Building Self-Esteem: Overcoming the Inner Critical Voice

In the journey towards success and personal growth, we all face obstacles that can sometimes get in the way of our efforts. One of the biggest hurdles is often not external, but within ourselves – we’ll name it the inner critical voice. This blog post focuses on self-esteem and the significant impact our inner voice plays in nurturing or diminishing it.

Definition of Self-Esteem and Its Importance

Self-esteem is what we think and believe about ourselves, and how much we value and appreciate our own self-worth. This internal assessment shapes our experiences, guides our decisions, and influences our behavior. Self-esteem develops over time, and can be influenced by life experiences, the environment you spend time in, and interactions with others. A healthy amount of self-esteem is crucial in pursuing meaningful goals, engaging in positive relationships, and creating a life that’s satisfying for you.

Effects of the Inner Critical Voice on Self-Esteem

The inner critical voice can have a profound negative impact on self-esteem, leading to a view of yourself that is less than favorable, fueled with judgment and criticism, and is often inaccurate and incredibly unhelpful. We might be tricked to think that this critic is serving a necessary purpose, but it’s unfortunately only holding us back in many different ways.

Negative self-talk or the ‘inner critic”’ often sounds and feels like a hurtful, judgmental, and nagging critic that shows up without an invite. It’s quick to constantly challenge our worth, question our ability, and prevent us from fully taking steps forward and pursuing the goals that are valuable. It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of doubt and fear, which then chips away at self-esteem over time if left to its own devices. Consequently, it significantly influences our behavior and actions, impacting self-confidence, personal growth, and achieving all the successes you deeply desire and envision for yourself.

Low Self-Worth and Lack of Self-Confidence

The negative self-talk, criticism, and self- judgment that make up the inner critical voice can severely shatter one’s sense of self-worth over time. Negative self-talk that keeps saying, “You’re not good enough,” or “You’ll never succeed,” can gradually deplete self-esteem and self-confidence, leading to a fear of failure, reluctance to try new things, or not pursuing personal and professional goals that are important to you. Additionally, anxiety and stress can become more present over perceived inadequacies, as well as constant comparison to others, which can result in feelings of inferiority and even that dreaded imposter syndrome.

Negative Impact on Personal Growth and in Relationships

And it doesn’t stop there. The inner critical voice can tear down personal growth, as well as impact relationships of all kinds. The negativity it builds can prevent us from exploring new opportunities, setting goals, and achieving personal development. It can also strain relationships, as insecurities may cause us to misinterpret others’ intentions or leave us overthinking conversations. These impacts may include:

  • An inability to trust or communicate effectively with others
  • Difficulty in setting, pursuing, and achieving personal goals
  • Lack of enthusiasm or motivation to pursue new opportunities
  • Staying up at night replaying interactions in your mind and feeling stuck in the spiral

Understanding the Inner Critic

The inner critic can be the greatest barrier to personal growth, taking healthy risks, and achieving life goals that are important to you. It’s important to understand and overcome this very hurtful, self-sabotaging voice to increase self-esteem and promote a greater sense of self-worth.

Identifying Negative Self-Talk and Negative Beliefs

Start by acknowledging negative self-talk when it shows up in your mind. Some examples of negative self-talk could include statements like:

  • “I’m not good enough”
  • “I’m a failure”
  • “People don’t like me”
  • ”I’m worthless”
  • ”I’m not worthy of love”
  • ”I don’t deserve this”
  • ”I’m such an imposter”

These thoughts often are rooted in deeply held beliefs about yourself that can damage self-esteem and chip away at self-confidence. The first step towards overcoming them is identifying the stories we tell ourselves that hold us back. Taking this pause to get better acquainted with the chatter in the mind is an important step.

Recognizing the Origin of the Inner Critical Voice

Reflecting on the origin of this inner critical voice can assist in rewriting your narrative. The roots usually are found in past experiences, often dating back to childhood. Negative statements from parents/caregivers, teachers, or peers may have instilled fear, guilt, distrust, or low self-worth. Identifying where our inner critic stems from allows us to challenge and rewrite these damaging narratives that hold us back.

Strategies to Quiet the Inner Critical Voice

Self-esteem plays a very important role in how we perceive ourselves and our abilities. To enhance self-esteem, it’s essential to know how to quiet the inner critical voice. Here are some proven methods:

Challenging Negative Thoughts and Beliefs

The first step involved is to be aware of the inner critic’s presence. Without this awareness, we can’t intervene in real time (which helps to rewire the brain and build a new narrative and voice that serves us better). Whenever negative thoughts surface, challenge them, name where they are coming from, perhaps identify who that voice belongs to- where it originated, and remember that just because you’re having a thought doesn’t make it true. Assess if these negative thoughts are based on actual reality, if they’re rooted in truth, or if they’re just unrealistic expectations that aren’t serving you and your relationships.

Practicing Self-Compassion and Self-Acceptance

Another effective strategy is building and embracing self-compassion. Invite in a more gentle and patient voice and outlook for yourself. Reflect on how you ideally would treat someone you care about, and use this as a template on how to show yourself that same support and care. Try to be patient with your progress. Remember, it’s about making progress, not striving for perfection. You’re trying something new and for the improvement of yourself. What an empowering and meaningful decision to help move yourself forward!

Building a Positive Self-Image

Lastly, working on creating a more positive and caring image of yourself. Highlight your strengths, celebrate the small wins, and embrace imperfections (we all have them!). A positive self-image not only strengthens your self-esteem but also increases your happiness, outlook, self-confidence, and overall well-being.

Quick tips:

  • Write down your accomplishments and 5 things daily that you’re grateful for
  • Use positive affirmations and begin to replace the negative thoughts with new more helpful thoughts
  • Surround yourself with positive influences and people who encourage you

These strategies can go a long way in quieting the inner critical voice and laying a foundation for promoting self-esteem. Remember, building self-esteem doesn’t and quieting the inner critic doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey of acceptance, patience, commitment, and being present that will lead you towards that direction.

Seeking Professional Support

Overcoming the inner critic and low self-esteem takes work of undoing and rebuilding. It can sometimes require guidance and support beyond what self-help resources can offer. This is where professional support can be very useful and provide support in creating meaningful change.

When to consider therapy or counseling for self-esteem struggles

If your inner critic is so loud and persistent, you find it hard to make decisions, take action towards goals, and even fall asleep at night because it just won’t turn off, it might be an indicator to seek professional support. Also, if you find you’re constantly comparing yourself in unfavorable ways to others, struggling with feelings of inadequacy, imposter syndrome, frequently are self-critical, or feeling disconnected in relationships, therapy can be the next step in helping you to improve your relationship with yourself and others.

Take the First Step Today:

Hi! My name’s Dr. Anissa York and I’m a Licensed Psychologist who provides personalized therapy services throughout CA and FL. I’m dedicated to providing compassionate and effective care tailored to your unique needs. I invite you to check out the services that I offer and schedule a free consultation with me to learn more:

You do not have to walk this journey all on your own.