We’re too hard on our Inner Critic. We even demonize “it” sometimes. But it’s actually an evolutionary resource left over from our time in the jungle; when our ancestors needed to protect themselves from predators or be eaten. It also encouraged the bonding to others we needed for survival, first to mother, later to tribe.
When we were very young, we idealized our caregivers; that helped us feel safe. If Mommy or Daddy (or whoever served as our primary caregivers) wasn’t happy, we tended to blame ourselves rather than them (since we believed they were perfect). We held ourselves responsible & learned to do whatever was necessary to make things right again. Our Inner Critic evolved as a way of our adapting to these stresses.
On a larger scale, when we made “good” decisions, we belonged to the community, helped keep that group safe, &, again, we survived. We couldn’t risk becoming the weak link or we’d be weeded out or set adrift on an ice bar. That’s pretty strong motivation to conform from an evolutionary vantage point!
It plays out socially like this: Around age 2, our idyllic world (where all our needs & desires were met, sometimes even without our fussing) starts to change: As we enter toddler & preschool years, we quickly learn that all our positive feelings & tangible rewards are increasingly based on what we do rather than who we are. Think of it as a shift toward performance over ‘person-hood.’ Now it feels like we need to earn our worth & that only reinforces the need for our Inner Critic to stay vigilant so we don’t get rejected or passed up.
Remember that coveted “in” crowd or A Team beginning to clarify in middle school? Remember what it was like, to make the grade—or not? Again, our poor Inner Critic was working overtime to ensure our societal survival & acceptance.
Some might argue that the Inner Critic provides the energy we need to stay motivated. While energy is absolutely necessary, it’s preferable for it to be healthy, safe & renewable! That means channeled through our imagination, creativity, inspiration… rather than by negativity, unhealthy competition or difficult emotions like fear & desperation.
So, what to do with this relentless voice with the best of intentions that hasn’t caught up with evolution? Sure, we can use numerous recommended strategies for “silencing” our Inner Critic, e.g., challenging its thoughts, learning to recognize our worth, replacing words with actions, repeating affirmations & stress management techniques…
But here’s another option to add to the list: Instead of approaching our Inner Critic with resentment, resistance & with the goal of silencing it, we can choose to reframe the voice: Our Inner Critic could at least sometimes become an Inner Coach with information that just might be worth our consideration. If we dialed down our level of resistance, we’d be better able to discern any morsels of truth & the outcome could be much more productive. At the very least, our exchange would encourage us to strengthen our boundary-setting & self-confidence!
I invite you to try feeling that in your body for a moment: the difference between owning an Inner Critic vs an Inner Coach. Making this shift & learning to separate “the wheat from the chaff” in the information it shares, takes practice & support. If you’d like to explore this topic further & move toward reframing your inner voice, I’d love to provide that guidance: [email protected].
Here’s to your discerning the best in your Inner Critic!