Your Inner Critic’s Villain Origin Story (ideas from a therapist in philadelphia)
Do you have an inner critic? An inner voice that speaks to you from time to time to tell you what you are doing well, or not so well? Are they supportive or are they discouraging? Are they kind or are they cruel? Do you love them, do you hate them, are you resigned, or are you indifferent? Your inner critic might not always feel like your friend, but it considers itself to be your friend. It actually considers itself to be your BEST friend who loves you unconditionally. So your inner critic doesn’t understand why you ignore it or feel so bad after your conversations together. After all, your inner critic/best friend is only trying to protect you, in the best way it knows how….
Sure, your inner critic might not communicate with you in the nicest way, but it means well. Your inner critic lives in your nervous system and gets activated when it thinks you are in danger. Social rejection, for example, at one time was a huge threat to our survival. If we lived outside of the pack, there was greater risk of being attacked and or eaten by a bear, or wolf, or bobcat. In a way, rejection still is a threat to our holistic health as we need support and emotional and physical connection to thrive. So when your inner critic starts shaming you for saying or doing something it deems outside the norms of social acceptability, it is actually trying to protect you from being shamed. Your inner critic is shaming you before someone else does so the feeling of shame hurts a little less.
The issue is, your inner critic is hyper-vigilant. It’s always on the lookout for threats towards you, their best friend. So your inner critic tries to shame you to lessen the pain and hurt of someone else shaming you first, except that other person might not have been about to shame you to begin with. Your inner critic’s preemptive shaming was unnecessary, and while the good intention was there, the impact on you was deeply hurtful. So what might your inner critic say about their behavior? Probably no rain, no flowers, now get over it! So yes, your inner critic is mean and a bully AND your inner critic has a villain origin story that is worthy of understanding.
Consider that your inner critic thinks that if it wasn’t for them warning you all the time and teaching you what not to do, you wouldn’t be able to grow and bloom. If it wasn’t hard on you, and motivated you with meanness, it wouldn’t be preparing you for the hard world that awaits you. Yet you are a little older and wiser now than when you first met your inner critic. You have the power to out maneuver your inner critic by using a different type of RAIN to support your growth. Not the torrential kind that breaks the petals and tears down the trees, but the spring RAIN that generates growth and abundance. The RAIN where you recognize your inner critic, allow them to support you in their own inner villain type of way, investigate with compassion what they are telling you, and nurture that part of yourself that is only trying to protect you with love. Your inner critic is right, no RAIN no flowers, but not in the way they expect…
Recognize Your Inner Critic (ideas from a therapist in philadelphia)
The first step is to recognize and name your inner critic. When the negative self-talk starts, recognize that it is your inner critic and not necessarily your inner truth or intuition. It might help to get clear on what the villain origin story of your inner critic is. Is it your 8 year old self, pushing down a classmate in the schoolyard because they made fun of your hand me down clothes or your “funny” looking lunch? Is it your 6 year old self, dressed up in their jazz recital costume, trying to steal the show from their fellow tap dancers so their mom will pay attention to them? Get creative and detailed. The more clarity you have around who your inner critic is and their motivations, the easier it will be for you to understand what they are trying to say to you.
Once you start to understand what your inner critic is trying to say to you, then the meanness and bullying might not sting so much. Yes, it might still hurt, because a 6 or 8 year old can say some really mean things sometimes. Yet it is easier to recognize and show compassion towards a child who developmentally doesn’t have the skills to fully communicate feelings such as fear, sadness, anger, guilt, and shame. When you are able to recognize the what and why of your inner critic, it then becomes easier to allow it to get everything off of its chest.
Allow Your Inner Critic (ideas from a therapist in philadelphia)
The second step is to allow your inner critic (a.k.a. your best-est friend in the whole wide world) to share with you how it is feeling. Temporarily allow the inner critic’s bad behavior so you can use it as a teachable moment. Sometimes, when you try to fight your inner critic, it gets worse. If you allow for the inner critic to talk, you can actively listen to your inner critic so you can get clear on what it is actually trying to say to you. Does your inner critic think you are about to be insulted, hurt, humiliated? Or worse, eaten by a bobcat?! Right now, the truth is not the focus, the focus is allowing your inner critic to talk so you can then investigate the veracity of their concerns.
Investigate with Compassion Your Inner Critic (ideas from a therapist in philadelphia)
The third step is to get curious with your inner critic, in a very compassionate way, whether or not you are in fact in danger. Is your inner critic’s hyper-vigilance actually protective, or is it disruptive? Remember, this can be a teachable moment for your inner critic, and you. These harmful beliefs your inner critic has about your safety were learned. They are based on the cultural and social expectations that you exist in and your inner critic’s need for you to abide by them so you are safe.
Yet you are allowed to take chances, say what you feel, express what you want, share who you are, connect and reconnect with the people around you in new and amazing ways, change, and GROW. When you investigate what your inner critic is saying with compassion, you increase the space that exists between your response and your reaction to your inner critic. This gives you more time to choose. Choose to agree to all the negative and mean things the inner critic might be saying to you, or to consider there is something else at play, and something else is possible.
Nurture with Love Your Inner Critic (ideas from a therapist in philadelphia)
The final step is to thank your inner critic for all they do to protect you. You can tell your 6 year old or 8 year old self that you love them deeply, but you are ok and don’t need their input right now. No RAIN no flowers, so nurture yourself with what you need to grow. Love, especially self-love, self-care, and self-compassion can go a long way in calming the inner critic storm. You are deserving of love, care, and compassion. Your inner critic may think that is what they are providing you, but hopefully now you both know a little better.
No RAIN No Flowers, What’s Next For Your Inner Critic (ideas from a therapist in philadelphia)
Are you interested in learning more about how to calm your inner critic, manage overwhelm and improve your mental health through mindfulness practices? Then schedule an appointment with me or another one of the skilled and knowledgeable Center for Growth therapists. You can self schedule an in-person or virtual individual or couples therapy session or by calling the Center for Growth at (215) 922-5683 x 100.
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