You may be surprised to learn your inner critic is often the internalized voice of your parents and caregivers.
If you had critical, unloving, or inattentive parents, you would find fault with yourself, too. Since you relied on your parents for survival, it felt too risky to blame them. You had to blame yourself instead.
You grew up telling yourself that if you could only be quiet enough, perfect enough, funny enough, or pleasing enough, you’d win them over.
Your inner critic deduced that your deficits made you unlovable. Not that your parents were wrong for not loving you enough.Your inner critic deduced that your deficits made you unlovable. Not that your parents were wrong for not loving you enough. Click To Tweet
If you grew up with emotional neglect, only certain emotions were allowed. Even the so-called positive emotions had to be expressed in a certain way.
When you felt sad or angry, you did not receive the support you needed. You learned these emotions pushed people away and should be suppressed.
Instead of giving yourself compassion when you feel sad or angry, you shame yourself. You talk yourself out of these feelings with false positivity. This can lead to depression and deep-seated resentment in the long run.
Contrast your inner critic with compassion for others
Have you noticed how differently you speak to others than to yourself? When you’re going through something hard, you tend to beat yourself up. But when a friend is struggling, you speak supportive words of compassion.
The first step in kicking your inner critic to the curb is to extend yourself the same courtesy. Practice speaking to yourself the way you speak to others who are dealing with disappointment.
Instead of pushing yourself or telling yourself to shape up, comfort yourself. Give yourself a hug or nice treat and tell yourself it’s okay to make mistakes or feel bad sometimes.
Dr. Kristin Neff has popularized the concept of self-compassion and this is its first tenet. The second includes remembering you’re not alone when you’re not perfect. All of us experience, disappointment, both in ourselves and others.
Dr. Neff also advocates mindfulness as important for replacing your inner critic with self-compassion. Mindfulness is the simple act of accepting your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
That means losing the shame around emotions your parents never helped you understand or process. It also involves observing those emotions rather than identifying with them.
Self-sabotage as self-protection
Remember, your inner critic is the child’s way of protecting herself. She believed if you could do better, be better, do more, be more, you would finally win love.Your inner critic is the child's way of protecting herself. Click To Tweet
As an adult, this self-protection becomes self-sabotage. It looks like pushing yourself to the point of burnout and self-punishing perfectionism.
When you begin to observe this self-saboteur rather than identify with her, you may be shocked at how ruthless and cruelly she behaves toward you. But she thinks it’s all in your best interest.
Healing this inner child means taking over from her with your adult mind and resources. Reassure her she doesn’t need to protect you anymore. You are capable of taking care of things and will not die if you’re imperfect or have a bad mood.
The rejection and abandonment the inner child thinks she’s protecting you from seems like life and death to her. That’s because your parents’ abandonment would have literally resulted in your demise when you couldn’t take care of yourself.
So, know these coping mechanisms come from an intelligent, logical place. But they don’t work anymore and never did, really. That’s because you were never the problem – your parents inability to meet your needs was.