• There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.

Taming Your Inner Critic: 5 Emotional Intelligence Skills to Build Mental Health and Increase Happiness

Do you ever feel like your mind is a bully? Does that little voice inside your head constantly put you down, telling you that you’re not good enough, or planting doubt and worry? Have you ever wondered how unkind impacts your mental health?

Negative self-talk (a.k.a., "The Inner Critic") is very common and can be extremely discouraging—and yes, harsh self-talk is a significant component of anxiety and depression. If you are a victim of inner criticism, it’s time to bridle your self-talk and learn EQ skills to create inner peace!

Estimated reading: 7 minutes

Blonde woman with swirling above her head representing the chaos and stress of the Inner Critic.You may not realize it, but emotional intelligence begins in the mind. And it’s our job to become responsible gatekeepers for our minds.

Just like we need to take care of our physical health by eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly, we also need to care for our mental health. One way to enhance our mental state is by learning and practicing emotional intelligence instead of using feeling stoppers.

Using emotional intelligence skills, you can create spaciousness inside your mind and encouraging self-talk to build inner peace and achieve greater happiness.

Deep Dive: "What Is Emotional Intelligence?"

How Can Unkind Self-Talk Impact Your Mental Health?

Few people realize that many personal problems, including weight issues, begin in the mind.

Mental health is rooted in our thoughts and how they make us feel. With negative and critical thoughts bombarding us every day, it is difficult to find inner peace. When we are unkind to ourselves, this mental chatter stresses us, raises cortisol levels, and depletes our motivation. If you could change one thing that would transform your life the most, I'd master your mind.

Try an experiment. For one hour, every time you say something negative to yourself, respond, "Stop. I deserve kindness."

You'll be shocked at how effective this strategy is; however, sustaining the practice and turning it into a habit is a whole 'nother thing!

See EQ Skill #5 below to find out more!

How I Transformed My Negative Self-Talk into Self-Compassion.

When I was young, I had a brutal inner critic. I was harassed by my own mind!  Anxiety and constant fear plagued me.

Every little thing I did was critiqued and picked apart. I couldn't even do the dishes without my perfectionist drone hovering! It was exhausting!

I didn't even realize just how depleting the negativity was until I started challenging it. Making a commitment to myself, I required myself to be kind. Every time I heard a criticism, I made myself come up with three things that I respected, loved, or was proud of about myself and my day. It was nearly impossible at first but I stuck with it!

The more I remembered to insist on encouragement instead, the less I heard from my inner critic. Then a spaciousness opened up and a feeling of freedom that was exquisite: self-love. By caring for myself and tending my thoughts like a loving mother would for her child, my actions blossomed into loving myself.

No more negativity. No more judgment.

Most people believe that you can't stop negative self-talk, you can only "manage" it. I've proved otherwise. Even several neuroscientists who mapped my brain have commented about the amazing absence of negative self-talk and incredible calm within me.

Kindness matters. And we are the FIRST ones we need to be kind to!

How to Stop  Negative Self-Talk

So, I'm writing to help you, too. The best way to stop any bad habit is to replace it with something positive.

It's no different with your mind and the many thoughts that can make you anxious or sad or feel like a failure. You are the guardian of your mind's garden. If you're not, weeds will grow rampant and smother self-confidence and inner peace.

Below are some of the most effective actions you can take—right out of my playbook!

Try to live by these five emotional intelligence (EQ) skills; they will help you quiet the Inner Critic and build better mental health.

EQ Skill #1: Increase Self-Awareness

When it comes to taming negative self-talk, self-awareness is key. It’s crucial to become aware of the thoughts running through your head daily.

Therefore, the first emotional intelligence skill to master is to become more aware of your inner landscape. It’s essential to notice when the Inner Critic is speaking and what it says.

Once you are more aware of its presence and effect, you’ll begin seeing unconscious patterns. Below are some discovery questions and self-talk worksheets for you to explore and get better acquainted with your thoughts to raise self-awareness.

Getting curious and raising self-awareness will help you calm and retrain your mind.

      Negative Self-Talk Worksheet #1:

  • Does the Inner Critic only speak up when you are in a new situation?

  • Is it most active when you’re with a particular person?

  • Does the Inner Critic blast you with criticism and shame when you make a mistake?

  • Are there different personalities to your Inner Critic, such as the Protector, the Whiner, or the Doubter?

  • Is there a recurring theme or phrase that you say to yourself?

