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How is the critical voice different from conscience?

Many people think if they stop listening to their critical inner voice, they will lose touch with their conscience. However, the critical inner voice is not a trustworthy moral guide like a conscience. On the contrary, the critical inner voice is degrading and punishing and often leads us to make unhealthy decisions. These negative voices tend to increase our feelings of self-hatred without motivating us to change undesirable qualities or act in a constructive manner.

The critical inner voice can be distinguished from conscience or constructive moral influence because it interprets moral standards and value systems in an authoritarian manner, in the form of strict “should,” that leads to harsh criticism and self-recrimination. It increases one’s self-hatred, rather than motivating one to alter behavior in a constructive manner. Seemingly positive, self-nurturing voices that appear on the surface to be supportive, can be hurtful, misleading, and dysfunctional. Self-aggrandizing voices encourage an unrealistic build-up that sets the stage later for attacks on the self.

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