with Compassion and Self-Love
ROOTS OF THE INNER CRITIC
The inner critic is internalized personality of outer authority from our childhood, that we were in some way dependent on. Mostly these are our parents, but that can also be religious or social values. Parents want their children to be happy and succesful in life. Parents also have their own ideas how that should be achieved (like being responsible, having a good job, looking good... whatever) and get afraid (unconsciously) if the child is not showing the results they would like to see. So they start critisizing the child, thinking that this is the way for the child to approve. For the child, that is dependent on bonding to his/her parents, it is too painful to face the feeling of not being loved, accepted and even humiliated. It is easier to believe the parent, so the bonding to the parent can stay intact. The price for it is that we internalize this authority and believe it.
The purpose of the inner critic (just like the outer in the past) is always to cause shame, guilt, pain and fear, hoping that this will make us become a better person, more adjusted to life and more accepted. This is a belief our parents had. Not only the critisizing voice gets internalized, but also people very often believe that without being hard on themselves, they will never change to the better. But just the opposite is the truth.
EXAMPLE : Andy is a boy with fine and sensitive nature. He is inteligent, talented, good at school, good hearted, with shy and introvert personality. His father has completely different nature and is afraid, that Andy may be looser in life if he doesn't get "stronger", less sensitive and less shy. He keeps on calling him "softy" and making fun of his fine feelings, saying things like "boys should not cry" and "only weak people are shy". He is humiliating Andy by making fun of him. By being hard on Andy, the father hopes to make a "real man" out of him, who will learn to deal with "real life". In the background of father's behaviour is his own fear of softness and vulnerability, the human reality that he did not integrate in his own life - so his ciritisism is covering his fear, indirectly explaining why softness is dangerous "in real life". Later on in life, by internalizing father's voice, Andy feels weak and not good enough, he is hard on himself and develops depressions. He cuts himself from life and doesn't use his talents, as they were never valued in his family.
INNER CRITIC vs. SELF-LOVE
Why is the inner critic not really making us a better and happier person? There are many reasons.
- Inner critic is causing the inner split. We are divided into the critic and the self, that is being criticized. We identify more with one or with another, depending on a situation. We might trust the critic more, but inside we feel like loosers, the critisized self, that is never good enough. Person with such an inner sepparation can never find inner peace, because it does not feel whole and because one of the parts is always unhappy.
- It is not possible to reach that "perfect self" that is projected into the future. First of all, perfection does not exist. On the other side, even if we would reach that perfect self, that would mean that the inner critic is not needed any more - it would mean its "death" - and this is not what the inner critic really wants. Inner critic is feeding itself by its functioning. So we must stay unhappy and imperfect, to enable its existence.
- Inner critic is very busy with what others are thinking about us. It wants to make us "successful" - but in terms of the outer world. It is not considered about our authentic inner truth. It wants us to be adjusted and accepted - by others. It keeps us small, vulnerable, dependent on outer circumstances. It talks to us as if we were still children, immature personalities. It keeps us childish towards others and does not allow us to have our own truth, strength and boundaries. This kind of attitude makes all kind of relationships very difficult, including the relationship to ourselves.
- To live an intimate relationship and true nearness of the heart with another person, we need to live our feelings, sensitivity, vulnerability, the unique magic of the soul. A self that does not feel authentic and lovable, can not openly show these qualities (or even never get to know them), as it is always afraid of being rejected or abandoned if he/she shows, how she/he really is.
There are many more reasons why the way of the innner critic can not work out well. Here is a review of some basic qualities, compared to the attitude of self-love, compassion and true acceptance of ourselves:
- based on fear
- causes inner split and separation, inner war
- causes low self-esteem, that stops us from inner growth
- is not interested in who we really are, but who/how we are supposed to be
- wants (unrealistic) perfection, it's never "good enough"
- focused on problems and lack
- subjective and humiliating
- sees things linear, either black or white
- causes harm and violence, inside and outside
- never trusts, is afraid of risks
- based on mind
- focused on past and future
- based on compassion
- causes inner wholeness and peace of heart and mind
- brings acceptance and trust, that empowers our inner growth
- is only interested in who we really are and what we really feel and want in life
- wants authenticity and (realisitc) "good enough"
- focused on resources
- objective and supportive
- sees things in all colors and dimensions
- brings self-regulation and peace, inside and outside
- has trust, supports us to try new things
- based on heart
- focused on now
TRANSFORMING THE INNER CRITIC INTO SELF-LOVE
As I described in my APPROACH, the way of inner transformation is the way of INCLUDING. In the process of transforming the inner critic, we first need to acknowlege it, see it for what it is, understand its purpose and accept its existence. When we embrace the inner critic and feel the truth behind, we can release the blocked feelings and fears connected to it. We can hold ourselves and our history in a field of compassion. When we understand the inner critic and offer the qualities it misses, it can start to transform.
The inner critic is actually a voice of a child that was/is afraid and that needs re-parenting from a wiser source in ourselves. When transformed, inner critic can become our ally. We can use its cautiousness and need for safety to see a situation more clearly. But its truth will be only one possible way and not the absolute truth. We learn to have more options and to make more mature choices. The overall steps in transforming the inner critic you can find in the Blog article "She gained her passion back", where I describe a case story on this subject.
While working on transforming the inner critic, we are at the same time strengthening a more loving authority: Self-Love. While the Super-Ego in a shape of the inner critic slowly melts, the growing presence of Self-Love is like a new "wiser and loving parent", that will take responsibility for our well-being. In the arms of loving awareness we can unfold our authentic, lovable Self, that wants to thrive and live freely.
Overall steps in the healing process
The transformation of the inner critic is possible. These could be the overall steps:
- Talking to the inner critic, to descover its nature. Here you can recognize how hard it is on you and what kind of beliefs it is based on. In this process the critic becomes visible as a separate entity (personified being outside of your body) and moves away from your core, so you don't feel completely identified with it any more.
- Allowing the feelings that you had felt as a child, facing the essential fear you were trying to escape. Allowing anger and grief. If it is too hard to face the feelings, you might need to do some resourcing first and find inner allies that support you on the way.
- Strengthening the vessel of Self-Love, that can comfort the inner child. Sitting in the space of compassion and love, holding parts of yourself that need to feel safe and seen for what they really are and what they really feel.
- Having Self-Love as your new positive parent, you can look at the inner critic with more distance and investigate its roots. While on one side you first felt the fear of your own inner child, now you might recognize your parent's fear, that created the critic. When you tell the inner critic that you hear and see its fear, you might notice, that it will start to change.
- Find out what was your real need as a child. Now you have a wider range of options (where before there was only black/white absolute "truth" of the inner critic).
- Make new decisions with a good feeling about yourself, having your inner allies and Self-Love as an everlasting resource on your side.
- Do the whole process again and again, whenever the inner critic appears. Re-parenting yourself is an exercise!