By Alexa Bailey, MSW, LMSW

We all have a little voice in our heads that talks to us all day long. Sometimes it muses on what we’re doing, sometimes it’s daydreaming about the person we’re interested in, and, more often than not, it’s pointing out all the flaws and mistakes we perceive ourselves to be making. This little voice is what we like to call the inner critic. The inner critic is the self-talk that we experience as we go through life that always seems to have an opinion. It’s that nasty thought that makes you question your decisions and nitpick your ideas and feelings. How many times have you looked in the mirror after getting ready and thought to yourself something that sounds like: “Oh, you don’t look good” or “you can’t pull off that color” or “you just really shouldn’t go out today”? That voice can often be loud and debilitating.

Our inner critic, however, doesn’t always have to be a critic. In fact, it’s possible to get her on our side and turn her into our inner coach. An inner coach sounds a lot more like an encourager and validator, than a critic. The inner coach is the voice that tells you “you can do it!” and “it’s okay”. You can almost imagine these two voices looking like the metaphorical angel and devil, sitting on your shoulders, both trying to talk, but sometimes one being louder than the other. In order to give volume to our inner coach and quiet our inner critic, we have to be able to differentiate between our own voice and that critical voice. We do a good job sometimes of taking on the negative words and thinking to ourselves, “well, that’s just how I am”. But that isn’t true. The negative things we say about ourselves are not true, they are just that: negative words.

And let’s be clear about something. Having the inner critic in your head doesn’t make you crazy and usually isn’t something you decided to take on. The messages we internalize that become our inner critic often have roots in the negative and hurtful words we’ve received from people around us, in the media, and from many different sources. The difference now is that it’s no longer an external thing voicing those words, it’s now coming from inside, which can feel much different.

Part of healing our hearts and minds is being able to identify and recognize what is impacting it. So, to practice this awareness and separate from those hurtful words and messages, we need to get to know those voices and, instead of taking on the critic’s words, question its validity. You can ask questions like, “where is this coming from?” or “where’s the evidence that says this is true or untrue?”. Become aware of how it sounds and write down the messages you are getting. When we can take the looping, pressing thoughts of the critic and put them in the light of day outside our own heads, it becomes easier to recognize that maybe, just maybe, she isn’t as powerful as it seems she is. From there, we begin our journey of countering that voice and giving the power back to ourselves to say: “I am worth it. I am good. I am okay”.


Alexa Bailey is a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW), who works in private practice providing therapeutic services at Evolve Counseling. She has experience treating several different populations and areas, including trauma, anxiety, depression, relational challenges, and life transitions with both young adults/adolescents and adults. Alexa is a big advocate of self-care and creating whole personal wellness through positive change and healthy habits.