The Inner Critic- friend or foe?

Do you ever catch yourself being self critical? Yeah. Me too.

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Photo by Patrick Fore

The Inner Critic has played a big part in my life and achievement. It has kept me on the straight and narrow, it has helped me get better and it has always made me strive for what I want in life. In those ways, I am thankful for it.

But, then there’s the inevitable pitfalls of this love affair with the Inner Critic. The years of telling myself that I’m not good enough, the times of self doubt and the chances I didn’t take because I didn’t feel worthy. Most of all, the boundaries I didn’t set because I didn’t think I had a right to.

I grew up as a target of narcissistic, emotional and sexual abuse. What those experiences taught me was to not trust my intuition, not set appropriate boundaries and not ask for my needs to be met. Pretty bad deal, hey?

Some of you are reading this now thinking: tmi. Fair enough. I won’t take it personally if you want to stop reading.

Some of you are saying holy s**t. Where is this going? I can see similar pain points in my own life.

When external criticism is aplenty, you learn to turn it inward and lean on it. You learn to trust it as the friend that you can always count on, because it will, inevitably, return. You cultivate it, you harness it, and you even brag how hard on yourself you are. Thriving on self criticism is an unsustainable model for a healthy life. While having standards for ourselves and holding ourselves to those standards can be healthy, only fueling your achievements with derogatory internal dialogue is a form of self abuse. We have taken the abuse we received from others and kept running with it, because it has felt safe.

There is a big difference between criticism and critical thinking. Criticism is something you receive. Critical thinking is something you choose. Of course, it’s not always possible to reject criticism from others or from ourselves. In those cases, learn to focus on the content, not on the delivery style.

So, the trick is: befriend your Inner Critic. Listen to what it has to say. Listen to the content, not the delivery style. The Inner Critic is most usually one of our Inner Children showing us our innermost pain points and fears. Of course, as a grown up person I know that my past abuse does not define the rest of my life, but I MUST attend to the past pains when they show up. Those are the times when I listen to my Inner Critic and just listen to WHAT they have to say, not how they are saying it.

If I pretend like the Inner Critic is not there, and if I don’t proactively listen to them, I will continue to lose opportunities in life. By being in denial, I will continue to live a trajectory that my abusers chose for me.

But you know, what? It’s not my trajectory. It’s theirs, and they can have it.

What is your Inner Critic saying about you?

Integration Mentor, personality profiler, Founder of Sumiloff Academy of Human Integration

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