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5 Signs Your Inner Critic Has Taken Over

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

“You could never be that successful.” “Someone else can do it so much better.” “You’re not worth it.” Any of those sound familiar to you? Me too. Say hello (perhaps begrudgingly) to your inner critic. For some, you may know this voice very well. But where exactly did this nagging, and sometimes downright mean, voice come from?

Well, believe it or not this voice is actually trying to help you. Think about it, when it’s not yelling at you, sometimes it’s messages aren’t as intense. Instead of “I can’t believe you didn’t get that project done today” perhaps, it says something like, “You should really finish this today. It will make your life much easier tomorrow.” When your inner critic hasn’t taken over, it is trying to motivate you to do better.

Yet, sometimes, instead of whispering words of motivation, our inner critic can feel like it’s talking, or yelling, at us in ALL CAPS. This can be for a number of reasons, including how our role models spoke to us while growing up (I.e. parents, coaches, teachers). Or maybe we are currently in a very high stress situation. Either way, here are 5 signs that it has completely taken control:

1. You’re not going for that promotion

You hear that the job you’ve had your eye on for years finally has an opening. You’ve even talked to your partner, friends, and family about how this would be the perfect fit. Yet, when it comes time to actually apply, something stops you in your tracks. Maybe your palms start to sweat, your breath quickens. Then comes that voice: “They won’t choose you”, “There are so many more qualified candidates”, “You’re going to look so dumb”. Ouch. You close the computer and convince yourself you’ll do it tomorrow. Except, tomorrow never comes. This is a tell-tale sign your inner critic is in the driver’s seat. Instead of being your own hype person, your inner critic is telling your mind + body that there is no way you could possibly get the job. This can keep you locked in a position that you are overqualified for or bored of just because it feels safer.

Do This Instead: First off, we gotta quiet that voice. As soon as you start to notice your palms sweating, and your breath quickening, take a deep breath and drink a sip of water. Good. Now, let’s look at what this voice is telling you. That you’re unqualified? That there is someone who is a better fit? OK, well go ahead and write down all of the qualities that do make you qualified for the job. Chances are, the list is much longer than your inner critic suggests. Keep that list handy when you go to apply and when you start to feel your palms sweat again, take a beat and read through the list. Voila, you’ve turned your inner critic into your hype person.

2. You find yourself in unfulfilling relationships.

Perhaps you’re a sucker for rom-coms. Or maybe you just know that deep down, you really want a healthy and long-lasting relationship. Yet, somehow, you find yourself dating people who just aren’t a good fit. Perhaps they are not as considerate as you would like or don't to go on adventures, even though you've asked a million times. Your inner critic may be keeping you stuck in this relationship. How so? Well, let’s take a look again at the stories it tells you about relationships. Perhaps it says something like “You should feel lucky they love you” or “Someone like that would never be interested in someone like me.” Ouch. Again. While your inner critic is most likely trying to protect you from rejection (more on that in future posts), it is instead keeping you locked in relationships that may feel “safe”. When we’re in these types of relationships, it may feel less likely that our partner will leave us and therefore we're less likely to look for anything more. Do This Instead: Write out a list of green, yellow, and red lights for a relationship. Make sure to include dealbreakers AND non-negotiables. Next, take inventory of your current relationship, or relationships you’ve had in the recent past. How do they stack up? Does your partner fulfill your non-negotiables? What is missing? Now this is the really important part…Ready? If they don’t meet your needs, ASK YOURSELF: WHAT IS MAKING YOU STAY? Ooof. That’s a hard one. A lot of times, it can be because our inner critic has taken over and is telling us this is the love we deserve. Well, I’m here to tell you its wrong. You deserve happy, healthy love, you wonderful human!

3. New experiences seem frightening/overwhelming to you

You’ve secretly always wanted to go sky-diving or go on a solo backpacking trip. Or maybe you’ve just always wanted to learn how to cross-stitch (Hey, I’m right there with ya). Yet, your friends would have NO IDEA. Instead, you stick to your routine and do activities that you’re used to and require minimal risk.

What’s that about? I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that its your inner critic again. What about it is keeping us trapped in our boring routines? Let’s check in with that voice again. Perhaps it says something like “You’ll look so stupid” or “You won’t be any good at it”. Again, it feels much safer to hike the same trails we’ve always known or play the same games we’ve played since we were kids. We know what to expect and there’s a minimal chance for us to look silly. Flip side is that we’re once again staying stuck in the well-regimented routine that we’ve constructed for ourselves, which leaves us feeling bored and unchallenged.

Do This Instead: For this one, it’s all about taking manageable steps. Chances are, you probably won’t just go and sign up to skydive tomorrow AND THAT’S OK. I do challenge you to take doable risks though. For example, perhaps you go to a restaurant in a part of town you’ve never been to this weekend. Or maybe you start watching cross-stitch tutorials on YouTube (It’s not like I would know anything about that…). The next week, maybe you pick up some supplies, and the following one after that, you start a simple design. Pro Tip: This is going to feel uncomfortable. That’s Ok, that means you’re doing it right.

4.You’ve stopped being creative Maybe in the past you’ve been a cross-stitching pro. Your friends have even gotten cross-stitches from you for the past couple holidays. But for some reason, you just haven’t been able to pick up the needle for the past 6 months. This could be because of your inner critic. When our self-esteem dips, our creativity can be one of the first things to go. By now, you’re probably starting to get a sense of what your inner critic would say in these scenarios: “You’re not even that good”, “Your friends think your gifts are lame”. Of course you would stop creating if all you were getting afterwards is criticism! Again, while this voice is annoying AF, let’s remember its trying to protect us. After all, no risks=no vulnerability.

Do This Instead: Afraid of what your friends will think? Rope them into the activity so that you’re in it together. Organize a time for you and a group of friends to attend a paint and sip class. This can be a perfect way to dip your toes back into the creative water without too much pressure…besides, a little wine could help ;)

5. You’re obsessed with being “perfect” All of the above can culminate into one very common problem: perfectionism. Documents have to be proofread a million times, “risky” texts are checked and re-checked by friends, it takes wayyyyy too long to get pick out an outfit or get ready. Sound familiar? This can be because it feels like our inner critic is always watching over our shoulder, making sure we don’t do anything out of line. See, it gets confused and thinks that every decision is LIFE or DEATH. When in reality, the shirt we choose to wear will most likely have a minimal effect on our lives as a whole. Somehow, we get stuck in “analysis paralysis” and struggle to make any decisions or live our life freely. Do This Instead: Accept. Accept. Accept! Accept that you are human and therefore will make mistakes. There is no such thing as “perfection” in this messy world. The harder we try to fit ourselves into our version of how we should be, the more limited our world becomes. Believe me, this will take time but the more we remind ourselves, the more we start to believe it! You got this!

Oh inner critic, you pesky thing. How many of us wish we could just get rid of you altogether. Yet, there are ways to ensure that it doesn't take control. When you take the lead instead, your world will broaden and you can live a more exciting and fulfilling life! Want more help transforming your inner critic to your #1 fan? Work 1:1 with me to continue to boost your confidence and growth!

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