Yes! I want to increase self-awareness

Related reading:The Origin of the Inner Critic.”

EQ Skill #2: Question the validity of your self-talk.

Remember, thoughts are not reality; they are only thoughts.

They may or may not be accurate.

The Inner Critic tends to operate on assumptions and often speaks in black-and-white thinking or absolutes: always, never, every time, etc. For example, "You'll never succeed," "You'll never be enough." or "You're a bad mom; you're always yelling at the kids!)

Don’t accept your thoughts as fact or truth—question them.

         Negative Self-Talk Worksheet #2:

  • Are these thoughts true?

  • Do they serve a worthwhile purpose?

  • Is the mind being helpful or unhelpful?

  • What is the underlying need fueling a particular thought pattern? (For example, it might be safety.)

  • How can I be more encouraging and kind with myself?

By challenging the validity of your thoughts, you'll soon see that many of them are outdated and untrue.

Keep raising your awareness.


EQ Skill #3: Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in each moment with nonjudgmental awareness. When mindful, we observe our thoughts and emotions without judging them as good or bad. We allow them to simply be.

This mindset and practice create space between our inner Critic or negative self-talk, and the automated messages we've come to expect and accept as "normal."

Catch yourself when you're ruminating or obsessing about something, and refocus your attention on what's happening right now. We can make more conscious choices about how we want to respond rather than reacting on autopilot. However, this requires awareness, effort, and practice.

Related reading: "Why Is Mindfulness Important? And 3 Simple Practices."

A man painting while redirecting his Inner Critic to the Encourager.

EQ Skill #4: Acknowledge and retrain your mind to be your Inner Encourager.

Your Inner Critic is not the boss of you!

You are in charge of the quality of your own mind, body, and emotions!

The job of the survival brain is to keep you safe. And I’m sure you’d agree that safety is critical.

And the Inner Critic could be seen as an offshoot of this part of your brain; it’s seeking to keep you alert so you can avoid threats, react quickly, and discover and fix what is wrong.

However, this habit of thinking doesn’t necessarily serve you productively and can be changed. This critical part of ourselves, when investigated, gives us an opportunity to become our best selves and learn what we value and what is most important to us.

The Inner Encourager’s job is to build you up and help you stretch outside your comfort zone into new experiences.

To retrain your thoughts and inner chatter, become aware of the self-talk going on in your head throughout the day. Acknowledge the Inner Critic’s message with a simple “thank you for sharing,” then quickly reframe the message to something more encouraging, supportive, and constructive.

In other words, it's time to give your Inner Critic a new job description!

Discover More

EQ Skill #5: Use affirmative statements and self-compassion to create new neural pathways.

Affirmations are positive statements that can help to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When we repeat affirmations (best when replacing a negative thought), we are effectively retraining our brain to think in a more positive and productive way.

Self-compassion is a practice of being kind and understanding towards ourselves, especially during difficult times. When self-compassionate, we give ourselves the same care and understanding that we would give to a good friend.

Research has shown that self-compassion can increase our resilience when facing difficulties and help us make positive life changes. As Dr. Kristen Neff recommends,

“While engaging in this supportive self-talk, you might want to try gently stroking your arm, or holding your face tenderly in your hands …. Physical gestures of warmth can tap into the caregiving system even if you’re having trouble calling up emotions of kindness at first, releasing oxytocin that will help change your bio-chemistry.”

Affectionate touch and simple kind acts of kindness toward yourself will invoke a calming response. Emotional intelligence skills can help you to bridle your Inner Critic and redirect it into a more uplifting internal experience. By taking charge, making a conscious choice to think and act differently, and using emotional intelligence skills, you can create encouraging self-talk to build greater inner peace and happiness.

Remember, you’re not alone on this journey.

Reach out to Heartmanity if you’d like support on the path of transformation.

Transformation IS our business, and emotional intelligence is our specialty!

New Call-to-action

Like the article? Help us spread the word and share it!

Jennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence CoachJennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence Coach
Jennifer is the Heartmanity founder and an emotional intelligence expert. She has two decades of EQ experience and is the author of emotional intelligence training and courses. As an emotional fitness coach, Jennifer teaches EQ skills, brain science hacks, and a comprehensive approach that gets results. She is happily married and the mother of three incredible grown children.

Posted in Emotional Intelligence & Fitness

Free Newsletter!

Featured Online Courses

Online Course - Emotional Fitness for the 21st Century 4 Keys to Unlocking the Power of Empathy