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Four Steps for Fighting Your Critical Inner Voice


Many people who struggle with eating disorders also struggle with negative self-talk. A key step in eating disorder recovery is learning to overcome one's harsh inner critic.

We all seem to possess an inner critic – the negative internal commentary we often hear when something goes wrong or we make a mistake. However, this kind of negative self-talk can be dangerous when it becomes a daily part of your life.

The Birth of the Critical Inner Voice

According to psychologist Robert Firestone, author of Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice, the inner critic develops from early childhood experiences in which a person witnessed hurtful attitudes toward him or herself or toward those closest to him or her. As a person grows up, these negative ideas are adopted unconsciously and are integrated into destructive patterns of thought. When a person is unable to differentiate his or herself from the critical inner voice, he or she allows the negative self-talk to impact his or her behavior and to shape the direction of his or her life. Individuals struggling with eating disorders may turn to self-destructive coping mechanisms such as binge eating or restricting.

In the long run, this inner critic can sabotage a person's relationships and successes, and could prevent him or her from becoming the person he or she wants to be. Although it may seem as though this type of negative self-talk is motivating, it actually provokes anxiety within a person. Feelings of shame can often arise from the critical inner voice. Shame can create a feeling of disconnect, which teaches a person to be alone and can make him or her feel unworthy of the help he or she may need to recover. Self-criticism can be a hard obstacle to overcome when fighting an eating disorder because it can keep a person from doing the things necessary to take care of him or herself.

Fighting the Critical Inner Voice

Here are four steps to help you fight against your inner critic:

  1. Identify what your critical inner voice is telling you, and see it as a separate entity. Separating your inner critic's thought process from your real point of view is key to being able to fight against it. Try to remember that your inner critic is not a reflection of reality. These negative thoughts are things you adopted based on destructive early life experiences that you have internalized as your own point of view.
  2. Write your thoughts down in the second person, as "you" statements. For example, when you are struggling with your inner critic and are having a thought like "I can't get anything right," write it as "You can't get anything right." Writing it down in this way will help you see these thoughts as coming from an alien point of view and not as true statements. You will be better able to notice how hostile this internal enemy can be.
  3. Respond to your inner critic.You can do this by writing down a more compassionate evaluation of yourself. Write these responses as "I" statements. This exercise is not necessarily meant to build you up, but rather it is meant to show a kinder, more honest attitude toward yourself.
  4. Do not act on what your inner critic tells you. Many times your critical inner voice can become overwhelming and may keep you from doing what you really want to do. By keeping in mind that your inner critic is not truly who you are, and by acting against this destructive thought process, you will grow stronger while your inner critic grows weaker.