The first step in reconciliation is awareness of the other and acknowledging their perspective. For the majority of people, their relationship with their inner critic is less than friendly. In fact, most people have intense negative feelings, if not hatred towards their inner critic, once they become aware that they have one.
The Top Twelve Traits of the Inner Critic by Hal Stone, Ph.D. & Sidra Stone, Ph.D
1. it constricts your ability to be creative
2. it stops you from taking risks because it makes you fear failure
3. it views your life as a series of mistakes waiting to happen
4. it compares you unfavorably to others and makes you feel “less than”
5. it is constantly warning you not to look foolish
6. it is terrified of being shamed and so monitors all your behavior to avoid this
7. it causes you to suffer from low self-esteem because it says that you are not good enough
8. it can make looking at yourself in a mirror or shopping for clothes miserable because of its ability to create such a negative view of the body
9. it can take all the fun out of life with its criticisms
10. it makes self-improvement an unpleasant chore rather than a chance to grow—because its basic premise is that something is wrong with you
11. it doesn’t allow you to take in the good feelings that other people have towards you
12. it makes you susceptible—and often victim—to the judgments of other people
As a result, most psychotherapeutic systems and even pop-psychology theories treat the Inner Critic as the enemy and try to “get rid of it.” Usually, attempts to destroy it only disrespect, irritate, and strengthen it. However, this ridding intention reveals a misunderstanding of the Inner Critic’s essential role; namely it’s protective role in trying to keep you from getting emotionally hurt or disapproved of. Wow, tough job when you think about it from that perspective. It is trying to protect you from some underlying anxiety or deep fear about life: being unworthy of love, being abandoned, losing respect, failing, etc.
Key aspects of the inner Critic:
• it’s job is to protect you by criticizing you before you do or say something that would hurt you.
• realize the impossibility of pleasing a critic, especially initially with an out of control critic.
• it’s criticisms are sometimes even contradictory, because its fear of you getting hurt is as high as an over-protective anxious mother that if
identified, with can criticize you no matter what you do
• do not to believe the content of what it says; instead name it as the critic, thank it for sharing without engaging
The first step is to speak directly to the Inner Critic either through Journaling or to allow yourself to embody the Inner Critic through the Voice Dialogue process—ideally with a psychotherapist or coach trained in Voice Dialogue, able to support you in speaking with your Inner Critic. (I first came across Voice Dialogue in 2007, and it has been an essential component not only in my with life coaching and emotional eating clients but also in my own personal awareness evolution.) Theses processes allow you to begin to separate from the unconscious identification with the Inner Critic and experience a more objective and friendly relationship with it. You begin to increase your awareness of what it feels like in your muscles, breath, posture, and tone of voice to be identified with the Inner Critic. Initial conversations with the Inner Critic usually focus upon its criticisms, but as you cultivate a better relationship, understanding and awareness of it, you can explore its underlying self-defending fear motives in its “protective” attacks. Therein, the focus shifts away from the content of its attacks and instead on hearing it’s more fundamental underlying issues.
Therefore, the solution is not to reject it, but rather to embrace your Inner Critic and understand the motivational wisdom behind it, so that you can use it as an ally. Once these fears are allayed, the Inner Critic increasingly quiets and its criticisms become objectively supportive, as opposed to destructive. Once you make friends with the inner Critic and it feels safe for it not to have to so fearfully berate you, the high side of the critic is that it turns into an internal guidance system that offers feedback about how to improve things, objectively review your work, help you pay attention, gently point out how you can live a more balanced lifestyle and take better care of yourself.
New Allied Relationship with your INNER CRITIC
• Internal guidance system
• Staying focused
• Attention to detail
You CANNOT get rid of your Critic; nor should you try. Remember it is just doing its job of protecting you. There is nothing inherently wrong with you or your Inner Critic other than your unconsciously identifying with it. But, if you let it dominate your consciousness, its constant anxious critique can cripple you. Instead honor, embrace, and consult the Inner Critic as an early internal warning system from a place of Awareness rather than unconsciously letting it run you. In this context, give it a Voice and let it speak. Then, as you become more aware, practice catching yourself identifying with it sooner. Eventually it can be a powerful partner in your journey through life to greater wholeness.