The Inner Critic and Gravity

For years, people have been telling me about the negative thoughts in their heads. Just this week, a client and I noticed together that it tends to flare up every time she is about to take a leap forward in her life, with something like: “What do you think you are doing? Who do you think you are?”

Another said that the inner critic is an unrelenting constant that has been there as far back as this client could remember. Below, in italics, is an excerpt from a previous post with tips and techniques on how to do your business with your inner critic, if you have one. If you have one?

I would say who doesn’t, but actually I do not think I do, or if I do it is relatively tame.  Words like “failure” and even “regret” or “mistake” do not appear to be present in the roughly 6,000 thoughts per day that run through our heads. This is not to say I don’t apologize if I have said or done something that was hurtful to someone else. In fact, I do apologize, and then I am done, except to try to make sure not do whatever it was again.

But for those whose inner critics are more intrusive, if not menacing, there is the repost below. I do want to mention that since the time of the post below, I have come to liken the inner critic to gravity, a force of nature that can pull people down. The people who brought us airplanes did not try to get rid of gravity. Taking it as a given, they tried to understand it, so they could work with it and around it—so we could fly.

So, let’s start with what is good about the inner critic, as in, why is it even there? Then we look at what is bad about it, and what can be done to work with it or around it—so we can fly!

How The Inner Critic is Good

The Inner Critic (we’ll call it TIC) is the voice inside of your head that tells you, no matter how well you did, it was not good enough. In that way it motivates you always to do better. People say it spurred them on and got them where they are today.

On the other hand, it also tells you what you can’t do. It sees danger, failure, potential for humiliation…everywhere. So, it also protects you from making a complete fool, or failure, out of yourself.

Okay, so far so good. It spurs you on and keeps you out of harm’s way. Why would we want to give that up—even if we could, which we can’t because the negativity bias, which has helped us to survive and to thrive, is hardwired in.

How The Inner Critic is Bad

Yeh but, left to its own devices, it can become so loud in your life that you can begin to trust it more than you trust yourself. Or, worse, you get to where you don’t even know the difference between it and yourself. This is how and when the suffering really sets in. And it is bad.

The voice may have started up outside of you. Maybe it was an overbearing parent who meant well but overshot. Too much of a good thing, we could say. Or maybe a teacher.

But now it is in you, and yours to have and to hold forever more. If it is in charge of you, instead of the other way around, it can fill you with shame—the very thing it meant to prevent. And shame-filled people tend not to grow, not the way the inner voice thinks it wants you to anyway. In the words of Jena Pincott in Psychology Today ,“All too often it sends us back to a zone where we find ourselves safe, but also stuck.” Therefore what?

Making Friends With The Inner Critic

Know this: You are not The Inner Critic. There are two of you, not one of you. As with marriage, friendship, work relations too; the first step is to recognize and respect how separate we are (or should be). Then there are numbers of approaches.

  • Some would say to go back and explore how that voice got there in the first place.
  • Others would say don’t do that, just take what it says and think the opposite. Fake it ‘til you make the opposite your own.
  • Other approaches include finding an overriding purpose that distracts you from the TIC.
  • Or reframe your story with affirmations about how amazing you are. Take that, TIC.

But I believe that what we resist persists—big time—so I’m saying let’s make friends with it instead. You and TIC. And then figure out together the best ways to proceed. This means that when TIC gets anxious about how things may unfold, listen and learn, problem solve, reassure TIC that you’ve got this if you do, or factor in what TIC had to say if you realize TIC actually had a good point.

Above all, be respectful because you can deplete yourself down to the bone by fighting with TIC all day and all night. Make friends and work it out instead.

Practice, practice, practice and, if you care to, let me know how it goes.

Warmly, Madelaine

Photo by Freepik

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About the Author: Madelaine Weiss
Madelaine Claire Weiss (LICSW, MBA, BCC) is a Licensed Psychotherapist, a Board Certified Executive-Career-Life Coach, and bestselling author of “Getting to G.R.E.A.T. 5-Step Strategy for Work and Life.” sfas

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