The best books to calm the inner critic and make peace with your own thoughts

Yong Kang Chan Author Of The Disbelief Habit
By Yong Kang Chan

Who am I?

I grew up with low self-esteem. As an introvert, I found it difficult to make friends in school and I feel I wasn’t good enough for others. Even when I had my first job, I found myself tearing up in the restroom cubicle one day, feeling defective and unable to fit in. That set me off on a journey to improve my self-esteem. I began reading a lot and taking courses on this topic. For years, I felt more confident and worthy. However, it wasn’t until I had a depression that I was truly transformed. After I recovered, I become committed to living peacefully.

I wrote...

The Disbelief Habit

By Yong Kang Chan,

Book cover of The Disbelief Habit

What is my book about?

This book is about building a habit of mindfulness to help you deal with your inner critic.

If you grew up with low self-esteem like me, you most likely have a critical voice in your head that constantly tells you that you aren’t good enough. Many of us try to stop or silence these self-loathing thoughts. But we end up blaming ourselves when we failed to do so. This book approaches negative thinking with mindfulness. Instead of suppressing your thoughts, you use awareness and discernment to break the self-criticism cycle. When mindfulness becomes a new habit, you will feel at peace with all your thoughts, regardless if they are positive or negative.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

Why did I love this book?

Michael Singer is one of my favorite spiritual teachers. He explains spirituality in such a clear and relatable way that even if you know nothing about spirituality, you can still benefit from it.

In this book, he uses simple analogies to show the differences between the voice inside our heads and the observer that we are. 

When I have this realization, I feel a space between my true self and my inner critic. I don’t take every thought that came to my mind as the ultimate truth anymore. I was able to see these critical thoughts as a result of my past conditioning and my inner chatter subsided too.

By Michael A. Singer,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked The Untethered Soul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Who are you? When you start to explore this question, you find out how elusive it really is. Are you a physical body? A collection of experiences and memories? A partner to relationships? Each time you consider aspects of yourself, you realize that there is much more to you than any of these can define. In this book, spiritual teacher Michael Singer explores the question of who we are and arrives at the conclusion that our identity is to be found in our consciousness, the fact of our ability to observe ourselves and the world around us. By tapping into…

Book cover of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

Why did I love this book?

What I love about this book is unlike other books that tell us to build higher self-esteem or confidence, this book suggests opting out of the self-esteem game altogether. It gets us thinking if worthiness is truly what we want in life.

Rather than constantly evaluating our self-worth and comparing ourselves with others, this book encourages us to be kinder toward ourselves and others, and have compassion for our critical thoughts. 

I also like how the author uses personal stories and practical exercises to help us overcome our self-criticism habits and break free from our destructive patterns of negativity.

By Kristin Neff,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Self-Compassion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Kristin Neff offers practical, wise guidance on the path of emotional healing and deep inner transformation.' Tara Brach, PhD, author of Radical Acceptance

Kristin Neff PhD, is a professor in educational psychology, and the world's expert on self-compassion. A pioneer who established self-compassion as a field of study, Kristin offers a powerful solution for combating negativity and insecurity - the symptoms of living in a high-pressure world.

Through tried and tested exercises and audio downloads, readers learn the 3 core components that will help to heal destructive emotional patterns…

Book cover of Reinventing Your Life: How to Break Free from Negative Life Patterns and Feel Good Again

Why did I love this book?

Even though many of us have an inner critic, the triggering event could be different. What I love about this book is it tells you what the triggers are, so you can stop the negative cycle.

This book has a questionnaire that helps you identify your most faulty patterns of thinking, also known as “life traps” in the book. There are a total of 11 life traps. 

After completing the quiz, I found out that social exclusion, emotional deprivation, and subjugation are most likely to set my inner critic off. With this knowledge, I am more aware of my negative beliefs and how they got developed in the past. I am then able to change the narrative.

By Jeffrey E. Young, Janet S. Klosko,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Reinventing Your Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Learn how to end the self-destructive behaviours that stop you from living your best life with this breakthrough programme.

Do you ...

Put the needs of others above your own? Start to panic when someone you love leaves - or threatens to? Often feel anxious about natural disasters, losing all your money, or getting seriously ill? Find that no matter how successful you are, you still feel unhappy, unfulfilled, or undeserving?

Unsatisfactory relationships, an irrational lack of self-esteem, feelings of being unfulfilled - these are all problems that can be solved by changing the types of messages that people internalise.…

The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery

By Don Miguel Ruiz, Don Jose Ruiz, Janet Mills

Book cover of The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery

Why did I love this book?

This book inspires me to write my book on my inner critic. One of my favorite books of all time is The Four Agreements, by the same authors. In this book, they introduce a new fifth agreement, which is to be skeptical, but learn to listen.

After reading the book, I apply this teaching to my mental chatter. Even though I listen to the thoughts in my head, I am more skeptical and have more discernment of my thoughts. I know that what my inner critic tells me may or may not be the truth. Instead of feeling hurt by my critical thoughts, I am able to let them go more readily.

By Don Miguel Ruiz, Don Jose Ruiz, Janet Mills

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fifth Agreement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the international bestselling author of The Four Agreements

In The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz revealed how the process of our education, or “domestication,” can make us forget the wisdom we were born with. Throughout our lives, we make many agreements that go against ourselves and create needless suffering. The Four Agreements help us to break these self-limiting agreements and replace them with agreements that bring us personal freedom, happiness, and love.

In The Fifth Agreement, don Miguel Ruiz joins his son don Jose Ruiz to offer a fresh perspective on The Four Agreements and a powerful new agreement…

Book cover of No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering

Why did I love this book?

I have read almost 40 books from Thich Nhat Hanh and every time I read his books, I feel a deep sense of peace.

I recommend this book to deal with the inner critic because it is about transforming suffering. Instead of running away from our emotional pain, the book teaches us to be present with it. I love how the author uses lotus as an analogy to help us see the beneficial aspects of all things. 

In his book, he wrote “We need to have mud for lotuses to grow. Without mud, there can be no lotus.” This reminds me to not reject the inner critic, but use it as an excellent teacher for my own growth.

By Thich Nhat Hanh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Mud, No Lotus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The secret to happiness is to acknowledge and transform suffering, not to run away from it. Here, Thich Nhat Hanh offers practices and inspiration transforming suffering and finding true joy.

Thich Nhat Hanh acknowledges that because suffering can feel so bad, we try to run away from it or cover it up by consuming. We find something to eat or turn on the television. But unless we’re able to face our suffering, we can’t be present and available to life, and happiness will continue to elude us.

Nhat Hanh shares how the practices of stopping, mindful breathing, and deep concentration…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in spirituality, life satisfaction, and compassion?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about spirituality, life satisfaction, and compassion.

Spirituality Explore 249 books about spirituality
Life Satisfaction Explore 170 books about life satisfaction
Compassion Explore 26 books about compassion

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Alchemist, Be Here Now, and Big Magic if you like this list.