.

Now, the other important thing, I think, is to remember why your inner critic is there. Your inner critic is the part of you that is seeking to protect you from harm and it may have developed to keep you safe. In many ways it is easier to be self critical, and therefore protect yourself from rejection, than it is to be self confident, fail, and then be subject to rejection. So your inner critic actually developed for a reason and it developed to protect you. And therefore, actually what you need is kindness and compassion.

You need someone to soothe you and tell you that it is okay, that you will be okay, and that you can take these steps because you will survive. Now that someone who soothes you can be you, or it can be, if you need it, your supervisor, a coach or a mentor like myself, a family member, a friend, a colleague. I wouldn’t be talking about the inner critic if I wasn’t very familiar with how it turns up. And I’ve found in my life that the support of other people has been crucial in helping me to grow my business. And that’s why I run Therapy Growth Group to support other therapists in growing their private practice.

Because I know that being a solo practitioner is a really lonely existence, And sometimes what you need is actually cheerleaders around you. People who can help you know that you’re okay and that you can do it. Now one of the things that can be really helpful is to notice how far you’ve come. It’s really easy to forget your capability. But you wouldn’t be doing your job as a counsellor if you hadn’t already conquered challenges.

These may be the challenges that you faced in your life prior to training. It may be the training itself, I know that I had to overcome a lot of obstacles within my training. Or it may be the internal challenges that you had to overcome in order to find the courage to be where you are now. So never forget how far you’ve come, and having come this far, how capable you are of continuing to grow. So, when you notice your inner critic, ask yourself, first, what’s the trigger?

What’s made me doubt myself? Has something happened recently to undermine my confidence? And if that’s the case, can I take a step back and ask myself how realistic I’m being? Am I expecting perfection of myself? Perhaps, if you ask yourself that, you could also ask yourself, ‘Am I allowing myself the grace to make mistakes and to learn from them?’ Then, second, take a moment to thank your inner critic for trying to help you.

Remember, this is a part of you that’s trying to protect you, So you don’t need to reject yourself for your uncertainty and doubt. And then 3rd, you may find it helpful to remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Now, if none of those things work for you, and it might be the case that that that’s actually what happens, It might be that you need to release the feelings in a somatic way. And for me, I find that exercise really helps. So yoga or walking, and music helps me as well.

And especially I find being in conversation with someone else makes such a difference. But for those of you who like gardening or being outdoors, nature can be such a healing, or crafts such as knitting or cooking or painting, or possibly spending some time with animals. It’s anything that helps you to feel grounded and to reconnect with yourself because that can help you feel more settled and ready to try again. Because ultimately, when you come back to yourself, you’re able to remind yourself of what’s important to you. And I know that what is important to you is being able to reach out to people and to help them heal and find new ways of being.

You’re looking to make a difference to the world and help prevent suffering. And someone like you, with that desire, deserves all the love and encouragement it’s possible to muster, because there’s people out there who need you. So, let’s thank your inner critic for trying to help, but also remind it that you’ve got this and that you can do it. Thanks for listening. Do come and join my Facebook community, Good Enough Counsellors.

And for more information about how I can help you develop your private practice, please visit my website, If you found this episode helpful, I’d love it if you could share it with a fellow therapist or leave a review on your podcast app. And in closing, I’d love to remind you that every single step you make gets you closer to your dream. I really believe you can do it.