Let’s talk about your inner critic and ways you can tame it for success, peace and alignment.
What is an inner critic?
An inner critic is the negative monologue in our heads. You may not recognize it right away, but it is ready to talk us out of what we want. It’s negatively influences our emotions, thoughts, and behaviours.
Affectionately referred to by many as their inner bitch/bully/battle field.
You can identify it in your journaling, conversations and communications. It often shows up when you are trying to change something about yourself. If you feel stuck or like you are struggle to do something, check in with your inner narrative to see what it is telling you/ what you’re telling yourself.
So why do we have one/ when did we develop it?
We start developing a negative inner critic as kids when we have a limited understanding of life experiences due to limited language and communication skills and a general lack of lived experiences to relate to.
We are simple pleasure seeking beings in a complex world. As we go about our lives exploring the world we may do something that requires or evokes a response from someone else. They may say something or do something that makes us feel uncomfortable and we likely feel guilt, shame or fear as a result of their reactionto us. This generates a pain point for us in some way around the situation. We tell ourselves we are bad/unworthy/not enough and we try to avoid doing the thing that got us that response so we don’t feel bad/unworthy/not enough or pain again.
The negative feelings have such an impact on us that we now focus on ways to not feel it again- a built in human survival/protection mechanism.
As this is life, we are not meant to be unscathed, we likely experience something similar again and again. As this repetition occurs we are subconsciously collecting evidence that support this narrative about ourselves.
Ie. We do want we want and get told not to.
We adapt by not being the version of ourselves that generated the pain response- speaking too loudly, playing silly, stealing the candy. We loose sight of our wholeness/perfectly imperfect selves simply exploring the world and grow into altered versions of our selves that are trying to avoid feeling the pain again.
We tell our selves we can’t finish any races, because someone said we were slow, we can’t learn the thing, because someone marked our papers and gave us a C, we can’t ask for what we want because we were denied the thing last time we asked. We make broad assumptions to avoid the pain/rejection/shame and
show up a little less us.
Fast forward several years or decades and we show up in this world as adults with old wounds that no longer need to shape our life. As adults it is our responsibility to notice these wounds and heal them so they don’t affect how we show up.
We need our non judgmental eyes that can see we aren’t bad and these stories/interpretation of events we told ourselves as younger versions of ourselves no longer make sense. They were developed at a time when we were limited in our abilities to interpret the fuller picture.
For some of my clients, the negative inner critic doesn’t show up in a barrage of not enough statements or stories, it shows up grandiose and boastful. This has the same roots but presents different. These clients over promise and under deliver. They talk too much about themselves in an effort to hide themselves in
Either way an inner critic can slow you down and keep you stuck in a cycle of feelings, thoughts, emotions and behaviours that you no longer identify with or want.
So, how do we tame it so we can start to rewrite our inner narratives and update our stories?
Storywork of course.
First, name it. Literally name your inner critic.
Next, write out the words and or stories you tell yourself that support this narrative.
Then, identify the conflict language in the stories; soft talk, negations and projections
And then, rewrite to reframe the experiences/stories with less judgement language/ more objectivity and check in with yourself. for the accuracy of these stories with a more compassionate version of yourself. Like a kind adult tending to a vulnerable child. There can be several iterations of this process as you understand
more about yourself. Do this until you can see and accept the truer non judgemental version of these stories.
Why is taming it is important for success, peace, alignment?
If you have to over come the barrage of negative inner monologue each time you want to do something new/exciting (which may elicit a fear response) you’ll avoid doing the thing because you don’t want to feel the way you did as a child or as a previous version of yourself and try talking yourself out of it.
You really want to do the thing so you grapple with the voice which is exhausting. So, before you even get started you feel depleted. This may contribute to not completing the task because your energy was used up getting started. Or you may experience failure to launch.
Either way, you don’t succeed the way you know you would if you could just do the thing.
You don’t have a sense of inner peace because you’re often battling yourself to do what you want.
You don’t experience the flow of alignment because you don’t end up doing the thing the way you want or don’t do it at all.
Then you do something else that isn’t true to yourself instead- like sit on the couch and numb/avoid with Netflix and bonbons.
You never become your authentic self because you’re either over promising and under delivering or playing small to avoid rejection.