Understanding Your Inner Critic

“It’s difficult to see your thoughts when you are in your thoughts.”

 Yong Kang Chan

There are these thoughts that run through my mind all day long. Meditation has taught me how to clue into them and not pay them as much attention, but there is still a steady stream of chatter that happens in the background.

I didn’t think too much about it until I read something in an article that threw me for a loop and really made me think about what my inner critic was doing behind my consciousness and how it was shaping my perception.

I read an article on Madame Noire that talked about how toxic and neglectful parents can shape whether a child has a healthy sense of self and healthy relationships in the future.

The shocking part for me was to read:

” when children are raised with negative feedback, constant criticism and devaluation, they not only fail to develop a positive sense of self but learn to maintain the negative one. This process, known as low self esteem maintenance, occurs when an individual has a self view that is lesser than the one they believe the world has of them. Not only does this make negative feedback appear more credible, it makes positive feedback appear less applicable. And it’s not as if this innate need for the development of high self-esteem dissipates, it simply transforms.”

The part that threw me about this wasn’t the creation of low self-esteem, but the maintenance of the negative view of self.

I believed my inner critic was helping me to be better as a person and refining all the things about myself that I thought I needed to change. But, as I examined my inner critic through the filter of this new information that is not what my inner critic was doing.

My inner critic was overlooking all of the good, lovable, remarkable things about me which should make me feel good about who I am and who I have become in this world. Instead, it was searching for problems which would keep an image that there was something wrong with me that needed to be fixed.

My inner critic was maintaining my damaged self or creating more damage to prove to myself that I was damaged. A world where I am doing everything right and I am good enough to enjoy myself feels alien or indulgent. There has to be a low-level of self-doubt, suffering or painful self-reflection or I don’t feel quite right.

I had no awareness that I was invested in feeling bad about myself more than I was invested in feeling like everything is fine.

The craziest part is I have been working hard to achieve all of these things I wanted as markers of my triumph and the whole time I was also devaluing myself. It was an invisible tug of war and neither side was ever going to win against the other. But, now I see the madness.

“Truth is not something outside to be discovered, it is something inside to be realized.”

― Osho

So, what comes next? It’s time to sit down with my inner critic and redefine their job. The goal is no longer to keep me doubting myself. The focus now is to find all the areas where I’m not as great as I could be. The areas where I have been holding myself back because I have been focused on not being too good or too special. It’s time to let things be well. And, it’s time to believe I deserve all the good that has been trying to come to me as well as let go of all the ways I have been punishing myself.

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