The silent intruder

It is really difficult to get rid of her.  This character has been coming to my life without being invited, at least not directly or consciously, for many years now.  She became more frequent in my adolescence and has not stopped sneaking in since then.

She does not care if I am alone or with company, she does not respect if I am in a hard situation. Quite contrary she is even more annoying when I am struggling.  I have to recognize that she is pretty smart, convincing, stubborn, and observant. I highly dislike her voice and I totally hate when I ended up listening to her spiteful comments.  She is harsh, irrational, rigid, and infinitely judgmental.  She keeps on saying things such:

“You should be better spoken
You don’t know anything
You are not smart
That was a stupid thing to say
You are worthless
Who do you think you are
Nobody cares about what you have to say
You will never be good enough
Everybody is better than you
You will never be good at playing volleyball
You are an embarrassment.

She can be a nightmare and the worst thing is that she lives inside me… inside you… Actually she has grown with you.  And I am not talking about a mean sister.

I am talking about the Inner Critic.  The Inner Critic is part of you, is one of many parts that co-exist with other parts (sub-personalities) in your inner world.  That part comes to existence in the process of socializing children.  Even the most loving, gentle, and accepting parents have to encourage and discourage certain behaviors in their children, set limits, and convey societal rules or expectations which involves going against the child’s natural inclinations.

Although there is a good intention from the parents, there is the strong tendency for the mind of the little kids to conclude that something must be wrong, inadequate or unacceptable with them.  This causes an unpleasant sensation and a little voice that echoes the norm established by parents, church, or other significant adults, starts developing inside the child in order to protect them of being perceived as flawed or inadequate.

Up to certain point in life the Inner Critic serves a purpose to enter into the norm, the problem appears when the eagerness, and even anxiety for approval and acceptance turns that little, manageable, and occasional voice into a very dark, harsh, and hurtful part inside us.  It can transform into a part that represses or even bullies other aspects of our persona causing difficulties in the relationships we establish.

The inner critic embodies mindless self-judgment that undermines our confidence, it fuels perfectionism and get us stuck on “should”: “I should be better, I should be smarter, prettier, etc.” The problem with ”should” is that disconnect us from what we really want in life, from our intuition, and make us fall into the illusion of perfection.

How to transform your relationship with the inner critic?

  1. Be aware of the voice of your inner-critic inside you
  2. Realize the inner-critic is one part of yourself but is not the whole you
  3. Practice Mindfulness: Be open to be present with that voice, try to pinpoint where is coming from and what is in reality trying to do? What is protecting you from? Ask that part of you what is trying to protect you from
  4. Embracing the whole experience: the negative and more positive aspects of the inner-critic can help you to regain control and decrease the anxiety that feeds that harsh, hurtful voice of the inner critic.
  5. Contrast with evidence
  6. Be kind to yourself. See your humanity: we all are flawed and is ok. We can aim for improvement instead of pointlessly trying to be perfect.
Diana Castaño