The Five Inner Critics That Haunt Many Women

We all have one – that voice inside that criticizes, judges, chastises, and expresses disapproval towards us in the form of negative self-talk.  The Inner Critic.

Do you hear yourself saying, “What’s wrong with me?”, “I should never have tried that!” or “Why did I say that!”. “I’m not good enough.”

While the frequency and intensity of the inner critic vary from person to person, its intention for each person is the same. It’s not trying to beat you down. It’s trying to protect you.

Does it surprise you to learn that your inner critics have good intentions for you? It can be a cultural norm to believe that criticism and guilt-induced behavior will motivate a different or preferred behavior.  The inner critic wants to protect you from failing and thinks the way to do that is through harshness and silencing you. 

The critic’s language is distinctive–it’s negative and discouraging, pulling you back from your dreams, adventures, and deepest desires.

The Inner Critic sees itself as having a “job.” Its job is to control you and keep you from being hurt.

The Inner Critic can also be projected outwardly and onto others as well as turned on yourself.

So how do we work with the critic when its voice limits our potential or holds us back from our dreams?

We start with appreciating and learning about the intention of the critic. And then, we look to the kind of ally that can support us during the critic’s attack.

Here are some common critics that can show up in our lives and the allies available to you to transform their paralyzing and negative energy.

1.  The Judge Critic

The Judge is the non-stop “shoulda, woulda, coulda” in your head. It’s the relentless criticizer and shamer.  For some, this critic is so strong that it becomes paralyzing.  It criticizes you for every perceived mistake, every thought you think you shouldn’t have, every behavior that went wrong or might go wrong—judge, judge, judge.

Here we need the allies of compassion and self-acceptance.

2.  The Playing it Safe Critic

This critic wants to keep you out of danger’s way. It does this by keeping you inside your comfort zone so that you won’t venture out. It can influence you to “hideout,” stay in the background and not draw attention to yourself. It may create a safety zone where you can go so far, but no further. While we all need a “safety zone,” if we don’t muster the will to move beyond it, it can also limit us from having new experiences and adventures in our lives.

Here we need the allies of possibility and perseverance.

3.  The Co-dependency Critic

This critic tells us we need to defer our needs for the needs of others. This critic looks to take care of others first. It’s not the spirit of service that is being offered here. But instead, the obligation of putting others’ views before your own, others want for your time before your own needs, others ideas of how things should go without including your perspective. This critic drives you to put everyone and everything before yourself and pushes you into exhaustion.

Here we need the allies of self-reliance and self-care.

4.  The Inner Patriarch Critic

The Inner Patriarch is the internalized societal mindset about the inferiority of women. It carries the weight of at least five thousand years of patriarchal thinking (Hal Stone and Sidra Stone, “Embracing Your Inner Critic“).

The Inner Patriarch Critic tells you that you are inferior because you are a woman and need constant surveillance to keep your behavior appropriate.  This critic feels a deep-seated disdain for a woman’s femaleness and can make a woman ashamed of being a woman.

Here we need the allies of self-leadership and self-love.

5.  The Romantic Love Critic

This next critic may surprise you. It is the critic of romanticized love. It says that a woman must have a male figure who will solve her problems and “complete” her, rescue her, or make a better life possible. It is the hope that once something settles in the external world, she will feel complete. “Once I marry…”, “When I have children…”, “When we move…”.

Here we need the allies of self-actualization, self-love, and community with women.

What you can do right now

Unraveling the critic is not always an easy process. We can have one or more critics, and they can be engrained within us in a way that their inner voices sound like “the truth.” Remember, the Inner Critic is trying to protect you by controlling you.  Its protection, however, is dysfunctional, harmful, and shaming.  

We cannot meet the Inner Critic on its terms – by trying to control it or forcing away its negative voice with another negative voice.  Befriending your inner critic and understanding what’s behind the negative self-talk is the first step to releasing its role.

Steps to working with your Inner Critic:

  1. What kind of inner critic do you have?  Could you give it a name?  What is its intention for you?
  2. Begin to notice the self-talk of this critic.  See if you can bring into awareness a fear or worry that may be triggering this critic.
  3. How is the critic trying to protect you?  Is it preventing you from doing something? Is it shaming you into trying to get you to change?
  4. THEN, ask yourself how you can develop inner allies to release this critic from its responsibilities.

We often believe that we’d have more peace, joy, and happiness if the outer world would change.  But it’s the opposite.  

When we change our inner reality – like working with our inner critics and allies – the outer world changes around us.  


About Terri Altschul

Terri Altschul is an ICF Professional Certified Coach and the Founder of  She is devoted to guiding others to their inner knowing through depth coaching, visual journaling, mindfulness, and lots of love & bravery.  Learn how Women Connected programs can support your journey here.

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