The Voice of the Inner Critic

How strong is your inner critic?

Have you ever — or often — said to yourself, “wow, I can’t do anything right”? You would definitely not be alone. Instead, I might say that you are normal and have a strong inner critic. We all have some form of an inner critic, as if it is a part of the universal human condition. If you find you struggle with nerves, or anxiety, or feeling competent in any way, shape, or form, then your inner critic is likely at work, and over the time of your life has probably been given a lot of space inside of you to work very, very hard at what it does best. And to some degree it may have given you a fair amount of success over time as well, because a hard-working inner critic can have the effect of molding a hard-working individual. But the drawback is seen in one’s mental health, as opposed to their accomplishments, because motivation through criticism can only work for so long.


The voices in our head

Some of us legitimately hear voices. I worked for many years with adults who suffered from schizophrenia, some forms more severe than others. These voices are not those voices. The voice of the inner critic is your voice, and your thoughts as a thing inside of you (we often can feel the inner critic if we are sensing into our bodies.) in previous blogs I have referred to felt senses as things inside of us.

We have given more than just headspace to the inner critic though. When we sense inside of ourselves, it might be easy for some of us to see just how much space we have offered to this one ideology. This might be evident in how we respond to outside criticism versus responding to outside validation. A strong inner critic will eat up all of that outside criticism, because it completely matches what it likes and knows (it’s like food that we know will be satisfying) and say “oh please, Jon really did the bulk of the work on the project” for any sort of validation we might receive. The more space the critic occupies, the more in charge of what gets eaten and what gets passed up.

How did it get to be so big and loud?

In many instances, this is because it actually helped you. Because if you have achieved some success, somewhere in your life, in some way (even if you, and your critic, are saying you’re not successful now, sorry to burst your bubble but that can’t be the case throughout your life), the critic was there to keep you motivated, keep you moving. It was through criticism that you learned to “just do better!” And then you did! So all that “coaching” (I might say, “verbal whipping”) that you just gave yourself actually worked out for you. So why fix it if it isn’t broken? Well, you didn’t see any need, and realized this is how you would get sh*t done. Until, you no longer can compartmentalize that critic, and it really takes over. So nothing you ever do is really ever right.

How can it quiet down a little?!

Because everyone has an inner critic (but some of us have ones we might not even here, those lucky few who probably haven’t bothered reading up to here because this article doesn’t seem at all applicable), what can we do with him or her? I like to think that recognizing the inner critic for what it is is step one, and a big step one because it shows a level of present moment awareness that is sometimes difficult to attain. Validation oneself for that awareness brings in what I would refer to as a more supportive and compassionate voice, that can be a nice counterbalance to sit with in contrast with sitting with the inner critic.