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Inner Critic

The Inner Critic is simply a term used to describe negative self-talk. It’s part of the human condition to engage in negative self-talk. The problem then becomes when the Inner Critic stands in our way, impeding our ability to realize our full potential.

The Inner Critic exercise helps students identify and isolate the inner negative voice that manifests itself in bad habits. Yes, at times the Inner Critic serves a useful role in helping us point out for ourselves what we could improve, but it’s only useful if this is a conscious choice. The problem is that most people can’t turn the Inner Critic off. When this becomes the case, the Inner Critic ends up running the show, instead of allowing ourselves to make mistakes and reflect on them in order to keep moving toward our goals. Being moderately critical can be useful, but overuse can hinder development.

This exercise is so effective because it objectifies the Inner Critic, which allows the student to witness these thoughts without judgment and disconnect from them. It creates space between that critical point of view and the actual, constructive thoughts that will aid in the student’s success. It’s a fun and somewhat playful exercise, leading to its effectiveness.

Ridding of the Inner Critic gives students better control over their thoughts and emotions. It’s an essential tool in helping them develop emotional intelligence. It’s a step in the process of becoming more self-aware.

During the session, the coach will identify what this Inner Critic is, and how to realize these thoughts as soon as they emerge. In the next part of the exercise, students are asked to use their imagination and personify what this Inner Critic would look and sound like. Coaches use the example of a cartoon character because it makes light of the Inner Critic and is easier to disregard.

Next, use imagination to name and describe this personified Inner Critic and create intellectual and emotional distance between this character and the constructive thoughts.

The next step is crucial:  Simply ignore and dismiss the Inner Critic. It doesn’t help to argue with or justify its message. It’s best to acknowledge it’s there, and simply ignore it and replace those thoughts with constructive, beneficial ones. That leads to the next exercise which is the Future Self.

How to Best Support Your Child

How you can help as a parent is a bit tricky as this is a deeply personal exercise.  I also don’t recommend that you do it by yourself.  It’s useful to have a trained coach lead you through the exercise. However, you can be aware and compassionate toward this exercise and its impact. The exercise is also paired with the Future Self, which is a really positive and uplifting exercise and is designed to fill that space the Inner Critic once filled.

From the Academic Life Coaching Workbook

Your Inner-Critic is the negative self-talk, images, and feelings that we evoke. In this exercise, you use your imagination to separate yourself from this not-so-helpful pattern.

What kinds of things do you say to yourself when doing poorly?

If you were to imagine someone else saying this to you, who/what would it look like?

What would its name be?

How big or small?

Other physical descriptions (for example, what kind of clothes):

Its mission?

When does it show up most often?

Short Biography:


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