• Are you constantly subjected to negative self-talk? 

  • Learn how to banish your inner critic and build confidence with Manja de Neef's simple five steps

Do you always emphasise what is going wrong? If someone compliments you, do you feel the need to correct them because it doesn’t feel right to you? Do you look at the accomplishments and qualities of others and try to compare yourself with them…and always fall short? Do you think of yourself as a failure?

Your inner critic can be the result of strongly held negative beliefs about yourself. Such beliefs can be detrimental to your mood and wellbeing, and result in low self-esteem. Hearing a harsh inner voice undermining you all the time can get in the way of relationships too – you may not recognise praise from you partner, or distrust and reject it. Others end up asking for their partner’s approval constantly.

Your goal is to alter both the way you look at yourself and the way you behave, which in turn will change the way you feel about yourself. You may not be able to ‘delete’ your deeply held negative beliefs. Instead focus on developing new, positive self-beliefs that can compete with the old ones you would love to ‘delete’.

Banish your inner critic by following these simple steps to build your confidence:

1. Make space for positive thoughts

Imagine emptying a shelf on which you then place a box with a positive label: ‘I am ok’ or ‘I belong’. Instead of always thinking about what is going wrong, start filling this box with positive information – your positive thoughts, feelings and memories. Note down experiences and events that you feel positive about or that make you proud and happy, even if for a little while. Think of what the events and experiences say about you. Discover your talents, skills and positive qualities and …you should draw the conclusion that you are an OK person!

2. Behave as if you are already confident and you will feel more confident

Look at your old ways of behaving, decide which behaviour fits with your new positive beliefs and try to behave accordingly. You will gain other, positive experiences. These will lift your mood and strengthen your abilities and confidence.

3. Do not listen to your inner critic

It is the voice of negativity whispering in your ear, trying to subvert your new positive experiences. If you can silence your inner critic, you will ‘save’ the experiences you are happy with or proud of. Ignore the nasty voice and focus on enhancing your new, positive self-image.

4. Do not run away from criticism by others, but really attend to it

Even when you are starting to believe you are ok, being criticised can remain a sensitive issue. It arouses the old negative beliefs, making you feel worthless again. Take your time to ask and answer some questions: Am I really being criticised? Do I agree with it? Do I want to change it? If the answer to any question is ‘no’, then the remark can go straight in the bin. Much criticism will evaporate into thin air.

5. Experiment with ‘less than perfect’

Setting high standards and trying to meet them is a laborious way to prevent failure and criticism. Besides, if your demands are too high, you will never compliment yourself. You don’t have to make mistakes. Simply note circumstances in which you automatically place high demands on yourself and decide each time whether you want to meet those demands or whether you are happy with a little less.

Manja de Neef is the author of Build Your Confidence with CBT 

Further reading

How to break the habit of feeling anxious

Is it time to stop holding yourself back?

How to take control of catastrophising

How coaching can help you overcome negative self-talk

Compare and despair: how to deal with feelings of inadequacy