Inner critic

This stream of destructive thoughts forms an anti‑self that discourages usfrom acting in our best interest

Probably all of you have been gripped by the tyranny of the inner critic, so let’s have a look at what it is. The critical voice is a well‑integrated pattern of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others. The nagging “voices,” or thoughts, that make up this internalized dialogue are at the root of much of our self‑destructive and maladaptive behaviour.

The critical inner voice is not an auditory hallucination; it is experienced as real thoughts within our heads. This stream of destructive thoughts forms an anti‑self that discourages us from acting in our best interest. It is an internal enemy that can affect every aspect of our lives, including self‑esteem, confidence, personal and intimate relationships, and, most of all, performance and accomplishments. Negative thoughts affect us by undermining our positive feelings about ourselves and others. We unwittingly identify with the inner critic, which is a form of befriending it, and in doing so, we adopt the inner critic’s values and become its agents.

Where the inner critic comes from...

Those Close to Us

These inner voices usually come from early life experiences that have been taken in and integrated as a way of thinking about the self. They might come from our parents or primary caregivers, peers, siblings, or influential adults. Over time we pick up on the negative attitudes of those around us towards us as individuals, but also perhaps towards themselves.

The inner critic moves us away from our authentic self and aids the development of an impoverished version of the self which can be perpetuated or reenforced by future negative encounters. It is important to remember that just as positive childhood experiences can lead to confidence, ability, and optimism, negative experiences can lead to low self‑esteem, self‑destructive behaviours, and pessimism.

Societal, Cultural & Political Influences

Now reflect on what society and cultural identity told you that you could or could not be. What generational ideals have been passed onto you that limit you? And most importantly, how much of this have you held onto in your adult years?

Your mind is always doing things that you are unaware of. When you are exposed to something over and over again, it becomes embedded in your unconscious and speaks to you in everything that you say and do.

Exercises for you to try: