What is an inner critic, essentially?
It's a voice that is telling you to take a big step BACK. Back from what?From whatever it is that you are attempting to do, think, feel or explore.Yes, the critic is worried. Very worried. Like this old grandma in the picture. "Oh dear! what if things go terribly horribly wrong?!"
Well, actually there is a book with that title "Things may go terribly horribly wrong" and it is essentially about working with that inner critic, the worries, the anxiety and doubts that can overtake our lives. Why did someone create a book about inner critics? To explain that essentially our fears, our critics, our worried voice is actually essential to survival.
It is fiercely protecting us. Yes, I know I know, there are many articles out there about "shutting down your inner critic", "silencing your inner worries" or "getting rid of your worries"... And you, my dear friend, are reading this article and I am telling you not to shut the voice down. Actually, I'd strongly encourage you to do exactly the opposite.
At some point in time, somewhere along the years of your development, you developed an Inner Critic. Your Inner Critic. It knows you, your personality, your needs, your vulnerabilities, the people around you and what you need in order to keep things "in order", or "just right" to survive.
Maybe you had big hopes and someone doubted your abilities...Maybe you needed love from Mommy or Daddy and they didn't notice you ...Maybe you were always trying to fit in but it never really worked...Maybe someone hurt your feelings...Maybe you got angry and it wasn't received well..Maybe someone call you stupid..Maybe something scary happened and you learned that feelings are too big to feel...
The point is, that the critic is essentially a protector.
A big Hulk.
A strong muscled bouncer to your heart and vulnerable feelings. It protects you from humongous emotions, big experiences and things that feel too big to be survived all by yourself. It wants to be sure you will be ok and you can be ok in this thing called life. It's sneaky little voice and questions come to check up on you and help. It wants to help you make good choices and navigate scary times or moments.
So, if this has such a "wonderful role", what are we meant to do with this part of ourselves that sometimes can be helpful and is mean to check in with our gut, yet at other times comes in the way of us moving forward?
What if it comes and says:
"Don't take that risk"
"Don't reach out to that person"
"Don't try that new thing"
"Don't even think of doing or saying THAT"
What happens when it seeps our confidence dry and takes all our energy away? What about these times that it takes away any of our positive beliefs?
Your inner critic has been programmed years ago. It may have been created based on a childhood fear, based on a worry, based on a family dynamic and is stuck there. That's why your critics are well meaning yet unhelpful to where we are at today and the kind of protection we are needing.
You need to "update" your inner critic systems.
Yes, you need to become the expert IT guy in updating and downloading the newest version of "helpful critical voices". Critics need to become our friends. We want them to let us know when they are worried, when something feels off. But,we do not want them to hold us back from moving onward and upward in life.
Now, check in with your critical voices. Which ones resonate from the ones below or do you have your own that are unique to you...
- "You're unworthy of good things happening to you"
- "You don't matter much"
- "You don't know how to do anything right"
These voices- not helpful! Our goal is to have an integrated and helpful inner critic. Let's understand the worry and hear what we can do with it versus the trap it sometimes creates.A more helpful thought may be:
- "Honey, I'm worried about that possibility, but you can try your best and well touch base after and see how you did. Breath through it".
- "I'm scared for you so I want you to look at who and what can be supporitve to you as you try this new thing".
- "A part of me is terrified I'll be rejected but another part knows I gotta try this out and trust I will survive even if I get hurt".
- "I'm worried these emotions are too big and I won't survive. But, I will remember emotions are waves and I can ride them, no matter how big or small. Feelings pass. I survive".
Yes, became friends with your critic. Teach it how to be helpful to you. Befriend the many different parts of yourself. They are yours; no ones else's.
And hey, the secret to feeling whole and confident:
The more connected to your inner voices you are, the better they can take care of you, and that creates for a strong, confident person. Invite your critic, share some tea with and hear it out. Then teach it all about who you are; your strengths, your resources, your plans and goals and together, you will take one step at a time. Update it on your strengths, reassure it that you know what you're doing and you know who to reach out to when in need of extra support.
You can do this, together!