Understanding Our Critical Inner Voice

We all have an inner voice. 

How often do you talk to yours?

A lot of the time, it seems like our inner voice is speaking at us. It’s telling us what we need to do, should have done, could have been, won’t ever be, you name it.

We all have an inner voice, but it’s far too often critical when it can really be an ally. Our inner voice doesn’t have to always keep us in line. Instead, through understanding and self-compassion, we can learn how to turn our inner voice into a friend who walks beside us throughout life. 

First of all, let’s clarify some terminology. Namely, what is an inner voice? 

The Inner Voice – Psychology Definition

In the 1930s, Lev Vygotsky, the acclaimed developmental psychologist, first coined the term “inner monologue.” According to Vygotsky, our inner voice is shaped by social interactions, and we ultimately internalize messages we receive. 

These messages become the foundation for our inner voice. Did you ever notice that sometimes, you say mean things to yourself that sound exactly like someone else? Maybe a biting comment your mother made one time or even a silly name that the 5th-grade bully used to call you.

These words may be verbatim, but often, they aren’t echoed like a broken record. Instead, they just lay the groundwork for how our own thoughts speak to us in the future.

Carl Jung is a famous psychoanalyst whose work started under his mentor, Sigmond Freud. Eventually, he and Freud had a major falling out over different beliefs about the nature of the human mind.

Jung went on to found what is still one of the most interesting and insightful concepts of human consciousness today. In Jungian psychology, the human mind has an inner voice called a “daemon.”

This daemon doesn’t need to be exorcized but rather listened to. Rather than being a source of evil, it is the embodiment of all your creative energy and potential. Unfortunately, we may not always be naturally attuned to understanding it, so we interpret its messages poorly and even in hurtful ways. 

The term daemon, by the way, dates all the way back to ancient Greece. Our old pal Socrates claimed he was possessed by a demon that told him his life purpose. Pretty generous for a demonic entity. 

Now, by our common understanding, trusting a demon’s word to shape your life’s work seems highly sus. But back in ancient Greek culture, the term daemon had a completely different definition. 

For the Greeks, a daemon (from the term ‘daimon’ meaning godlike or godly) was a minor deity or spirit that could inhabit a person. The daemon could be good or evil, and it had the ability to choose its moral pathway the same as humans. 

Jung proposed that every person needed to listen to their daemon to discover their true vocational calling and purpose in life. 

By learning how to incorporate the daemon’s voice into a healthy self-image, the person could live an authentic life, eliminate anxiety, and feel complete. Sign us up. 

So Why Is My Inner Voice So Critical? 

The critical inner voice as we know it today doesn’t tend to be inspirational or all that motivating. Sure, sometimes, it may push you to work hard, but think about how that happens.

For a lot of people, the critical inner voice uses shame to make you act. For example, an impassioned perfectionist may only consistently strive to work hard because they never feel like anything they do is good enough.

And if they – gasp – do nothing? That critical voice will be the first one to tell them what a worthless letdown they are. 

Where does the critical part come from, exactly? 

If you had overly judgmental parents, then you likely got it from them. However, it’s also possible this voice arose even if your parents weren’t highly critical. Here’s how:

Good parents still make mistakes. And they have no way of knowing exactly what their kid needs to hear at any point in time. 

Sometimes, they might say something that leaves a mark on our subconscious, even if we weren’t emotionally scarred by it.

They could also – by no ill intent of their own – fail to acknowledge our emotions in a way that we needed. This causes child-you to develop a sense of shame, inferiority, and insecurity that you may wrestle with throughout adulthood.

Unlike the typical psychology trope that blames everything on the parents, reality is a lot more complex. Go ask anyone who has incredible parents, and they’ll likely tell you that they, too, have been subject to a critical inner voice’s late-night standup about what a POS they are. 

Ultimately, we all have a critical inner voice, some are just meaner than others. 

Clearly the critical inner voice doesn’t know how to chill. That’s why we have to use the power of our own thoughts to form a better relationship with it.

