NOTE:  THIS IS FIRST OF A TWO-PART SERIES

Do you know your Inner Critic?  The Inner Critic develops in our youth to protect us from being shamed or hurt.  It is extremely anxious, and almost desperate for us to succeed in the world and be accepted by others.  So the Inner Critic sees, hears and feels what is wrong with us in the eyes of our parents, our peers, our church and other people who are important to us.

If you listen carefully, you can hear your Inner Critic whispering in your ears.  Here are some of its favorite statements:  “The trouble with you is …; you’re basically ugly; you’re not lovable; nobody really likes you; you’re selfish and mean; you’re basically flawed; you look dreadful; you’re fat; too short; you’re getting old; that outfit is all wrong, you look ridiculous; you’re have no talent; you’re boring; you shouldn’t have said that; if you didn’t work twice as hard as everyone else, you’d never make it; you may have fooled them for now, but wait until they find out the truth about you; you are really a fake; that was a mistake.”  These are just a few of the Inner Critic’s favorite lines.

The Inner Critic really wants you to make it in the world, to be loved, to be successful, to be accepted, to have a family.  It developed in your early years by helping you to adapt to the demands and requirements of the world.  In order to do it’s job properly, it needed to curb your natural inclinations and to make you acceptable to others—by criticizing and correcting your behavior before other people could criticize or reject you.

The problem in that the Inner Critic often does not know when to stop.  It has a tendency to grow out of control, and it begins to undermine us and to do us real damage.  It has checked you out in minute detail for weaknesses and imperfections for years.  That information, which originally was supposed to be for your overall defense and to promote your general well-being, is now being used against you—operating secretly and  independently of any outside control.

So you begin to feel badly about yourself.  With your Inner Critic watching your every move, you become self-conscious, awkward and ever more fearful about making a mistake. Your self-confidence becomes severely undermined.

If you would like to gain some control over your Inner Critic, try this exercise.  Over the next several days, pay attention to the critical things you say or feel about yourself.  You may have an easier time catching hold of what your critic says if you record its comments in a notebook.

With each statement ask yourself the following questions:  Does this sound like somebody I know?  (Pay particular attention to parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers and religious leaders.)  When do I first remember being concerned about this issue?  Write down some judgmental comments that your parents made when they criticized you—or when you knew you displeased them.   In which ways did your parents judge other people?  What were the worst characteristics that a person could have according to your grade school classmates?  High school classmates?  College classmates?  Current friends?  The people you work around?

I will continue this discussion in next week’s column.

Source:  Embracing Your Inner Critic by Hal and Sidra Stone

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