i think that most of us have an inner critic, whether or not we are living with mental illness. it’s that negative voice or feeling inside of you that judges your thoughts and actions. i have a daily struggle with my inner critic, and notice that it is much louder when my depression and/or anxiety are more present.
each person’s inner critic is different. this is an important distinction that i am learning to make. we often talk about wanting to stop having “negative thoughts” and “be more positive,” but if i don’t get to know my own inner critic i most likely won’t be able to respond effectively to it. for some people, the inner critic tells you that you will never be good enough. for others, the inner critic tells you that you are physically ugly. i think it’s helpful to get at the root of what the inner critic is saying. my inner critic tells me that i am unlovable in many different ways. i can trace this back to my dad’s suicide, an act that i experienced as an abandonment. while i criticize myself or put myself down in lots of different ways, it usually boils down to the same issue of abandonment.
get to know your inner critic. this is something new that i am trying out. put on your imagination cap and think about what that inner critic looks like – is it a person? if so, is it someone you know? is it a creature, like a monster? or is it shapeless? what color is it? what does its voice sound like? does it scream at you, or whisper, or nag? does it have a a name? where do you feel it in your body – tension in your stomach, or a headache? or is it sitting on your shoulder? what other qualities does it have? exploring our inner critic can raise our awareness of the impact it has on us.
develop an inner champion. i have struggled for years with how to respond to my inner critic. at this point, i am very aware of it and what it’s saying to me. i have not fully unlocked the ability to respond in a way that gives it less power over me. so i am developing an inner champion. this is a new voice that helps to counteract the inner critic. i am working to personify my inner champion. what does it look like? sound like? how do i relate to my inner champion? what do i need from my inner champion? i heard someone refer to her “inner Judge Judy” – she needed a no-nonsense straight-talker to silence the inner critic and to whip herself into shape. it’s all about whatever meets your needs.
we are both the inner critic and the inner champion. both parts have a voice, but which one is louder? sometimes one, sometimes the other. it is my hope that developing this inner champion will help me find a new voice, one that is stronger than my inner critic.