How to Work with Your Inner Critic

Interview with Melissa Carson for the Women in STEM, Reimagined masterclass.


Do you ever wonder why your inner voice is so critical? 

You may feel alone in being so hard on yourself; however, everyone has a negative voice in their head to some extent. 

Today we are talking about –and for– those who are dealing with their inner bully. 

The inner bully is the voice inside who criticizes you, especially when you feel insecure. When you feel like you have messed up somehow, that voice can get louder and distract you from your work. And your work is essential! 

Everyone has an “inner mean girl,” as I like to call the critical voice. Melissa shares that how many of these voices we have varies from person to person, and we each have our own versions. 

The first thing to do to help you stay on track when your inner mean girl starts criticizing is to get to know her better. “I suggest you name her,” says Melissa. “What does she look like? How do you describe her? If you know her, you can deal with her”. By naming your inner mean girl, you give the voice a character so you can look at what it is saying objectively.

Although Melissa has plenty of practice helping her clients deal with their mean inner voice, she is unsure where the inner voice comes from. Regardless, she knows that we are harsher on ourselves than we would be to our friends, and the rules that this voice gives us are arbitrary. 

Reactive Coping: Here’s how to minimize your inner “mean girl” when she speaks up.

  1. Recognize what is happening. 

Awareness is the first step towards change. By recognizing that you are negatively talking to yourself instead of just accepting those thoughts as truth, you give yourself more control. 

  1. Get it out of your head.

Melissa suggests writing out what your inner critic is saying. By writing it down, you get it out of your head and are therefore more able to think objectively about the situation that triggered your mean inner voice. You can write out what she is saying or make a voice memo. 

  1. Gain a less personal perspective.

Try stepping out of your body and pretending it was your best friend or work colleague. What would you advise them? Sometimes we are much harder on ourselves than we would be to a friend or colleague. 

By looking at the situation as if it was not our own self-worth on the line, we can see what we need to do to remedy the situation. And if we did majorly mess up, we can objectively see that we need to apologize, shares Melissa. 

  1. Gain a broader perspective.

When I feel like I have messed up and my inner mean girl is hard on me, I like to ask myself what would I think about this is six days, six weeks, six months, six years. If it won’t matter down the road, it’s time to let it go. If it does, then it’ll give you cues as to how to move forward.

It may be helpful to share your concerns with a trusted person. By saying it out loud to a trusted person, you can gauge whether the voice is you overreacting or whether this is a legitimate concern. 

Proactive Coping: Here’s how to prevent your inner mean girl from getting you down before she speaks up.

  1. Create 10 “I Am” statements to repeat.

The inner critic distracts us and prevents us from excelling and enjoying what we are doing. So it is in our best interest to have a plan for preventing our inner mean girl from attacking us. 

One of Melissa’s favorite exercises for her clients is to create 10 “I Am” statements. These personal “I Am” statements embody the most powerful versions of you and the things you aim to become and do. For example, “I am a published author” or “I am a good mother.” By repeating these powerful statements, you prime yourself to be the person who can achieve the things you choose and therefore embody the person you want to be. 

  1. Name the identity you want to embody.

Much like we named the inner mean girl, Melissa suggests that we name the powerful person we want to become. You can proactively use this powerful persona to counteract the negative persona. Having a name for the powerful goal persona prevents the mean girl from running unopposed in our mind and taking control of our reactions. Build it up so that the positive voice becomes the most powerful.


Missed Women in STEM, Reimagined? 


Melissa Carson is working with organizations that want to be at the top of their game related to their overall employee experience. Connect with Melissa on LinkedIn here.


Dr. Nicole Tschierske is a positive psychology coach who helps women in STEM get noticed in their company so they attract their next opportunity with total ease.

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