How To Play With Your Inner Critic/Mean Voice Inside You

Jeff Harry
7 min readJul 18, 2019


You are a loser.

You will never accomplish your dreams.

You are a joke and you will always be a joke.

You will never be taken seriously.

You should have accomplished more in life by now.

Everyone is living a happier, more fulfilling life than you are.

You missed your opportunities to live a great life and now it’s too late.

You will always be alone because you deserve to be alone.

Those are just some of the thoughts my mean/beast voice has whispered to me in the last week. For a long time, I didn’t even realize how I was internalizing that voice and calling it my own. I just believed that was me telling myself the truth.

Recently though, after I saw Marsha Shandur do a phenomenal talk about noticing and addressing your beast, did I start to listen more and eventually respond. In Marsha’s talk, she defined the Beast as the voice in your head that constantly is telling you how awful you are.

She mentioned that the Beast has a specific Spotify play list with a few selected favorites. Here is Marsha’s Beast Playlist:

Marsha’s Beast Play List. Have you downloaded any of these tracts? Tract 2 and 3 are my Beast’s favorites.

Marsha’s talk had such an impact on me and a close friend of mine that we started texting each other what our Beasts were saying to ourselves on a daily basis.

Here’s an actual text I sent her describing what my Beast was telling me in an airport while I was waiting to board the plane:

You are such an idiot. You drank 80 oz of water before going to the airport because you wanted to be “healthy” and now you have to go to the bathroom like a pitiful 4-year-old. You had everything plugged in and charging and now you have to unplug it all, pack it up quickly, and rush to the bathroom. You probably won’t make it and you’ll end up pooping in your pants. Why are you such an idiot? You’ll never get there in time.

As I was quickly packing up and running to the bathroom. You are such a loser. Zip up your bag. Everything is falling out. You probably left something important there. Why is your bag still unzipped? You look pathetic. You are not going to make it. You are going to poop right in front of Gate C 36 and there will be announcement on the intercom, “Please be aware a passenger has pooped in front of Gate C 36. Here is there right now looking pitiful. Please judge him.”

Well, you actually made it to the bathroom entrance. You now have an open bag in the bathroom. Gross. I bet you, you still won’t make it. Every stall is full and there is a kid learning how to poop for the first time. How Ironic? This kid who always poops in his pants is finally going to have a success. Meanwhile, you are going to crap in your pants right outside a stall. You know why? Because you deserve it.

(Small child and father finally exits a stall)

Well, congratulations. You made it. Gold star for doing something so basic. The fact that you just barely made it makes you such a loser. Zip up your bag already. I bet you are now going to miss your flight. You are such an embarrassment.

My beast literally cheered for me to poop in my pants. Who says that sort of thing?

By noticing and listening more, I finally identified my beast voice as Gargamel from the Smurfs. He is constantly creating schemes to destroy my play. Now if Gargamel had his way, I wouldn’t take any risks. I would be that kid on the playground who wants to play, but sits alone on the sidelines. When asked “do you want to play?” I’d say “No”, even though that is what I want to do more than anything in the world.

Now most people would say, you need to destroy the Beast, but I loved Marsha Shandur’s approach of simply noticing it. The reason I listen to my Beast is because other voices are not as loud. The vocal minority is heard over the silent majority.

Someone asked me recently, if Gargamel is your beast, what are your other voices in cartoon form? And I was compelled to say the Gummy Bears, bouncing here and there and everywhere.

I loved that cartoon because they were all about adventure while drinking their delectable gummy berry juice. So, what are those joyful bear voices saying while my beast is talking.

Well, they aren’t making statements, but instead asking questions. Playful questions that get me thinking about what is actually possible. One of my favorite questions they ask is:

What is the bravest choice you can make right now?

When I hear that question, the Gargamel voice grows silent because answering that question seems so much more fun than listening to a whiny, old voice telling me how awful I am. Also, it it such an expansive question that it makes me think of all the possible adventures I can have by making that choice.

What is the bravest choice I can make right now?

When I hear that question, it’s like being at a dance party and Montell Jordan’s This Is How We Do It comes on, and I just need to dance. It’s so exciting that I must act.

What is the bravest choice I can make right now?

How will my life be different if I answered that question each time I got into a negative spiral and forgot who I am.

With each choice you make, do you choose the Learner or Judger Path? Choice Map — Marilee Adams

What is the bravest choice I can make right now?

If I honestly answered that question, I’d choose to be in a relationship where I could get seriously hurt. I’d have the audacity to reach out to people that I am intimidated by. I‘d apply to speak everywhere. I’d claim myself a play expert and speak as one. I’d choose to see life as a playground where I cannot fail but simply learn from each experience.

My beast is loud and constantly letting me know what I can’t do, but when I ask the question:

What is the bravest choice I can make right now?

It causes the gummy bear voice in my head to say, let’s try something. It doesn’t even have to be that big.

Sometimes the bravest moments are the smallest actions.

Getting out of bed. Writing down my thoughts without a filter. Sitting alone in a public place and not hiding in my phone for comfort. Following my instincts and starting a conversation with a random stranger. Mustering up the courage to speak up even though it may come out wrong.

Answering the bravest choice question isn’t to prove anything to anyone, except yourself. Proving that you got this. That you are powerful beyond measure. I recognize that the Beast isn’t going away. By finding a play adventure though that the Beast is willing to step back because the fun is too much to resist, gives me the opportunity to find out what I’m capable of.

Marsha Shandur ended her talk by having us close our eyes and imagine speaking to our Beast. At the end of the visualization exercise, she whispered, “Beast, I am not afraid of you.” And to think about Gargamel, all sad and lonely, I realize I am not only afraid but feel bad for him. There is sadness and mourning knowing that I’m letting him not lead anymore. His voice was so comfortable to have around even though he was so mean. It’s sad to put him in the backseat when he’s been driving for so long. Who is going to drive? One of my vulnerable, joyful, risk-taking, Gummy Bears?

Now, that I think of it, I’d like that.



  1. Write down all the mean thoughts that your beast says to you on a regular basis
  2. Identify the top three greatest hits that your beast/inner critic say to you on loop
  3. Describe what your beast sounds like and looks like to yourself and perhaps to your friends
  4. Name Your Beast and start to recognize whenever it appears


  • Either journal or text your closest friend what your Beast is saying and see if the voice starts to fade after a week.


  • When you beast shows up, speak to it. Acknowledge what it has to say and move on. Example: Thank you for protecting me all these years. I appreciate it, but now I got this.
  • If that doesn’t work, ask yourself a challenging, fun question that gets you excited, such as What is the bravest choice I can make right now?

Share with me what progress you are able to make as I’d love to know if these techniques work for you.

Remember that your beast is a part of you and simply wants to keep you out of harm's way. The reality is that you don’t need to listen to it as much anymore… and frankly you are too much of a badass not to allow yourself to shine.



Jeff Harry

Workplace Positive Psychology Play Whisperer / Helping Fortune 500 Companies Build Psychologically Safe Workspaces Through Positive Psychology & Play