By Maureen Pollard

Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered social worker with a

private practice in Cobourg, Ontario. 


We all talk to ourselves. It’s true. We have regular conversations as we decide what to do next, while we’re doing it, and then think about whether what we did was the right thing.

Self-talk has a big impact on our feelings. If your self-talk is too negative, it can be really hard to see the positives in life. Most people are pretty hard on themselves, and their self-talk focuses on judgment and put-downs.

We can call this harsh, critical self-talk your “Inner Critic”. This voice is powerful and loud, and often leaves you feeling bad about yourself. This negative self-talk can make you feel hopeless and helpless as you think about your problems.

It’s important to challenge your Inner Critic. It may be powerful, but that doesn’t make it right! You can tame your own Inner Critic by following these strategies:

  1. Pay attention. Notice when your self-talk includes name-calling and put-downs. If you wouldn’t talk to your friend that way, try not to use this language with yourself.

  2. Question your automatic thoughts. We don’t think negative thoughts on purpose. Our brain has the important job of checking for threats and that means looking at things that are harmful or discouraging. Being on the lookout for the bad things doesn’t mean that’s all we can see, but it can become a habit.

  3. Choose cues for change. Choose a code word and say it to yourself when you notice you’re falling into negative self-talk. Tell yourself “Stop” or “It’s ok” or “You’re fine” to help you pause your Inner Critic’s attack.

  4. Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself you are doing the best you can. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone is always learning. That includes you! If you make a mistake, you can work to fix it and learn from the experience.

  5. Notice the good stuff. Try to catch yourself doing something well and give yourself a compliment. We can call this positive self-talk your “Inner Cheerleader”. This voice is sometimes quiet and shy, so you might imagine giving this voice a loudspeaker to help amplify these positive messages.

  6. Be your own best friend. Imagine what you would say to your best friend if they were having a bad day, if they made a mistake or if they were dealing with a problem. Now give those words to your Inner Cheerleader and say them to your self. You deserve your loving care just as much as your best friend does, and you can be such a great friend. Shine the light of your friendship on yourself!


Remember, everyone has an Inner Critic! Paying some attention to the difficult things can help us learn and do better, but getting stuck in negative self-talk can leave us feeling bad. You can practice these steps to turn down the volume on your Inner Critic and that will allow you to hear the kind and helpful voice of your "Inner Cheerleader".


When you tame your Inner Critic and boost your Inner Cheerleader, you can do good things and be your best self!