Kirkus Reviews QR Code
BETTER DAYS by Neal Allen


Tame Your Inner Critic

by Neal Allen

Pub Date: Dec. 5th, 2023
ISBN: 9781897238851
Publisher: Namaste Publishing

With this debut motivation work, Allen teaches harried readers how to tune out their own negativity.

As the saying goes, we’re all our own toughest critics—we all, per the author, carry judgmental voices inside our heads that second-guess our decisions, undermine our successes, and chastise us for our mistakes. “My wife calls hers The Governess,” writes the author. “Mine’s The Gremlin. You have one, too. Everybody does. It’s your inner critic. If you wake up confident and raring to go, by noon it has beaten your self-esteem to a pulp.” Psychology has known about the inner critic for a long time: Freud called it the superego. Some call it the conscience. The author thinks of it as a parasite—an entirely unhelpful entity that feeds off our own insecurities. According to him, understanding the way the inner critic operates is key to confronting and silencing it. Developed as a tool for socialization when we are children, our inner critic reminds us to follow the rules imposed upon us by those around us, including parents, teachers, authority figures, and even our peers. As we age, we outgrow the need for this inner critic—even if the inner critic doesn’t get the message. With this book, Allen seeks to help the reader take back control from that judgmental voice. Offering a mix of exercises designed to help isolate and quiet negative thoughts and anecdotes from Allen’s long quest to conquer his own critic, the author demystifies this strange creation that is the human mind. As a means of challenging the superego, Allen encourages readers to do some of the very things that the inner critic proscribes, like purposefully wasting time and reveling in one’s ordinariness. He also treads into more philosophical territory, discussing the relationship between the inner critic and concepts such as love and God.

Allen writes with the breeziness of a man who has successfully gotten his superego to put a sock in it. Here he raves about the joys of letting go of the need to be a “special” person: “If I don’t have to be special, if I don’t have to spend all my time maintaining a valued self-image, if I’m not worried about being judged, then I can discover how fun it is to watch the world unfold without having a stake in it.” Though the foreword by author Anne Lamott might suggest this guide is specifically geared toward silencing the inner critic as it applies to writing, Allen’s project is much broader: he proposes a way of living in the world unrestricted by the harsh and arbitrary judgments of our least enjoyable selves. The exercises he provides are targeted and easy to perform. Some may balk at the idea of sloughing off their “conscience,” but Allen is not advocating for immorality or even a lack of self-discipline—the goal of this guide is to help the reader to live more intentionally by eliminating an unintentional decision-making party from the conversation.

A novel and well-articulated approach to intentionality.