The Origin of Your Inner Critic

The Origin of Your Inner Critic
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Find therapists best matched to your needs. Always free and confidential.

Where it started

An inner critic isn’t something we’re born with. That voice that says, “you’re not good enough, it’s your fault, you’re a failure.” Our inner critic develops in childhood as we hear harsh remarks and criticism from parents, caretakers, teachers, and peers. Hearing the adults in your life speak harshly about themselves can also be the cause.

Hearing harsh remarks and criticism repeatedly during childhood can change the way the brain develops. We internalize this harsh language, and it becomes our inner critic and the filter through which we see the world as we grow into adulthood.

How it happened

The brain creates neural pathways in response to new experiences. When an experience is repeated, the neural pathway is reinforced. The prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain responsible for conscious decision-making and modulating emotions, is not fully developed until the age of twenty-five. Exposure to repeated harsh remarks and criticism during this developmental time can create a mindset that lends itself to self-limiting beliefs, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.

What to do from here

Overcoming our inner-critic takes consistent work, but it is possible. Thanks to neuroplasticity, the brain can be re-trained over time. We can learn new ways to think and be. Many therapeutic techniques have proven effective in re-training the brain and overcoming the inner critic.

Some of these techniques include: practicing self-compassion, learning to identify and challenge cognitive distortions with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), practicing cognitive defusion with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and learning to access your wise mind with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

In some cases, constant criticism and harsh remarks throughout childhood can result in trauma. If there is a trauma history additional therapies may be considered, such as Brainspotting and Somatic Therapy.

Working with a trained practitioner is the best way to utilize the power of these techniques. Healing is best achieved through consistency and a combination of efforts in addition to a safe and nurturing environment. A good therapeutic relationship with your practitioner can help you set a strong foundation for healing.

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