Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Letting Your Inner Cheerleader Shine Through

Everyone has some positive traits, and we can always try to work on ourselves.

Key points

  • The way we speak to ourselves can affect our experience of life.
  • Our inner critic breaks us down with negativity and hopelessness, making it difficult to accomplish anything.
  • But if we listen to our inner cheerleader instead, we will feel more motivated to keep trying even if we make mistakes.
 Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash
Source: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

Have you ever noticed how life is easy for some people while it’s more difficult for others? Something that impacts how we walk through life is how we speak to ourselves. We all have an inner voice that comments on our own behavior and the behaviors of others all day long.

For example, let’s say you’re in college, and you have a test tomorrow. Instead of studying, though, you end up going out with friends. As a result, you don’t do very well on the test, and you find yourself experiencing a lot of negative inner commentary.

What does your inner voice say?

Some of us have an inner critic or an inner cheerleader. These inner voices impact our decisions and how we feel about the choices that we make. In this example, our inner critic may sound like, “That wasn’t the best choice to go out with your friends. Now you failed your test; I’m very disappointed in you.” Or they may be extra harsh and say, “You’re an idiot; you’re going to fail this class, and you’re not going to go anywhere in life.”

There is a part of the critic that believes if they criticize enough, they’ll help improve your behavior. But what the inner voice of the critic doesn’t realize is that this type of criticism often makes us continue doing the very behaviors they’re trying to stop. Our inner critics tend to get stronger over time, and the cycle of criticism causing those counterproductive behaviors perpetuates. As a result, our inner critic has more material to use against us. People who often aren’t doing well in life have a very loud inner critic that speaks to them all day long.

The inner cheerleader takes a different path. After you didn’t do well on the test, they might say, “That wasn’t the best choice, but I know you’ve worked hard all semester, and you needed a break. It was just one test, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it. If you really need to, maybe you can ask for extra credit to get your grade up.”

Do you see the difference? The cheerleader is encouraging us to do better and to make good choices, and when we do make good choices, they praise us. In stark contrast, the critic finds our faults and shames us for them in an attempt to stop that very behavior.

Now that we understand the difference, we need to ask ourselves if our own inner voice is a critic or a cheerleader. The inner critic will remind us of our faults and attack us for the things we don’t do right. As a result, it deteriorates our self-esteem, doesn’t make us feel good, and most importantly, doesn’t help us change our behavior. The inner cheerleader encourages us to do better and doesn’t shame us if we take a step backward. This is because the ultimate goal of the inner cheerleader is to support us and help us become the best version of ourselves.

Imagine that you have two friends. One of the friends points out all of your flaws every time you see them, and the other friend points out all of the positive things about yourself. You’d probably stop hanging out with the critical friend and spend more time with the encouraging one.

Next, let’s discuss how we can develop our inner cheerleader and quiet our inner critic.

The first and most important thing we can do is observe how we speak to ourselves. This means we need to pay attention to who is the stronger voice inside of us. We can observe this on two fronts—how is our inner voice speaking to us, but also how is that inner voice speaking about others? How we treat others is a direct reflection of how we treat ourselves. For example, if someone walks by us, and our immediate response is to say something negative about their appearance, we most likely won’t speak very highly of our own appearance. That inner critic that critiques others will critique us, too.

Once we discover which voice is louder, we can begin working on changing the content of that inner voice. This could look like the next time we see someone, and we think something negative about them, we reframe our thoughts to focus on something we like. In other words, we let our inner cheerleader win.

Over time, we’ll start to reframe our own thoughts. This could mean focusing on their outfit, the way they smile at strangers, their hair, etc. It may seem mundane, but training ourselves to look for the positive in others will help us look for the positive in ourselves.

Even if we need to work on something, our inner cheerleader will praise us for trying to improve ourselves. The inner critic may say, “This is something you should already know how to do.” But again, this type of feedback isn’t helpful and doesn’t help us progress in life.

Instead, if we cheer ourselves on for making good choices, for example, exercising when we typically don’t, it helps us keep up these healthy practices. The inner cheerleader tells us that they’re proud of us for waking up early and going to the gym, while the inner critic might say, “You haven’t worked out at all this week; this one workout today isn’t going to do anything for your health.”

Again, if our inner critic is beating out our inner cheerleader, it’s important to work on quieting them and focusing on our inner cheerleader, because they solely want to offer encouragement.

Now I know some people reading this may think there isn’t anything good about me, and that is just BS. Everyone has some positive traits, and most of us are always trying to work on something.

If you’ve never played the piano before and start playing one day, you’re going to be bad! Things take time and patience. If we let our inner cheerleader win, they will help us improve ourselves, encourage us to learn new things, and be better versions of ourselves every day. Our inner critic is there to keep us in the same place we’ve always been and continue our own shame cycle.

If we can break free from our inner critic and let our inner cheerleader shine through, we can lead beautiful lives full of possibilities and positivity.