Hello inner critic.
I hear you but your argument is valid no more. In fact, you are fired.
Another day I witnessed something in myself , something that went unnoticed countless times before. A process that is as damaging as it is elusive. But since I learned about its existence, my radar was up. And as I caught this phenomenon in action - I was able to stop it in its tracks, not allowing it to gain any substantial air time and preventing the damage from being done. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet the inner critic - part of our psyche that is always up for not so constructive criticism. Unfortunately, it usually appears when we need it the least - namely when we feel somehow weakened already, and could do with some support and compassion instead. This aspect of ourselves is the inner voice that will say something like "what were you thinking?” , "it’s your own fault", "you’re so useless “ and so on and so forth. While it’s certainly counterproductive that it would get activated while we are in some sort of a crisis , it also makes perfect sense given the fact that most of us grew up being punished for multiple "errors" on our part. Self - punishment then becomes a program that we switch on when things don’t go as planned.
I believe that a big part of the journey towards self- love is the process of reparenting yourself, and that includes changing your self -talk, especially in times of the overwhelm. Imagine if it was someone else in front of you showing all the signs of distress, would you criticize them and further debilitate their state, or would you reassure them that it’s okay and things will improve? Even from a purely logical perspective - the second option is more likely to help, let alone if we enter the territory of the empathy and compassion. And yet, we often do the very opposite to ourselves when faced with an issue of some kind. What’s more - most of the time we don’t even notice doing it, as the critical voice became a part of us - a subpersonality if you will. One that doesn’t add any value to our life but is so very familiar. One that depletes our energy in the very moment that we need more of it. The only way to change this is to become aware of it, and switch the self - talk in that very moment. To drop the judge and the jury and to become your own cheerleader instead. To reassure yourself - "hey, this is not a big deal, you’re doing well.” Self - compassion is very healing and goes a long way in building yourself up.
Some may say - well what about holding yourself up to a high standard? And indeed - for some people (let’s call it a scenario A), the achievements happen as a result of feeling inferior, beating themselves up and pushing themselves towards a perfection that doesn’t even exist. Those people never stop being hard on themselves, no matter how much they achieve - they constantly need to prove they are worthy so the cycle never ends. While this is certainly productive and satisfactory at times- there is little, if any happiness. This dynamic stripped down to its core is basically an inner child wanting to be loved and approved. Wouldn’t it be better to act because you’re inspired to, not because you’re feeling unworthy and very unforgiving of your mistakes? Mistakes are human, detours are human, occasionally messy is human. Our kindness to ourselves is human, despite the faulty conditioning so many of us carry with us in the adulthood.
Scenario B is a situation where inner critic prevents us from even beginning a task. The other extreme so to speak. Self- doubt is so strong that it seems pointless to try, as surely nothing valuable can come out as a result. Self - sabotage kicks in and presents itself in a form of procrastination, or even total avoidance . Some believe that the concept of laziness is not what people think it is, but rather a deep seated insecurity, a fear, a blockage of some kind. And the antidote to that is once again the inspiration. But the loud voice of the inner critic can be very disempowering indeed. A very valuable asset to have in this case is a friend who can see the potential in you and is there to encourage you to act. I’ve been on this side of the spectrum many times before, and the empowerment from a third party can do miracles. However, at some point we must become self - sourced and supply ourselves with the encouragement needed. Especially, since others have no direct access to the toxic voice of our inner critic, only we do.
No matter which scenario your inner critic is playing out, or whether you are aware of its existence, we all would benefit from being less hard on ourselves and a New Year, and especially a New Decade is a good place to start.