How to overcome your critical inner voice that is making you depressed

As a BetterHelp affiliate, we may receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided

In this guide we are going to discuss the concept of negative self-talk and how it can make you depressed. 

We are also going to discuss some strategies that can help you overcome this critical inner voice.

How to overcome your critical inner voice that is making you depressed?

Counseling is Key to a Healthy Marr...
Counseling is Key to a Healthy Marriage

We are often our harshest critics that demand perfection of everything we do and everything we are. We tend to criticize our mistakes and berate ourselves when we are unable to do something which can impact our mental health. 

Here are a few things you can do to overcome your inner critic:

  • Be mindful of your negative self-beliefs
  • Give It a nickname
  • Limit your negativity
  • CHallenge your inner critic
  • Think like a friend
  • Say it out loud
  • Stop that thoughts
  • Replace the bad with some good.

Critical inner voice

This critical inner voice is part of our internal monologue we develop during our childhood. It is suppose to help us adapt and learn skills and as adults this inner speech help us with our cognitive processes. 

However, due to various experiences along the way- often negative ones- our inner voice becomes critical and our self-talk turns negative. 

The critical inner voice arises out of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others, it is part of our self-destructive and maladaptive behavior. This voice is not a hallucination but it is experienced as thoughts.

Psychologists call this critical inner voice the “negative self talk” which can take many forms. Sometimes it can sound rational while at times it can be mean and devolve into fear and anxiety. 

This self-talk usually takes the path of four forms of cognitive distortions: 

  • Catastrophizing, where we tend to dread the worst if something does not work out. For example, if you fail to get into the college you want- your inner voice will deem you a failure for the rest of your life. 
  • Personalizing, where we tend to make everything our fault. For example, if you fail to get into college, you begin to think it’s because you are worthless, not good enough, and not because of the limited seats or the possibility of chance. 
  • Polarizing, Sometimes called all-or-nothing, or black and white thinking, this distortion occurs when people habitually think in extremes.
  • Mental filtering is the tendency to ignore positives and focus exclusively on negatives. For example, if your friend hasn’t called you back you begin to think that you have done something wrong and that your friend hates you instead of the possibility that they are busy or that they have simply forgotten. 

Causes of this critical inner voice

This critical inner voice or negative self talk is formed out of our early life experiences that we have internalised. For example, attitudes from our parents that we have internalized. 

Or verbal comments and abuse from influential caretakers that we took to heart and made it part of how we see ourselves.  Other destructive parental behavior such as neglect, lack of affection, rejection, hostility are some factors that can cause us to develop a critical inner voice. 

Some people are also born with a genetic predisposition to be more critical about themselves and the world- they tend to be high in neuroticism. 

Other factors such as accidents, illnesses, trauma, seperation, bullying, and abuse can also propagate the development of this critical inner voice. 

How to overcome your critical inner voice that is making you depressed

Critical inner voice and depression 

The critical inner voice or negative self-talk provides a condition that enables psychological difficulties to grow and consume our thoughts and emotions. 

People who have an extremely critical inner voice are far more likely to suffer from mental health difficulties like depression, anxiety, and other stress-related problems. 

Many studies have shown a high correlation between being overly self critical and experiencing psychological difficulties as negative self-talk is not a healthy coping strategy.

Overcoming your critical inner voice

Some of the things you can do to overcome this critical inner voice includes:

Be mindful of your negative self-talk

Learn to notice when you’re being self-critical so you can begin to stop. For example, notice when you say things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a good friend or a child. 

Give it a nickname

When you think of your inner critic as a force outside of yourself, it becomes easier to separate yourself from it and when you do, you realise that you do not have to agree with it. 

It can also make it easier to see that these thoughts are not really true.

Limit Your Negativity

If you find it difficult to stop on the get go, you can try to contain the damage that it does by taking the time- say 10 mins out of your day- to sit down and list everything  that you have done wrong and allow your citic to criticise you.

But the important part is that, once the critic has said their piece, acknowledge the place it is coming from but you do not have to accept it. Once the 10 mins is up, take a moment to consider all that you have done right, and give yourself a pat on the back for them.

