Let’s face it, we all have that nagging little voice inside of us that says --sometimes rarely, sometimes frequently, and most often intermittently -- that we’re just not good enough. It is ALWAYS the ego's viewpoint because it encourages feelings of
fear and self-condemnation rather than love and support.
I find, for me, the inner critic has a lot to do with a lack of self-acceptance and a lot of unrealistic expectations. Who said I had to be perfect? Was it Mom? Was it Dad? Was it my older sister? Or did I come up with the idea all on my own? In my case, I think it might have started with my own evaluation of myself, because I don’t remember getting hugely critical feedback from my parents or anyone else. In fact, I received a lot of love and positive support.
My father was a Princeton man and quite brilliant; my mother was beautiful and very funny. My sister was five years older than me and a really talented artist even at a young age. I looked up to her immensely and until I became a teenager, I always felt
behind her in every way.
Did they all have their faults? You bet…and some big ones at that!
Nevertheless, even though I always had good grades, was relatively cute, and had creative abilities, as a kid I felt that I could never live up to the standards of my father, mother or sister in
brains, looks or talent.
Of course, as I got older and discovered my own unique gifts, attractiveness and ability to achieve, the insidious voice of my inner critic diminished to a whimper rather than a roar. BUT, similar to most of us, it’s never gone away completely.
No one is harder on me than me, believe me! On the other hand,
I join the majority who can say:
When it comes to living your own life, you either perpetuate your childhood or you stand on it and
finally kick it out from under.
Letting those childhood insecurities go is not easy for anyone, but I know a number of people who had parents or families that were extremes -- either hyper-critical or total perfectionists when it came to their kids. As one therapist put it:
“The language of the critic can be sharp, piercing and debilitating. What perhaps started as an exterior voice from a concrete “other” then becomes an interior voice that sounds like your own.”
Alan Cohen writes in his wonderful book, A Daily Dose of Sanity: A Five-Minute Soul Recharge for Every Day:
"The critical voice is not your own. The voice of love, appreciation, and self-acceptance is. Fire your inner critic
and reinstate your inner fan club."
He goes on to provide an affirmation that goes like this:
"I claim my beauty, value and wholeness. I dump undue criticism and embrace self-respect."
I’m not talking arrogance or self-centeredness here – a dose of humility is a great spiritual trait and being full of yourself is never a good look! As someone said:
People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.
Back to that pesky little (or, for some, jumbo!) inner critic that we all experience at times…the truth is, you can’t believe that everything you think about yourself is true!!
In other words, as Eckhart Tolle suggests:
“Don’t take your thoughts too seriously.”
Then there’s this cautionary advice:
Be nice to your hairstylist.
He can ruin your self-esteem for
six months in fifteen minutes.
Some psychologists claim that the inner critic’s self-talk tends to fall into two categories: the “bad self” or “the weak self.” The “bad self” is particularly oppressive and odious -- when you feel unlovable, inadequate, inferior, flawed, undesirable, deserving of punishment or incompetent. It's the voice of the ego in full throttle.
The “weak self” is when you feel that you haven’t done the best you could, when you feel that others are judging you and you’ve come up short or when you feel you’re not performing at your best.
Both categories are based on fear and anxiety; the exact opposite of love and the divine reality. What to do about it?! Here’s one idea:
Your inner critic will smack you, scream at you, whisper nasty words. Just let it go ahead while you stick out
your inner tongue.
Seriously though, debilitating as those relentlessly negative voices or punishing stories can be, we can count on the fact that convincing as they may sound, they are almost always lies and never the total truth. Most of the time, our feelings of inadequacy are just our inner critic speaking louder than our inner cheerleader. Remember to rise to the challenge: overcome how you think about yourself.
Confidence is silent.
Insecurities are loud.
Tara Brach says:
“We don’t have to wait until our deathbed to realize what a waste of our precious lives it is to carry the belief that something is wrong with us.”
S.D. Simper wrote:
“Whatever paths you choose, someone will hate you.
Only be certain that someone isn’t you.”
Mark Twain said:
“A man can’t be comfortable without
his own approval.”
Elle Miller, writing for The Mind Journal, gives us some good tips on conquering your inner critic:
Five Ways to Stop Your Inner Critic in Its Tracks
Take a Deep Breath
When you notice the thoughts spiraling through your head, lengthen your breath. Inhale in through your nose and exhale through your mouth while making your exhale longer.
Befriend the beast and get to know it. Once you are more aware of the running commentary in your head, you’ll be able to catch yourself when you are facing that overly critical space and identify how it feels in your body, emotions and mind.
Accept that the inner critic’s voice is going to be a part of your life. Learn some skills to acknowledge it and move forward. Push “pause” if you can’t stop the thoughts from running rampant. Go back to deeper breathing, take a walk, call a trusted friend or journal down the recurring thoughts that come and look at them on paper.
Are you going to allow the pummeling of the inner critic and get stuck? Or can you focus on solutions when the critique is coming your way? Shift yourself and instead of listening passively to the tear down,
build yourself up with the truth of who you really are - a beloved
child of the universe.
Discernment and Compassion
Acknowledge with compassion any truth that is within the thoughts but don’t stop there. Discern where the statements or lies are intimidation. Don’t just silence or ignore the critic and go on the defensive. Give compassion to that critical voice as you dismiss its validity.
99% of us would never talk to a friend the way we let ourselves talk to ourselves. Show empathy to the parts of you that are frightened of rejection, embarrassment, or shame. Acknowledge them in a kind way, express empathy and understanding.
While I’m a very positive person, I can still fall into that nasty habit of negative self-talk blasting me from a loud-mouthed inner critic. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to silence that ego of mine no matter what it takes. I’m with Diane Furstenberg when she said:
“You’re always with yourself, so you might as
well enjoy the company.”
So that is exactly what I’m going to do!
How about you?