3 Ways To Keep Anxiety From Sabotaging Your Best Relationships

Life will never be easy, but it doesn't have to be this hard.

Last updated on Apr 19, 2024

Anxious man taking a self care moment to breathe and tap Mental Health America (MHA) | Pexels

If your internal critic is holding you back in dating, love, and relationships, learning how to get rid of anxiety and calm the paralyzing self-doubts that are keeping you from finding happiness in your love life starts with healing your inner child.

Here's how to prevent anxiety from sabotaging your relationships.

1. Offer yourself some compassion

This is the first step. You need a lot of compassion and grace to deal with your inner child's negative dialogue. Once you’ve decided to be compassionate with yourself, understand your inner critic originated from a space of fear and is trying to keep you safe.


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When we were children, we wanted to please our parents, teachers, and everyone. Of course, our parents needed to discipline us and teach us to be good citizens. Our inner voices mimic the adults in our lives. So, that inner voice? At first, it was just trying to keep you from running into the street after a ball. Or not speaking with your mouth full. Or from touching a hot stove.



The thing you have to remember about parents is this: They are not perfect. They have their fears and mistakes, which affect how they parent and try to keep their child safe physically and emotionally. What parent doesn't want to protect their child from heartbreak or mistakes? Yet, their fears, worries, and failures can affect what they say when try to keep a beloved child safe.


This is why you see generations of families with similar fears, like the fear of public speaking. Over time, though, that inner critic's voice takes that input from the adults in our lives and begins to compound it with our own experiences.

Though your inner critic makes you doubt yourself, understand that your inner voice is trying to keep you safe, emotionally and physically. The last thing your inner child wants is to have you feel embarrassed or ashamed. So, it speaks up and becomes critical when you take a risk, even if it's good.

2. Talk to your younger self

The next step is to find a favorite photo of yourself as a small child. See that shining little face? Those bright eyes? That curious grin? The next time your inner critic speaks up, picture this child in your mind. Would you yell at this child for being scared to fall in love? Would you berate this child if she wanted to try a new sport? Would you belittle this child for desiring to live a bigger life?

No, you would not do any of these things. You would be compassionate and kind. You would comfort this child. You would encourage the child to take a risk. Remind this child that mistakes happen and that there is always love, compassion, grace, and forgiveness.


anxious woman eyes closed, fingers in earsPhoto: Nicoleta Ionescu via Shutterstock

The way you quiet this inner child is by befriending them. Every time that inner voice speaks out and makes you doubt a choice, a decision, or an opportunity, you befriend that voice. And then you tell them this: "Darling, I know that you are scared. But it’s going to be all right. Take a deep breath. Now, what do you want in this situation?"

When you learn to speak kindly to yourself and offer compassion, you build inner strength and heal your inner child. Over time, you will learn to listen to your fabulous intuition and rely upon your inner wisdom. When you get in the habit of being kind to that inner critic, the intensity of that voice lessens, and its power weakens.


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3. Accept your inner child and critic

Now you’re learning to deal with this inner critic, let me remind you once again they were a child, and life is a journey.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you give a child the keys to your car?
  • The car that’s going to take you on this journey through life?
  • Would you let a child give you directions on how to get from here to the next stop on your journey?

Probably not.



Even when your inner child is quieter or kinder, they are always there with you because they're a part of your life experiences. So, when your inner critic insists you should doubt yourself, play small, and not take risks, tell them it will be OK. If that doesn't work, have another conversation with them that goes like this:


"Sweetie, you are a part of this inner family that creates my life. You, along with inner wisdom, intuition, and strength will be a part of every journey we take. I appreciate your input because it has kept me safe. But the new rule is: you can go on this journey with us, but you are not allowed to drive. You are not allowed to tell us what turn to take. You aren’t even allowed to choose what you listen to on the radio. But know that you are allowed to be loved and enjoy the fruits of our journey together."

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Life will never be free from challenges. And, yes, you will always make mistakes during your journey. However, you can thrive after even the toughest experiences. Even if you had a pretty good childhood, that doesn’t mean you got to adulthood unscathed. You don’t have to have suffered from abuse or trauma for your inner child to need some healing. Even small anxieties from childhood could be keeping you from finding true love. Learning how to stop being anxious is critical.

happy to be on a hike with someonePhoto: PeopleImages.com - Yuri A via Shutterstock


I was recently speaking with a man who said, "I am not meant to be in a relationship. Is it that I chose the wrong woman? Or am I just not worthy of being loved for myself?"

He had recently gone through a painful breakup. And now, every hateful word his ex-girlfriend had uttered during their tumultuous ending was running through his head on repeat. His inner critic, as though on steroids, was spinning all kinds of hurtful, anxiety-inducing stories about everything he believed must be wrong with him.

He was full of self-doubt, and that inner critic of his was telling him that the only solution was to give up on trying to be in a healthy, loving relationship. This man is kind, handsome, and successful. He is an amazing partner for that right woman! And that ex-girlfriend? She just wasn't the right one.


But despite knowing this, his inner dialogue dredged up visions of every emotional childhood trauma, a failed relationship, and the mistake he'd made since hitting puberty. Like anyone going through a tough time, his inner critic was trying to run the show.

When it comes to finding true love, your internal dialogue is often led by your inner critic, which is why healing your inner child and silencing that voice is the best way to move forward and build healthy relationships.

When you work with your inner child from a place of love and compassion, you shift the dynamic. That shift allows you to be kinder to yourself and to pursue what you desire. You learn to manage the inner critic instead of it managing you because you, my dear, are fabulous. You deserve to live a life you love and pursue your deepest desires. You are worthy of being loved because love is your birthright.


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Debra Smouse is a life coach and author whose work has been published in TIME, Huffington Post, MSN, Psychology Today, and more.