Don’t Beat Yourself Up. Wait, DO!

Look in the mirror

Where are you with your self-talk? How do you talk to yourself? I will bet that you wouldn’t say half of what you say to yourself to someone you love, and I bet you wouldn’t say the other half to a stranger with whom you would act polite. Am I right? Do you call yourself a lot of names? I sure do.

Part of being brave is learning how to observe your self-talk. But I think we can take it further. I think we should ambush the evil bastard who lives in our head and let him or her have it.


Let me give you an example. Right now, I’m working on my fitness and my health. I’ve done this on and off for years. This time, it’s different. I’m listening really closely to what I say in all kinds of situations. For instance, I went to the movies by myself the other day. Walking in, you’re hit with that huge wafting wave of popcorn goodness smell. 

Inside, my voice said, “Why not have some? Who’s going to know?” 

In the past, that was good enough. I’d go for it. This time, I said the following, “You know what, jerkbag? I’m in the middle of something important. That popcorn smells good, but it’s covered in yellow oil. And what do I need with a bucket full of oil and grain?” And then, out of nowhere, this righteous voice threw in its two cents: 

“You think I’m going to have popcorn right now? No way. In fact, I’m going to exercise again after the movie. And in a few months, I’ll be two or three waist sizes smaller, and I’m going to feel like a king, because that’s what I am. You’re trying to sabotage me to make me feel better when the ‘inevitable’ happens. But neither of us believe that.” 

And just like that, I realized a few things:

  1. I wasn’t hungry.
  2. I was actually quite full from lunch.
  3. I felt like a king from just taking on my inner critic.

I’ll take it.


What I did is completely replicable by you. Here’s the recipe:


  • Listen for your Inner Critic’s voice. It’ll be easy. It’s the negative one.
  • Spend a week (or 3 days minimum) just observing what it says. (Not what you say – what this voice that thinks it’s helping you says.)
  • Start recognizing how your body reacts to what you say to yourself. Your body.
  • Start thinking of the opposite of what you’re telling yourself. If it helps, write it down on a card.
  • Write down the bigger vision you’re chasing. It’s hard for that voice to work if you’ve got something bigger to listen to.


Now, over the next handful of days, practice the following. Every time that self-talk starts in on you, cut it off in your head. Say something to the tune of, “Yeah yeah yeah. I’ve heard that. Thanks. Actually, here’s what’s real.” From here, accept and acknowledge where you are. If you’ve got cider donut crumbs all around your mouth or if you haven’t blogged and it’s 11 hours later or you forgot to send in your expense report, or whatever it is you didn’t quite nail, accept that you’re right exactly where you are.

And then? Talk about your larger vision (in your head, if you’ve got company). Talk about where you’re headed. Acknowledge your efforts in that direction. Make NO excuses. Just move forward. Pay extra attention to how your body feels through all of this. Pay attention to the chemicals that are sneaking around inside you because in this case, you’re influencing them.

Need some extra help? Smile. Smile super huge, even if you don’t feel it. There’s something in a giant smile that releases a small blast of endorphins and I think some other neato chemical. Both are helpful when you’re stuck in this moment.

Serving Suggestions

Garnish this with a new phrase to repeat frequently: “it’s all good.” I stole it from the great kirtan singer, Girish. Listen to his song here (that pops you right to an MP3 file, or you can watch a tiny clip of it live on YouTube) What do I mean? Simply, “it’s all good.” Even if you’re upset, start there and ask yourself just how bad it is. Sometimes, it’ll be bad. LOTS of times? The things that bum us out? They’re not so huge. And if you start at “it’s all good,” you’ll get back to okay faster.

The more you do this kind of work consecutively, the better everything gets. It takes some practice. Some times, your boat will be swamped. The voice will win. But don’t let it win for all that long. Shrug it off. Claim your vision. You are the king or the queen of what comes next, not that voice. That voice only knows the past, and even then, it’s a sketchy and half-assed version of the real story, isn’t it?

Bravery ensues. I promise. runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • Mary

    Hey Chris,
    Another great post. For me, it’s not about being brave. It’s about honoring the “real” me and staying committed to what I really want. Struck a cord with me; I am in the reducing and eliminating mode as well.

    • Chris Brogan

      I appreciate it, Mary. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Raymond Thimmes

    I’ve been struggling severely with this lately. This year has felt ridiculously harsh. I’m taking your advice in though, and want to try to apply the ideas. Thank you for this, again. Thank’s for being so positive and forthright with something I feel more people are struggling with than admit. And thank you for dealing with it from a position of authority over it, and from a position of obvious success in your field. It’s inspiring, especially when I feel so down and out with what I wanted from my life when I was young… I know I’m only 23 but it feels like I’ve more than failed. Anyway, I ramble… Thank you, is my point.

