Working with singers and clients and doing my own inner work, I realised how much of the time we are being ruled by our own inner critic. That harsh voice that tells us we’ re not good enough, going about things the wrong way and should work harder to get where we want to go. Dick Schwarz, founder of the IFS (internal family systems) says it very accurately: we either depend on our inner critic (if I don’t do this…then….) or we hate the way this voice is demeaning us, putting us down (I am such a looser, I am never going to get this right) As a result we might try to fight the inner critic in an attempt to silence its voice for ever. Did you ever succeed in doing so? I certainly didn’t! And it took me a while to find out why my strategy wasn’t working.
First of all it’s important to understand the role of an inner critic. Yes, I say the word ‘an’, because we can have more than one critical voice inside us. They come in all shapes and sizes : take for instance the perfectionist who says: “you cannot possibly be done yet, it’s not good enough”. Or the taskmaster: “go on, push harder, keep going, otherwise people will think you’re lazy.” Or my favourite, the underminer: “don’t write that article, you absolutely don’t know enough about this topic!” It wants you to stay small and unnoticed, because it is afraid that if you get too accomplished or recognized in your area of expertise, you may get criticized for it.
There are actually 7 types of inner critic . The other four are: the controller, the guilt tripper, the conformist and the destroyer. It wasn’t till I found out that the inner critic is not there to break us down, but actually has the intend to save us from more harm, that I became more curious about him or her. The inner critic is actually trying to protect the vulnerable child parts within us. See it as one of those Russian Matryoshka’s: in every doll, there is a smaller doll, a younger part, that once needed protection. And it often wasn’t there back in the days. We were left alone, unseen maybe or didn’t feel the space to ask for help. Our caregivers were busy, partly absent or even mean to us. So we invented new parts, critical parts, that try to protect us from the same future harm.
The inner critical parts have forgotten one crucial thing though: as adult we are no longer helpless! We will survive if we make a mistake or if we get criticised for not having done a perfect job. Our lives no longer depend on it. (Why do I feel like putting Gloria Gaynor on now ;-)?) So, why should we stop fighting the inner critic? Actually when we try to fight it, we are in constant war with ourselves and you can image that taking a up a lot of energy. Being in a fight/flight mode is meant for a short period of time, to either fight the danger or run as fast as you can. But if there’s an ongoing internal fight going on, for years maybe, it will exhaust you. And things won’t get solved.
A far better strategy is, approaching the critical voices inside you with curiosity, mindfulness and even compassion. Once you understand they are protecting the small child you once were, it may be a little easier to understand and befriend them. And when you come from a place of curiosity and calmness it becomes easier to observe those thoughts and not necessarily believe them. Did you know you can actually have talks with your internal critical parts? I found out that one of my critical parts would much rather do something else with his energy. I asked him what that would be. Guess what the answer was? Writing 🙂
– Boek ‘No bad parts’ – Richard Schwarz (NL:’ Alle delen welkom’)
– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUKMNgJB_kw (talk Esther Perel & Richard Schwarz)
– https://personal-growth-programs.com/the-underminer-inner-critic-and-inner-champion/(br> – Sessions with Mariëlle Maaskant, trauma coach in SE and IFS