Birth of the Inner Critic
Last week I wrote about that inner critic who sits in our head and screams about everything we do wrong. We all have one. Some critics are tamer than others. Some critics are downright abusive. But most of us can agree that it’s there. So what is it and how did it get there?
We come in to this world whole and unscathed. But at some point in our childhood there occurs a heartbreak. The first of many. This is unavoidable. It is part of the human condition. It can happen through a single event or through an accumulation of events. We can be hurt through physical or emotional abuse or through the teasing of siblings or peers. It could happen at home with our family or out in the community. But, it happens. At some point we get the message that who we are is not ok. Or that at least some part of us is unacceptable.
It is at that point that the critic is born.
There is a part of us that is determined to stop this heartbreak from happening again. It becomes a policeman or an over-protective parent. It monitors our behavior. It keeps us hidden in order to keep us safe. It tries to control us in order to protect us from ridicule, rejection or abuse.
So the critic, then, is actually trying to help us.
The problem is that sometimes this critic becomes too powerful. And too big. And too mean. Sometimes that internal voice does us more harm than good. It cripples our confidence and interferes with our growth and development. It uses harsh, abusive words. It needs some serious sensitivity training!
So what is one to do? The first step in managing the critic is to notice it. Without judgment. Without agenda. Just notice it. Study it. Notice when it is most active. What words does it use? What does it try to protect you from? Just watch it. Be curious about it – like an anthropologist studying human behavior. And remember. You do not have to believe what it says. I’ll repeat that (again and again…). You do not have to believe what it says.
In the coming weeks I will write more about the inner critic as well as some of the other voices you may notice inside your head. If you can have an inner critic, why not an inner cheerleader? Or an internal wise old woman. And of course there is the inner child (No. I’m not trying to give you all multiple personalities! This is all perfectly normal, I promise!). It’s fun to get to know yourself in this way. Take this journey with me!
First Published 2011