written exclusively for Give Yourself Kindness by Jiva Masheder, MSc a mindfulness and self-compassion teacher with a masters in mindfulness-based cognitive therapies.


The inner critic: we all have it


Are you familiar with the term ‘inner critic’? That voice in your head that is just never satisfied, always critical, that you can never please for very long? 

You may think that you’re the only person with that voice, and that everyone else is swanning along confidently, but you can be sure that you are a long way from alone if you’ve got this voice. Most people do, in fact. 


For some people it’s saying things like ‘you’re unloveable, ‘you’re a failure’, ‘you’re inadequate’. Ouch! I hope no-one else says these things to you. 

For others, it’s a general climate of disappointment or coldness towards yourself, particularly when times are tough and you have, perhaps (as all of us do sometimes) failed or made some mistakes. 

For many people, it’s both – the two reinforce and support each other. 


If this sounds like your background mental state, then read on and take faith that you are not stuck with this, there are ways to develop a kinder voice and warmer internal climate. 


The inner critic myth


A common defence that I hear of the inner critic is that it’s a good motivator and that we don’t achieve without it. It may be true that it motivates us….but you’ll notice that I Ieft out the word ‘good’! 


Self-compassion is a far better motivator than self-criticism


Maybe you have had experience of harsh teachers and kind, supportive teachers? Cast your mind back, and if so, reflect on where you learnt most, were happiest going to their classes, and enjoyed the learning process most.  

You can learn from a harsh, pushy teacher, in the same way that an inner critic can motivate you – but at a high cost to your own overall sense of wellbeing. 

It’s not pleasant to have to live with that constant threat of a put-down or criticism! In fact, it increases the level of anxiety and risk of low mood. 

It’s more beneficial all round to learn from a kind, supportive teacher – in any field – who still pushes you, but kindly and lovingly. I really hope you have had that experience at some point in your life.  


Or perhaps you feel that without an inner critic you’ll be sloppy and lazy. Turns out that an encouraging inner voice is a better coach for life choices as well. 

Whether you have, or haven’t had a kind teacher or coach ever before, you can start developing that in your own mind starting NOW! 


It's not about denying the inner critic is there


You can’t turn off the inner critic – but you can start replacing its voice with a kinder voice and like light chasing away the darkness, gradually the inner critic has no more space. 


Soothe your inner critic with self-compassion


I’d suggest practicing in this way:


First, make some space for yourself and make sure you won’t be disturbed. Make yourself comfortable with maybe blankets, cushions etc, and spend a few minutes grounding and settling yourself.


There are a few ways you can do this – bringing a hand onto your heart or other place on the body where it feels pleasant and supportive is one. Another is to feel the breath in your belly, rising and falling, without needing to go anywhere else or achieve anything. Your mind will definitely wander sooner or later and when it does, gently escort it back to the soothing touch of your hand, or the soothing rhythm of your breathing.


When you feel a little settled, ask yourself ‘what do I need to hear?’. I mean, something that you’d love to hear someone else say to you, and maybe sometimes they do. It might be something like ‘I value you’ ‘I love you’ ‘you’re safe here’ or ‘it’s going to be OK’. 


Try whispering those words to yourself, you may need to change the words around until they feel right. It might sound something like ‘may I value myself’ ‘may I be kind to myself’ ‘may I know that I am safe now’ or just something as simple as my favourite, ‘it’s OK Jiva’ or ‘I’m here with you Jiva’. You may find it helpful to add your own name on the end of the phrase, as if someone else were saying it to you. You could also imagine someone else saying it to you – whoever feels realistic. Remember as well that the tone is as important as the words themselves, so keep your tone soft and warm


An important point is that sometimes this may feel lovely and warm and cosy, and other times the critical voice may fight back. Both experiences show that it’s working, there really is no failure with this practice. Just keep going for up to 10-15 minutes, repeating your phrase or phrases however feels right for you. At the end I suggest letting go of the phrases and returning to your soothing touch or the rhythm of breathing. And repeat! 


Self-compassion is a skill


Like all practices, the clue’s in the name – it takes time so don’t expect instant results. 

You can also say kind things to yourself any time you might habitually be critical, and say something encouraging instead – something that you wish someone else would say to you. With time, this will become habitual and your inner landscape will become a kinder, warmer place for you to inhabit.


mindfulness and self-compassion teacher jiva masheder
Jiva Masheder, MSc is a mindfulness and self-compassion teacher. She has a Masters in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapies from Exeter University and has a certificate in teaching from the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University. She has a particular interest in teaching mindfulness to help people overcome anxiety and stress-related challenges in life. She loves nothing more than helping people find the same benefits that she continues to enjoy, such as better sleep, feeling calmer and more in control, enjoying life and relationships more, and improved mood.