How to make your inner critic your ally

Inner critic


Crystal Tse shares her top tips on how to make your inner critic your friend. She talks us through how to separate the voice from your own and the fundamental needs you need to take to ensure you always rise above it.

Wherever you are in your tech career, the inner critic will show up at those critical moments when you’re doing something new or outside your comfort zone.

Whether it’s learning a new programming language, going for the next level job or presenting your ideas and solutions to the team, here are some tips on how to make your inner critic your ally. But first..

Why do we have an inner critic?

Our brains have evolved to look for threats and keep us safe. It also uses past experiences to predict future situations because it takes a lot of energy for our brains to do something new. For example, develop a new habit or learn a new programming language1. 

In other words, we are hardwired for survival with the least resistance and maximum efficiency. Think of touching a hot plate and your automatic reaction is to get away. If you had to process what was happening and think through the next logical action, you’d be severely burned. 

The result? An inner critic designed to keep us safe however cruel it appears. It has your best interests at heart but hasn’t understood that for you to grow and develop you need to leave comfort and safety. It’s formed from our childhood experiences. Being so young we may misinterpret intentions of the actions of the adults around us. On hearing an angry parent shouting ‘don’t do it like that!’, the young inner critic could turn this into ‘mistakes are bad, therefore I can’t make mistakes’ to ensure the parent doesn’t reject us and we survive.

Silencing this voice only amplifies its urgency to be heard. But letting the inner critic run rampage is like driving around with the handbrake on. Going nowhere fast. Exhausting!

So here are 3 ways to make your inner critic your ally. 

#1 Name your inner critic 

Naming it separates this voice from your own. It takes the sting out of the criticisms. Pick a name that’s hard to take seriously. Have fun with it! Mine is Moanin’ Maureen. Once you’re aware that this voice starts getting active, you can say something like “Ok Moanin’ Maureen, I hear you, but this isn’t the time. I’ve got things to do.” 

PS. Sometimes I visualise Moanin’ Maureen sitting back down and being quiet.

#2 Have you taken care of your fundamental needs? 

Your inner critic

Are you tired? Have you slept? When did you last take a break? Where are you in your menstrual cycle? 

When your fundamental needs are not taken care of, this is when you are most vulnerable and more likely to believe your inner critic. Daily journaling helps you to reflect on how you are feeling, thinking, and handling life. After about a month you may start to notice patterns of how active your inner critic is relating to how much energy you have. 

Treat the appearance of your inner critic as a reminder that you need to take care of yourself, rather than listening to the things it says.

Be honest about what you truly need, not want. For example: 

● Turning off screens before bed vs binge-watching Netflix. 

● Taking the time to cook a decent meal vs snacking. 

● Take 10 minutes break from screens vs powering through when you’re already fatigued. 

Your menstrual cycle also has a huge influence on your energy levels and when your inner critic is likely to be more active. The book Wild Power2 claims that the inner critic is a vital part of your cycle. Its role is to call you out when you’re not living up to your intentions and is most active the days leading up to your menstruation. 

#3 Time for a chat with your inner critic

Sometimes the inner critic appears when specific situations keep cropping up: 

  • Applying for jobs. “You don’t have enough skills, knowledge, or experience to do this job.”
  • Preparing a presentation. “You are a terrible public speaker.” 
  • Comparisonitis. “He’s a much better developer than me because he started coding before I knew what it was.” 


This time you’ll need to talk to your inner critic with curiosity. Your inner critic is giving you clues on what you need to do in these situations. 

“You don’t have enough skills, knowledge, or experience to do this job.” 

Ok, so what are your present skills, knowledge, or experience? Think about how they apply to the new job. 

What are the gaps in your experience? Think about what gaps you need to fill before you go for the job and which can be learned during the job. 

What can you do now to start filling those gaps before going for the job? 

Writing down this process helps to follow the thoughts through and clarify the reality of the situation, instead of having these thoughts stuck in a hamster wheel and coming back to haunt you in the middle of the night. 

Remember that the invitation for your inner critic to speak up is temporary. When you’re finished, thank your inner critic for showing up, and now that you see where the cracks are and have actions to fix them, your inner critic can sit back down. 

It’s your turn! Can you apply the same curiosity to the other examples or take one from your inner critic?

Your inner critic

Who’s in control now? 

Yes, it’s you! I’ve shown you some ideas on how to start taking back control when your inner critic appears: 

  • Giving it a seperate identity from your own. 
  • If it seems overly harsh or active, treat it as a sign that you need to take care of yourself or your period is coming. 
  • Inviting it to speak temporarily so that you can determine what actions you need to take. 

You’ll have been living with your inner critic for who knows how long and using these tips will take time and practice. Remember though, our brains like the easy tried and tested ways so if it seems hard, that’s because it is! But it’ll be worth it when your inner critic becomes your greatest ally. 

More reading


Crystal Tse – SheCanCode Blog Squad



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