Think of this as couple’s therapy for you and your inner voice. 

First Things First: How Is Your Inner Voice Affecting You? 

Before you can change your inner voice, you need to learn how to recognize it. Distinguishing your own thoughts from your inner voice can be difficult. They have a lot in common, after all.

But the biggest thing to examine is how these thoughts make you feel and how conscious they seem. 

A critical inner voice tends to spring up on its own, and not in the same way your million-dollar shower ideas do. 

It will happen when you think about stuff like relationships, career, and life goals. Let’s say you are interested in someone you’ve recently met, and you’d like to ask them out.

Rather than feeling excited about the prospect of a date, your inner voice pops up and says, “Why would they ever want to go out with someone like you?” “Have you seen yourself?” “You’re ugly.” “You’re too fat.” “They would never see you like that.”

So, you backspace your text, put down the phone, and Google “how to be happy single.” End of story. Pretty sad, right? Only for most of us, that’s not all there is to it. 

A critical inner voice can be the root of low self-esteem, a key player in depression and anxiety disorders, a trigger for substance use disorders, and the source of unhealthy relationship patterns. (If you’ve ever been called too needy or clingy and know you are, think about what your inner voice has to say about that.)

Before you begin learning how to heal, forgive, and reshape your inner voice, it’s important to spend some time addressing how it’s influenced you thus far in your life. 

Don’t worry if this exercise feels heavy and takes a couple of sessions to get through. It’s also not a great idea to do it at the height of a depression episode. 

Instead, wait until you’re feeling relatively neutral, then make a list of your inner voice’s impacts. You may be surprised at how often it’s chimed in and held you back. 

But we can fix that. 

The Power of Positive Self-Talk

If you’ve followed any self-help gurus or therapists on Instagram, you’re likely sick and tired of hearing about positivity by now. 

Don’t get us wrong – we believe positivity is an incredible tool – but it’s gotten pretty diluted in modern contexts. The word is thrown around so often that hearing “good vibes only” feels more like the secret password to get into some hippie’s back alley club. 

So, positivity matters, but it has to be done in the right way. In other words, you can’t use positive affirmations as a way to sugarcoat your own inner critic and expect amazing results.

You have to learn how to apply positivity in a way that feels genuine and meaningful in your life. Here are some good starting points:

Ask Questions

Instead of just telling your inner voice to shut up, which usually makes it louder, practice dialoguing with it. 

Sit down with yourself and ask, “Why did you say that?” after a rude remark or a defeating comment. 

This can be a useful journaling practice that helps you learn to engage with your thoughts over time. You can even practice writing from your own voice and the voice of your inner critic.

Meditate

Meditation is not about removing thoughts and sitting in a blissful state of empty-headedness. 

Instead, it’s about becoming more aware of your thoughts, disconnecting from them, and finding inner peace despite whatever they may say.

You might also find this helpful to do while microdosing. Microdosing isn’t about taking a wild trip to explore the depths of your subconscious.

Instead, it helps gradually elevate your mood, improve your emotional well-being, and help you develop a more positive outlook that can be beneficial as you learn to reshape your inner voice. 

Start Speaking to Yourself

Maybe not out in public. It would be kind of weird to hear someone say, “You’re special,” in the frozen food aisle of Trader Joe’s, wouldn’t it? 

But you can start using self-talk to help heal your negative inner voice. Rather than counter it or get into arguments, focus on replacing negative thoughts with positive follow-ups.

For example, when your inner voice wants to tell you that you’ll never get that job you want, kindly remind yourself that it’s a possibility, but you won’t let that stop you from trying. We only grow by trying new things — even if they don’t always turn out exactly how we want. 

Should I Go to Therapy? 

This is a highly personal decision, but we believe that therapy is a beneficial tool for many who need a little help understanding and changing their inner voice. 

Your therapist can help you heal from the past, build healthy coping skills, and develop deeper emotional awareness using proven techniques. 

And if you’re interested in exploring magic mushroom microdosing as part of your therapeutic journey, we are happy to answer any questions you have.

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