The Five Inner Critics That Haunt Many Women
We all have one – that voice inside that criticizes, judges, chastises, and expresses disapproval towards us in the form of negative self-talk. The Inner Critic.
Do you hear yourself saying “What’s wrong with me?”, “I never should have tried that!”, or “Why did I say that!”. While the frequency and intensity of the inner critic varies from person to person, it’s intention for each person is the same. It’s trying to protect you.
This might surprise you to learn that your inner critics actually have good intentions for you. It is a cultural norm to believe that criticism and guilt-induced behavior will motivate behavior. The inner critic wants to protect you and believes the way to do that is through harshness and by limiting your expression in the world. The language of the critic’s self-talk is distinct–it’s negative and discouraging, pulling you back from your dreams, adventures, and deepest desires.
The Inner Critic sees itself as having a “job”. It’s job is to control you and keep you aligned with its values.
The Inner Critic can also be projected outwardly and onto others. In “Why Aren’t More Women Supporting Other Women at Work” we get a glimpse into how this critic imposes (projects) its viewpoint onto other relationships.
So how do we work with the critic when its voice is limiting our potential or holding us back from our dreams?
First, we start with appreciating and learning about the intention of the critic. And then, we look to the kind of ally that can support us during the critic’s attack.
Here are some common critics that can show up in our lives and the allies who are available to you to support transforming their paralyzing and negative energy.
1. The Judge Critic
The Judge is the non-stop “shoulda, woulda, coulda” in your head. It’s the relentless criticizer and shamer. For some, this critic is so strong that it becomes paralyzing. It criticizes you for every perceived mistake, every thought you think you shouldn’t have, every behavior that went wrong or might go wrong. Judge, judge, judge.
Here we need the allies of compassion and self-acceptance.
2. The Playing it Safe Critic
This critic wants to keep you out of danger’s way. It does this by keeping you inside your comfort zone so that you won’t venture out. It can influence you to “hide out”, stay in the background and not draw attention to yourself. It may create a safety zone where you can go so far, but no further. While we all need a “safety zone”,if we don’t muster the will to move beyond it, it can also limit us from having new experiences and adventures in our lives.
Here we need the allies of possibility and perseverance.
3. The Co-dependency Critic
This critic tells us we need to defer our needs for the needs of others. This critic looks to take care of others first. It’s not the spirit of service that is being offered here. But rather the obligation of putting others views before your own, others wants for time before your own needs, others ideas of how things should go without including your own perspective. This critic drives you to put everyone and everything before yourself and drives you into exhaustion.
Here we need the allies of self-reliance and self-care.
4. The Inner Patriarch Critic
The Inner Patriarch is the internalized societal mindset about the inferiority of women. It carries the weight of at least five thousand years of patriarchal thinking (Hal Stone and Sidra Stone, “Embracing Your Inner Critic”).
The Inner Patriarch Critic tells you that you are inferior because you are a woman and that you need constant surveillance to keep your behavior appropriate. This critic feels a deep-seated disdain for a woman’s own femaleness and can literally make a woman ashamed of being a woman.
Here we need the allies of self-leadership and self-love.
5. The Romantic Love Critic
This next critic may surprise you. It is the critic of romanticized love. It says that a woman must have a male figure who will solve her problems and “complete” her, someone to rescue her, or to make a better life possible. It is the hope that once something settles in the external world, she will feel complete. “Once I marry…”, “When I have children…”, “When we move…”.
Here we need the allies of self-actualization, self-love, and community with women.
What you can do right now
Unraveling the critic is not always an easy process. We can have one or more critics, and they can be engrained within us in a way that their inner voices sound like “the truth”. Remember, the Inner Critic is trying to protect you by controlling you. It’s protection, however, is dysfunctional, negative, and shaming. We cannot meet the Inner Critic on its own terms – by trying to control it or forcing away its negative voice with another negative voice. Befriending your inner critic and understanding what’s behind the negative self-talk is the first step to releasing its role.
Steps to working with your Inner Critic:
- What kind of inner critic do I have? Give it a name. What is its energy?
- Begin to notice the self-talk of this critic. See if you can bring into awareness a fear or worry that may be triggering this critic.
- How is the critic trying to protect you? Is it preventing you from doing something? Shaming you to try to get you to change something?
- THEN, ask yourself how can you develop inner allies to release this critic from its responsibilities.
We often believe that if the outer world would change, we’d have more peace, joy, and happiness. But it’s actually the opposite. When we change our inner reality – like working with our inner critic and allies – the outer world changes around us. Because our experience of reality is subjective, a coach can help you get a bigger picture of how the critic may be running your life.