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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Combating Your Inner Critic

Adapted from:  Pete Walker’s book “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving”

Do you struggle with a constant, nagging  Inner Critic?  Is there a negative voice inside your head reminding you all the times  you supposedly did wrong?

According to Pete Walker:

“A flashback-inducing critic is typically spawned in a danger-ridden childhood home. This is true whether the danger comes from the passive abandonment of neglect or the active abandonment of abuse. When parents do not provide safe enough bonding and positive feedback, the child flounders in anxiety and defeat. Many children appear to be hard-wired to adapt to this endangering abandonment with perfectionism.”

The inner critic is a “super-ego” part of self that goes into overdrive, desperately trying to win the parents’ approval. When perfectionism fails, the inner critic goes into hyper-drive to get a different response.

As the quest for perfection fails over and over, and as parental acceptance and nurturing remain elusive, imperfection becomes synonymous with shame and fear.

Critic-driven children can only think about ways they are too much or not enough.

If you grew up with any type of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, you may realize you have an inner critic, which becomes your parents’ internalized voice(s).

Or, if you become closely involved with a narcissistic partner, coworker, or employer, constant exposure to their abuse, can and will, over time, cause the same type of inner-psychic damage to your mind.

As time progresses, you just continue on by emotionally abusing yourself with excessive and continual self-criticism and loathing. Perfectionism results, as you continuously try to get yourself to be perfect in order to win the love of impossible-to-please people.

Stop. The work of combating the critic is one of the most essential processes of recovery.  Here is some advice to help you change course and heal yourself:

  1. Realize the inner critic is stubborn.
  2. Mental patterns can be diminished and replaced with new ones through long-term repetitive work.
  3. Challenge your inner critic, “I’m not afraid of you anymore, ‘critical person;’ I renounce your toxic messages. I’m not going to let you get away with ruining my life now.”
  4. Redirect the anger of the critic’s blaming messages away from you and direct them to the original source (this is all done internally).
  5. Get in touch with your anger. Think about how damaging it was to you that someone helped instill this in your psyche. Feeling your anger will help empower you to protect yourself.
  6. Teach your psyche to reject unconscious acceptance of self-abuse and self-abandonment.
  7. Practice perspective-substitution. This means broaden your overall perspective. In essence, have a paradigm shift in your thinking and see things from a more positive view. See yourself as basically good, happy, and grateful.
  8. Understand that the brain has plasticity and can be “rewired.” Rewire your brain from one containing an internal critic, to one containing an internal compassionate companion.


Walker, P. (2014). Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. Published by: Azure Coyote.

Combating Your Inner Critic

Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California ( Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach -


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APA Reference
Stines, S. (2019). Combating Your Inner Critic. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 5, 2020, from