Change Negativity to Neutrality

Try changing the intensity of your thoughts by mindfulling changing them to something more neutral. 

For example, “I can’t stand this” becomes, “This is challenging.” or “I hate…” becomes, “I don’t like…” and even, “I don’t prefer…” 

By using more gentle ways to address what you are feeling, the power this critic has is reduced and you have more control over your own thoughts.

Challenge Your Inner Critic

One of the damaging aspects of negative self-talk is that it often goes unchallenged. When it goes unchallenged it can continue for a long time and eventually get worse. 

When you catch yourself being critical and engaging in negative self-talk, ask yourself how true it is. Chances are most of your negative self-talk is exaggeration and often negatively biased. 

You can take it a step further and prove your point by listing all the thighs that you do and you are in response to these negative thoughts.

Think Like a Friend

When our inner critic is at its worst, it can sound like our worst enemy. Often we’ll say things to ourselves in our heads that we’d never say to a friend. Why not reverse this and—when you catch yourself speaking negatively in your head—make it a point to imagine yourself saying this to a treasured friend.

If you know you wouldn’t say it this way, think of how you’d share your thoughts with a good friend or what you’d like a good friend to say to you. This is a great way to shift your self-talk in general. 

Say It Aloud

Sometimes when you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts in your mind, simply saying them aloud can help. Telling a trusted friend what you’re thinking about can often lead to a good laugh and shine a light on how ridiculous some of our negative self-talk can be. Other times, it can at least bring support.

Even saying some negative self-talk phrases around under your breath can remind you how unreasonable and unrealistic they sound. This will remind you to give yourself a break.

Stop That Thought

For some, simply stopping negative thoughts in their tracks can be helpful. This is known as “thought-stopping” and can take the form of snapping a rubber band on your wrist, visualizing a stop sign, or simply changing to another thought when a negative one enters your mind. This can be helpful with repetitive or extremely critical thoughts like, “I’m no good,” or, “I’ll never be able to do this,” for example.

Replace the Bad With Some Good

This is one of the best routes to combating negative self-talk: Replace it with something better. Take a negative thought and change it to something encouraging that’s also accurate.

Repeat until you find yourself needing to do it less and less often. This works well with most bad habits: replacing unhealthy food with healthy food, for example. It’s a great way to develop a more positive way of thinking about yourself and about life.


In this guide we have discussed what exactly is the inner critical voice and how it develops over time. We have also discussed how it breed depression and what we can do to overcome it.


Frequently asked questions related to “How to deal with your critical inner voice that is making you depressed: A guide”

Why are inner voices bad?

A critical inner voice is sometimes seen in mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. It is when your mind may engage in negative self-talk by criticizing the way you work, socialize, participate in family circles, and more.

Often, when we are unable to cope and manage these negative self talk, they affect the way we behave. It can hinder us for engaging with the world fully and even lead to poor mental health. 

What causes a critical inner voice?

An individual’s inner voice most commonly originates in early childhood. We absorb and take in their attitudes toward us from the world around us. These internalized attitudes form the basis of the critical inner voice.

Is negative self-talk normal?

Negative self-talk can be part of our day to day lives for most of us, and that’s completely normal. Unfortunately, there’s no switch to completely turn off our negative self-talk, but the most important thing we can do in these instances is to get mindful about what these self-talk is about and find ways to challenge them and engage in self-compassion.

What are the four different forms of negative self-talk?

The tricky thing about negative self-talk is that it can come in many forms. The four most common kinds of negative self-talk is personalizing, filtering, catastrophizing, and polarizing.

What are some dangers of negative self concept?

Some dangers of negative self concept includes:

  • Being critical of your own self can create anxiety, stress, loneliness, and increased likelihood of depression.
  • Negative and unhealthy self concept can cause problems with friendships and romantic relationships.
  • It seriously impairs academic and job performance.
  • An unhealthy self concept can lead to increased vulnerability to drug and alcohol abuse.
[Sassy_Social_Share type="standard"]