1. It has a place in our lives.
2. It can’t really be gotten rid of.
3. There’s a better way.
Let me explain.
I’ve had a lot of experience with the Inner Critic, both personally (don’t we all?) and in dialoguing with other people’s Inner Critics as part of my voice dialogue and coaching practice.
The Inner Critic - or self-criticism as you may know it - is that discouraging internal voice that criticises you when you make a mistake, or not reaching a standard you set yourself, no matter how high or practically unreachable that standard may be.
We ALL have an Inner Critic in one shape or form because we all have some sort of rules set for ourselves. The Inner Critic is in charge of upholding those rules. For example if you have an image of yourself as always having to be there for people, each time you let someone down your Critic would snipe at you.
Some Inner Critics are louder than others and it depends on the type of environment you grew up in. Generally - the more critical people you were surrounded by, the stronger your Inner Critic developed.
Now the first instinct may be, once we become aware of this voice in our head, to get rid of it. It’s uncomfortable and often very destructive so WE-WANT-IT-OUT!
Harsh critical thoughts are strongly linked to anxiety and depression, which isn’t surprising based on how harsh the Critic often sounds, so it's in our interest to do something about it.
And a quick search on the internet will yield many tips on how to "get rid of" your Inner Critic. It’s portrayed as this terrible character who is fundamentally evil and is only there to make our lives unbearable.
I won’t deny it, I felt this way when I first became aware that I had an Inner Critic, many years ago. I was furious at it and just wanted it gone.
And then in a voice dialogue session I could hear what my Inner Critic’s views and perspectives, and most of all concerns, were.
I realised that there’s much more to it than just being mean. And that fighting it is not the way.
A vicious sounding Critic may be just like an angry dog that looks like it’s come for you straight from hell, but if you think about it, it’s probably only grown aggressive because it’s been locked in a cage, or tied to a chain for way too long.
Show it some understanding and fulfil its basic need to be seen and heard and respected, and you will have someone quite different in front of you, an ally even.
Of course I don’t enjoy self-criticism and it can indeed be very destructive - but only when we don’t question it and let it slip past our self-awareness radar and take it as the truth about ourselves.
What I found instead is that the Inner Critic’s messages sometimes have a grain of truth in them - and we would miss out on that information if we got rid of it completely. If you make a mistake - you do want to know it, so you can repair it and/or learn from it for the future, right? But you also don't want to be stopped from ever trying something challenging again, I assume.
So we don’t want to shut the Inner Critic down - we want to calm it down. Make it feel safe, and that it can trust us to run our life well.
The transformation begins the moment you start to accept the Critic as a part of you, once you’re willing to listen to what it has to say and embrace it rather than push it away. Why does it do what it does? Who did it learn from? What does it ultimately want for you and your life?
You will discover that instead of malice there is a deep anxiety at its core, concern for you not doing well in the world. It’s terribly worried that without its constant prodding, you will fail, and be hurt, or destroyed.
It’s just not seeing that the way it’s trying to control your actions is already hurting you.
The Inner Critic is like a well-meaning friend with a terrible way of getting their message across.
So you have to be the wiser here. Show compassion to yourself by accepting all of yourself, including the Critic, and it will transform.
Because this is the aim - to transform our Critic into a constructive ally. We all know how invaluable feedback is for us to keep growing and evolving, but to be effective it needs to be kind. And our Inner Critic, once turned a supportive ally, can be a source of really valuable feedback.
I hope this has inspired you to start seeing your Inner Critic in a new way, getting curious about it, and hopeful that you can co-exist in a symbiotic relationship. It is possible to end the inner conflict and feel supported in living courageously instead of held back at every turn.
I'm curious to hear what your experience with your Inner Critic has been. And how soon do you think it can become your ally?
I go into more details about the Inner Critic and practical ways to transform it, in my 1:1 and group work with clients.
Let me know if you have any questions, and I'll do my best to respond!
To your transformation,
And to find out about the ways I can support you to make the most of your life, book a call with me below.