How To Stop Your Inner Critic From Destroying Self Esteem

How To Stop Your Inner Critic From Destroying Self Esteem

Learn to take control of those negative thoughts.

self esteem

Margalis Fjelstad Ph.D., LMFT

Dr. Fjelstad has been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for nearly thirty years.Through her college teaching at CSUS in California and Regis University in Colorado, she has trained hundreds of students to become therapists.She is noted for her work with clients who grew up with a mentally ill parent and those who take on a caretaking role with a borderline or narcissistic family member.Her book, Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist: How to End the Drama and Get on With Life, was published in 2014 by Rowman and Littlefield and is available on Fjelstad has a private practice and conducts Caretaker recovery groups in Colorado.She has a workbook, an on-line class, and a monthly newsletter available through her website for people who want to quit caretaking.Dr. Fjelstad also provides phone consultations for people who have questions about a current or ex-loved one with BPD or NPD.

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You need to protect your self esteem from your inner critic!

The Inner Critic part of your mind was created to help you survive as a child. You felt a strong need to please your parents so that you would not be rejected, and consequently die. It is a primitive survival mechanism that functions, sometimes too automatically, trying to help you please others around you so you will be accepted into your family or social group. If you were raised by a borderline (BP) or narcissist (NP) parent, then developing a strong, attentive Inner Critic would have been extremely important. If you currently live with a BP/NP, then your Inner Critic is probably very active so that you can anticipate the BP/NP’s immanent upset and take action to “keep the peace”.

The Inner Critic is hyper-vigilant to the moods and wants of others so it can be easily reinforced by them to control our behavior to their liking. As adults, we have many more sophisticated and positive ways to get our needs met in relationships, so we need to learn to be in conscious control of the Inner Critic and use it extremely sparingly. When used as a primary means of self-control, the Inner Critic can become a paranoid dictator that can single-handedly demolish our self esteem.

If you are over-using your Inner Critic and it is getting in your way of feeling happy, relaxed and good about yourself, then the following suggestions will help you establish conscious control over your Inner Critic:


Tune in to the negative voice in your mind—both the loud one and the sneaky one.

Listen. Notice exactly what it says and does.

When does it come out loudly and when does it whisper so quietly you just get a bad feeling but don’t know where it came from?

Write down the Inner Critic’s words and messages so you can see them and get to know them.

What circumstances bring out your Inner Critic?

What makes you more vulnerable to the messages of the Inner Critic?


For each Inner Critic message, ask yourself, “Is it REALLY true MOST of the time?”

List the times it was true and all the times it was NOT true. Which list is longer?

Who was the first person in your life to give you this critical message?

Is that person truly reliable, honest, unbiased and a good judge of your abilities?

Stay aware and notice each and EVERY time the Inner Critic is talking.



Identify your true strengths as well as the qualities you would like to strengthen.

Acknowledge the behaviors you would like to change.

Forgive yourself for not being perfect.

Forgive others for not being perfect.

Thank the Inner Critic for its help (however misguided).

Activate your determination to be consciously in charge of your own thoughts.

Use your core SELF to challenge each lie that the Inner Critic proposes.


Replace each Inner Critic lie with a statement of truth about yourself.

Accept ALL the parts of yourself.

Encourage and validate yourself for each step you take toward the behaviors and qualities you want.

Most of the time we try to shut up the Inner Critic or try not to listen to it. I’m suggesting that you listen very carefully to its messages so that you can take over conscious control of those messages and really change them from old lies into current, real observations and self-assessments. When we build on our strengths, we make more progress and change faster than when we use criticism.

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