    • Chris Brogan

      Thank YOU, Raymond. I hope it works for you. Stick with me. I am almost 20 years older than you. I’ve failed DOZENS more times than you so far. And I’m also headed towards a million dollar year.

      • Linda Wilson

        Boys, boys!

        Listen to Aunty Linda – you’re both babies yet. Wait ’til you’re old and wrinkly like me before you start even trying to spell the word fail, let alone applying it to yourselves.
        There’s a saying I wouldn’t usually use, but if you’ll excuse me this once, it goes something along the lines of ‘life’s a bitch and s*** happens’.
        It’s what we learn from those s***ty experiences and how we move forward from them that counts.Yes they’re scary; yes they make us feel like c**p; but we go on living and the next time round we’re wiser, more able to apply the knowledge gained for the better.
        Well, everyone except me that is….
        In today’s society there is too much worthless hype about that misleads us into setting our personal bar way too high. All fine and good to strive to do our best, but we have to have a few knocks along the way or we don’t actually learn.
        So perleeez, gentlemen, no more swearing. The F word should not be used your side of 50!


  • laineyd7

    Big picture – thanks for the truly manageable takeaways, Chris. And for being real.

    • Chris Brogan

      Thank you so much, Lainey. I appreciate you.

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  • Linda Wilson

    Good afternoon, Mr Brogan.

    Very sound advice, Sir.
    Maybe another little trick I would add to the super huge smile – so that it reaches the parts other thoughts can’t – think about someone or something you really enjoy.

    It’s a distraction from the negative nonsense that otherwise might be stubborn to shift. And it makes the smile all the more meaningful.

    With kind regards,

    • Chris Brogan

      Smiles are huge. : )

  • Cassie Witt

    This is really good stuff and something I’ve been working on very seriously this year. I have also tried in the past, but have never succeeded.

    This year is different for me. Why? Well one reason is having 30 looming at me from down the block. The other reason is that I’m just plain fed-up with my inner Id. It’s taken me down too many roads that I don’t want to have traveled.

    Cutting the Id off in mid-scentence helps, but I find that (for me at least) momentum is more important. If I get used to doing something and stop for whatever reason, I now have a new voice that reminds me to keep going. It’s saved me more times than not lately.

    Do you find that momentum also helps you keep going?

    • Chris Brogan

      You’re very kind, Cassie. And hooray for you!

  • Gina Batali-Brooks

    I loved this post! It came at just the right time. I have printed it off and have it by my desk so I can start taking control of the negative thoughts. I particularly like the idea of writing things down. I just read that same suggestion in a book I’m reading called “Use Your Brain to Change Your Age” by Dr. Amen. Since I’ve seen it twice in a couple of weeks, it must mean I should do it :>).

    • Chris Brogan

      Thank you so much! I appreciate it, Gina. That book sounds amazing. What do you think?

  • JulieGubler

    I too have some fitness goals and my inner critic is easier to control than someone in my life who doesn’t seem to want me to be healthy. I’m going to try some of your suggestions – modified with kindness – with this person. Thanks,

  • Jennifer Spencer

    I just finished reading an article about women and the struggle to be perfect that felt like it was written just for me. I spend so much time letting my inner voice berate me for not making my own organic baby food or not being at every meeting at the office on time, knowing full well that neither of those things really REALLY matter. So at the end of the article I felt myself wondering the same thing I always wonder at the end of these kinds of articles, “Well, of course I need to let go of some of this and reset my expectations. But HOW? Give me steps. Give me actions. I want to DO.”

    And then five minutes later (literally) I found myself here.

    Thanks, Universe. And thanks, Chris.

    • Chris Brogan

      I did the easiest part. I’m writing recipes. : )

  • Aaron Nelson

    Boy do I appreciate what you’ve said here Chris. We totally are what we think about, and what we tell ourselves.

    I believe we won’t ever be able to make significant changes in ourselves if we don’t first harness our thoughts, control them, and finally change them. Changed thinking eventually leads to changed behaviors.

    • Chris Brogan

      No question about it, Aaron. This is a LOT of work, but we can do it.

  • Tania Dakka

    This is very timely for me. The course I’m in now is getting us to face our self-talk and limiting beliefs (a result of our self-talk). I really appreciate these tips and am taking them to heart to attack the critic in me. Thanks for your powerful message, as always, Chris:)

    • Chris Brogan

      Now tackle it! : )

  • Karen Talavera

    Brogan goes spiritual/self help – I love it!

    What you describe is the classic struggle of ego vs. spirit and an awakening of spirit. Most of the time our egos run the show, and when they run amuck the inner critic becomes the dominant persona. But really, the ego is always trying to protect us, to be our interface to the physical everyday world, to be our outer shield.

