How to Deal With Your Harsh Inner Critic as a Veterinarian

If the running commentary in your mind brings you down after making a small mistake or discourages you from trying something new, then you're probably dealing with a harsh inner critic. Many veterinarians are aware that they can be too hard on themselves, but they don't always know where the harshness stems from or what to do about these internal thoughts. Here's a closer look at what the inner critic is and how to deal with it.

What Is the Inner Critical Voice?

The inner critical voice may originate from early childhood, when you internalized the words and attitudes of your primary caregivers about you and the world, and unknowingly made their perceptions your own. People with a harsh internal critic may feel like they aren't good enough; this, in turn, causes them to continuously look for evidence that substantiates that belief—creating a cycle of negative thinking.

Because your primary caregivers held a major role in your life, it can be challenging to develop a sense of self outside of their beliefs. However, if you have a harsh internal critic that's affecting your sense of self-esteem and your self-efficacy, then it's time to change the narrative and, ultimately, your relationship with yourself.

How to Deal With the Inner Critical Voice

Changing your internal narrative may be easier said than done, but with the following strategies, you can learn to be kinder to yourself and better support your well-being.

Understand Your Inner Critic

Although it doesn't feel like it, your internal critic is trying to protect you—from potential failure, shame, harm, rejection, etc. While the approach may be based on fear, your harsh internal critic has good intentions. Fortunately, you can overcome this fear by practicing self-compassion. First, acknowledge that the internal critic is focused on something very important to you. Thank the internal voice for trying to help, and then challenge the narrative.

Challenge Your Narrative

In order to silence your internal critic, you need to know what stirs them up—and this requires a certain self-awareness. What causes your internal critic to start doubting yourself? What thought loops start running? It's usually the same thing over and over. Once you have this information, ask yourself:

  • Is this actually true?
  • Is this really what I believe about myself?
  • What would happen if it wasn't true?

When you self-examine honestly, you'll find that this narrative is usually false. Don't allow the internal critic to control what you say about yourself. If you struggle to identify your personal pattern, scheduling time with a good therapist can help you discover some of your blind spots.

  Go from "AHHH!" to "Ahhh." Read how fellow veterinarians are finding focus in our latest guide.

Rewrite the Story

Now that you know the internal critic's script, it's time to rewrite your narrative and create some supportive mental habits.

  • Mind your words: The internal critic uses phrases like "should have" and also tends to use words like "always," "never," "must," and "can't." Instead, catch yourself when you're tempted to use these phrases, and substitute them for "I could," "I hope," and "I can." It can also help to identify the emotion out loud: "In this situation, I feel..." Change your words, and change your life.
  • Consider keeping a journal: A gratitude journal can increase your ability to express appreciation and find more daily happiness by focusing on what went well during the day versus focusing on what didn't.

Starting the Journey

It can be challenging in the moment to not listen to the harsh internal critic; however, this skill is essential to success and strong mental well-being. Although you may not be able to eliminate the voice completely, you can start the journey by learning to relate to the inner critic differently and being kinder to yourself. And above all, remember you're not alone.

Sarah Wooten

A 2002 graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Sarah Wooten is a well known influencer in the veterinary and animal health care spaces. She has over 10 years experience in public speaking and media work, and writes for a large number of online and print animal health publications. Dr. Wooten has spoken in the veterinary education space since 2015, and speaks on leadership, client communication, and personal development. Dr. Wooten is also a certified veterinary journalist, a member of the AVMA, and has 16 years experience in small animal veterinary practice. She is also a co-creator of the wildly popular card game ‘Vets Against Insanity’. When it is time to play, she can be found skiing in Colorado or diving with sharks in the Caribbean. Go big...or go home. To learn more, visit 

The views and opinions in this piece are the authors own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of either The Vetiverse or IDEXX.

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