How to Use Byron Katie's "The Work" to Breakdown Your Inner Critic! by Inga Michaelsen

Woman pondering critic in red dress in coffee shop

Being stuck in an inner dialogue that makes your life look gloomy is something I am sure you are familiar with. I certainly find myself in that frame of mind regularly. It is the state of being where my inner critic takes center stage.

When you are in that place, have you ever gotten the advice "Just let it go"? I have, and quite frankly, in those moments of feeling doubtful, that advice is everything but helpful.

How do you "just" let go? Sounds like it should be so easy, yet, why does it feel so impossible to do in the moment when you are hooked by negative thoughts?

It is because we are heavily invested in believing everything our inner critic has to say and find no shortage of evidence to support its claim.

Most of my inner critic story lines are focused on the "not enough" theme. When it comes to my coaching practice the dialogue goes something like this:  "There are more and more coaches out there (many of them better then I am) and not enough clients… (so I a might as well give up)", "I need to make more money", "I am not doing enough online…" etc.

When our thoughts are dominated by the doubtful voice of the inner critic, it is hard get it off center stage. As coaches we're trained to see when our clients are hooked in a disempowering story, but do you know when you are?

Part 1) Notice and Become Aware


In order to let go you first have to become aware that you are holding on to a limiting belief.

How do you become aware?

I have found there are some clear signs that your inner critic has taken over:

1) It shows up in your language. Pay attention to your inner and outer dialogue. Are you blaming the outside world or yourself for your predicament? Are you comparing yourself to others? Are you trying to live up to certain standards and expectations you set for yourself?

The language of the inner critic often shows up as one of a victim—full of blame, resentment, complaint and sometimes anger. It also likes using absolutes such as "I will never make enough money…" or "There is never enough time to get everything done."

2) Also, check in with your body. When my inner critic is center stage I can feel it in my body. I feel tight, constricted, and tired. If it is really bad my sleep gets disrupted and I get even more irritable.

Becoming aware is a conscious practice you become better it over time. Pay attention to your thoughts and be honest with yourself.

Part 2) Do "The Work" to Let Go

Let's look at the letting go piece. Once you are aware that you are stuck in limiting beliefs, you first have to be willing to let go. That is the challenging part.

Our inner critic does not like to get off the stage without resistance. Its limited vision is fixed on who and how you should be and heavily invested in your security and certainty.  For your inner critic, letting go is risky business because it means that you have to get of your righteous position allow and for something new to occur.

One of my favorite exercises for "letting go" I use with both my clients and myself, is "Doing the Work". Developed by Byron Katie, this method is a great way to examine your liming thoughts and question them.

A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It's not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it's true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we've been attaching to, often for years. Byron Katie

Byron Katie's "The Work"

'The Work' is meant as an inquiry—so bring openness and curiosity to it. Make sure you answer the question and avoid going back into your story, justifying and defending your belief.

Step 1) Choose a limiting belief you have uncovered. Note: Only use one belief at a time for example, "I am not doing a good enough job in marketing my coaching services".

Step 2) Then answer the Following 4 Questions:

  1. Is your belief true? Answer only 'yes' or 'no". There is no 'right' answer. (If your answer is 'no' go to question #3)
  2. Can you absolutely know that it is true? Again, it's 'Yes' or 'No' but take a moment to really consider.
  3. How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought? Check in with your body sensations and your emotions—how does it feel believing this thought? How do you treat yourself and others? What's the pay-off for engaging in this belief? Be curious and explore the impact this belief has in your life, your relationships, your work.
  4. Who would you be without that thought? Allow yourself to just drop your story for a moment and contemplate. How would your life be different without believing that thought?

You can take it further by exploring what happens when you turn your thought around. For example, "I am doing the best job I can in marketing myself". Could that belief be as true or more true than your original belief?

By the time you have done this exercise, you'll have created some space around your limiting belief. And this means you're much more likely to let go of it and replace it with a more empowering one.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Learn more about Byron Katie at

If you liked this article on techniques to deal with inner critics, you may also like:

Inga Michaelsen Headshot

Contributing Author:

Inga Michaelsen, CPCC, ACC purpose-driven leaders and their dispersed teams unlock their potential through Mental Fitness and customized virtual coaching programs. Check out her website and say hello on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Learn more about Inga & see all their articles here >>

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One Comment

  1. John Forrest

    Hi Inga,
    I hope you don't mind me contacting you. I am looking for help. I am new to Byron Katie, and reading her quote about how attaching to a thought means believing that it's true. I recently read your article "How to use Byron Katie's "The Work" to break down your inner critic! by Inga Michaelson". In the article you mention letting go and in Part 2 you say to let go you do Byron Katie's The Work. does this mean that letting go then simply means you don't believe the thought or belief anymore? And Byron Katie's quote of attaching to a thought means believing it's true also means that if you don't believe it you have detached from it, let go? I look forward to hearing from you.
    John Forrest


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