I used to think that everyone's inner critic is completely unique, but after working with so many people (+ watching my own inner critic), what I’ve found is that our inner critic is a little bit personal and a lot more universal.
It’s universal in the sense that we all have an inner critic. There is no biographical cause for our inner critic, it’s 100% part of our human experience.
It's personal in the way it shows up for each of us, in the stories it chooses to tell us based on our past experiences.
The biggest shift I’ve made around my inner critic was understanding that it isn’t who I am. For years I believed everything my inner critic had to say. In fact, I wasn't even aware of it. I thought that I was just flawed and that what I was hearing is a very rational explanation.
Because the truth is that our inner critic is oh-so-convincing! It sneaks in in disguise of the ‘voice of reason’.
So what is your inner critic?
Your inner critic is that mean voice in your head, your inner bully. It manifests in many different ways – self doubt, guilt, comparison, jealousy, judgment (about yourself and others), worry, blame, self sabotage… It shows up whenever you’re about to do something different, something new.
Here’s what I want you to know...
Your inner critic is not who you are. You are not unworthy, you are not flawed, you are not broken, you are not a loser, you are not all those things that your inner critic tries to convince you that you are.
I want you to imagine your inner critic as a little army. This army dwells in your reptilian brain (the most ancient part of your brain which is wired to help you survive). Like any army, your inner critic has an intelligence unit that signals back to the headquarters whenever it recognizes danger.
Which dangers do you think it will identify in your life?
Tens of thousands of years ago it would be searching for a predator, poison or any risky situation and trying to protect you either by avoiding it or fighting it.
You’re thinking about moving to a new city **danger hazard**
You’re thinking about trying a new class at your gym **danger hazard**
You want to pick up a new hobby **danger hazard**
You want to buy a new car **danger hazard**
You’re exploring the possibility of a new career paths **danger hazard**
You want to start a blog **danger hazard**
You volunteered to give a lecture at your workplace about mindfulness **danger hazard**
Can you relate?
For your reptilian brain anything that is unknown or different is a threat. Imagine your ancestries walking in the jungle, there are possible threats coming at them from every corner… If there is the slightest chance that there is a lion waiting for them behind the giant rock your brain will be taking no risks.
Only our lives have evolved since, but we still have that old brain wiring. So we take no risks = we stay in our comfort zone and therefore cut off growth possibilities. We learn to listen to our fear instincts instead of our intuitive wisdom.
Now here’s where your inner critic gets personal. It scans all your past experiences stored in your memory and picks up all the relevant files that can be used in this very important battle which is designed to “protect” you.
It pulls out a file where you already tried changing career paths and “failed”. It pulls out a file where you had a really painful experience as a child moving to a different city with your family. It pulls out a file where you bought a yearly membership to the gym and didn’t go once. It pulls out a file when at 6th grade you had to give a presentation in front of your whole class and you lost your words.
Based on these files your inner critic’s headquarters chooses the best strategy to help prevent you from going forward with this new idea, plan, dream, desire… It will send comparison or self doubt. It will send self judgment or worry. It will send the best soldier to do the mission.
Here’s what you need to know -
The closer you move towards your truth, the louder your inner critic will get. If you want to grow and evolve you have to move past your inner critic’s barrier. Your inner critic is not a sign to withdraw it’s a sign to move forward. It’s a sign that you are on the edge of growth and it’s time to take the leap.
Your inner critic is not going anywhere BUT you can get better at managing it.
Here are two useful questions to ask yourself whenever you identify your inner critic speaking to you:
Do I have evidence for it? Do I have evidence that if I’ll do / say X I’ll get Z?
What does it mean about my life? What would following my inner critic mean about levels of happiness, fulfilment, creativity and abundance I can experience in my life?
let me know what comes up for you. I'd love to hear.