    Being still and listening, really listening within, helps us discern ego from spirit and then align with our highest self. Instead of beating up the inner critic/ego, I often just acknowledge it, thank it for its service, and inform it we are moving in a different direction. It takes some getting used to but eventually the ego falls into a position of serving spirit rather than fearing for its life if it isn’t heard and heeded.


    • Chris Brogan

      Oh, that turn in the road has been a long time in the making. : )

      And we agree for sure. I like the way you worded it.

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  • geoffreygordon

    Listening to your inner critic, this one forced me to take a good hard look in the mirror. Chris this post is a real gem with lots of heart and some real honest reflection.

    I shall listening real carefully to my inner critic, i guess the ability to do so separates the our own achievements form being average and superior.

    Stellar advice Chris, I love it. :)

  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    There is so much to say but I don’t
    have words to pen them down. It’s so very true. When I am all to myself I have
    tons to say to all but once they all are in front of me I have nothing to
    mention. As per Jainism the voice of the soul is the positive one and the voice
    of ego, selfishness, greed is the negative one. This blog is just amazing it
    has so much of a spiritual insight.

  • Drew Griffin

    I know that voice Chris. I’m convinced I’m possessed by the voice of Procrastination. I’ve been battling this demon for what seems to be an eternity. Indeed it is a chemical culprit for me. Dopamine addiction in fact. I consume so much information that the correlation of addiction and procrastination has become synonymous. Funny thing is, I also recognize the other voice that I hear that tells me what I should and could be doing to ship, to create and to deliver. I’m learning new moves to fight the mental martial art that combats the nefarious inner voices. I need to practice more. I need to practice beter listening and inner dialog that channels and rewards for accomplishing. Timely post! Thanks

    • Chris Brogan

      Ah, procrastination. What’s behind it? Do you think the Inner Critic has more to say?

      • Drew Griffin

        Indeed. The Inner Critic is probably an accomplice to procrastination and I justify using it as a litmus. My hope is to get better at building small victories and momentum, while recognizing that which delays achieving my set goals.

        I can relate to your movie / popcorn analogy. Its happened to me more than I’d like to admit. Recognizing those patterns and changing the conversation as you suggest is appropriate. Perhaps taking a different approach to the Critic by embracing fear as a first step followed by adjusting my inner conversation and delivering more frequently is in order.

  • Brian Del Turco

    A great piece of thought and writing here. Thanks. This issue is an ever-present tension, an opportunity to be creative. I have discovered this line of thinking rumbling around within in recent months: there is “real” (what seems to be real, or even something actual, yet not our true self) and there is “really real” (what’s ultimately true about us).

  • Almas

    Keeping a list of positive affirmations to repeat and replace the negative self-talk helped me immensely from spiralling into a dangerously negative space.

    Also agree with Karen’s eloquent description of the ego’s need for dominance. When you get to a space where you’re the observer of the ego, the sudden stranglehold the ego has on you begins to feel like a monster has possessed you.

    I love the personal development tips in your blog posts, Chris.

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  • Romany Thresher

    Chris loving your latest work. I’ve been fighting this demon for years and for some reason I still allow it to get the better of me to the point of setting myself up for huge failure and attracting all the wrong things in my life. I’ve managed to escape complete disaster and determined to conquer and come out winning.

    I read something the other day which I thought was useful. If someone gave you a bottle of perfume, you can decide to look at it negatively or positively. Negatively the perfume was given because you stink, or positively that someone is giving you a gift, choose the positive and give yourself reasons why to reinforce it.

  • Tylesha Juliano

    You know what they say…we are our own biggest critics. Way harder on our failures than we’d be on friends, family or strangers. But, honestly it is a good thing…it means you aren’t willing to settle…you understand your potential and you have high standards. It’s important to remember that you are human. You will make mistakes…who cares?! The biggest mistake we can make is forgetting
    to congratulate ourselves for being brave enough to take such a leap of faith. For that reason alone…you are awesome! Tell yourself that every morning and every night.

  • Frank Vann

    “it’s all good,” ….That voice only knows the past! well is very interesting what you describe… is like a battle uffff thanks! going to try it ….“it’s all good,”

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  • Kevin Morgan

    Yep, a big deal, and one that changes your life if you ‘get it.’ I found that the book ‘Living in the Now’ worked best for me, when it comes to silencing the inner chatter, including the inner critic. Nice thoughts. -k (FitOldDog)

  • Kevin Morgan

    I didn’t know I ‘had a Disqus,’ as it appeared to lock up when I first tried, and here is a stream of stuff, so I apologize to failing to reply. Need to understand this thing. -k (FitOldDog)

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