How can we befriend our Inner Critic to overcome Depression, Anxiety, and Low Self-Esteem?

Most of us live with an inner critic.  They are often brutal, judgemental, and not-at-all compassionate.  They make us feel small, bad, incompetent, useless, and unworthy.  Their harsh criticism often produces depression, anxiety, chronic health issues or lower our opinion about ourselves.  We often procrastinate or engage in addictive behaviour to avoid them.  We sometimes become paralysed because our inner defence and inner critic are locked in battle with each other.

According to Jay Ealey and Bonnie Wise, the authors of ‘Freedom from your inner critic – A Self-Therapy Approach’, there are seven types of inner critics:

  • Perfectionist:  They make sure you do everything perfectly.
  • Moulder:  They tell you how you should be, how to look, how to think, and how to do things.
  • Guilt Tripper:  They make you feel bad about what you have done and who you are.
  • Underminer:  They prevent you from trying new things or following your dreams.
  • Taskmaster:  They push you to work hard and are never satisfied with what you have done.
  • Controller:  They make you feel bad about what you eat or drink, or how your body looks.
  • Destroyer:  They make you feel as if you don’t have the right to exist.

How can we deal with these cruel inner critics when they are causing severe mental health or behaviour issues?

  1. Accept their existence:  Your inner critic is a part of you.  They never go away.  How about giving your inner-critic a name?  Tell yourself they are a part of you.  Try to notice their existence in your body.
  2. Find out their intention:  What does your inner critic want to achieve?  How old were you when they became active?  What was happening with you around that time?  What are they trying to protect you from?
  3. Befriend:  Notice their emotions and vulnerability. They may not be as scary as they sound.  Befriend your inner-critic by practising gratitude and self-compassion.
  4. Negotiate:  Let your inner critic know you need a different type of protection.

When you are experiencing depression, anxiety, addiction, or chronic health condition, focusing on your inner critic and working on inner conflict can be very effective.  Buddhist Psychotherapy focuses on promoting integration of conflicting parts of the Self to cultivate peace within.