When my inner critic takes over, it’s as if I don’t have any control over how I respond to the world around me. They’re in charge and I become sceptical of any interaction, and my own ability to handle the situation I’m in. Now, I’m not talking about simply hearing them and their frustrating language that can take me off track. I’m speaking of complete loss of logic and my ability to step back and evaluate what is taking place. This is an incredibly rare occurrence now, but I remember a time when it happened regularly. Usually triggered by a poor experience during a particular point of my mood disorder cycle.
When I was in this space, I felt completely out of control and incredibly alone. I was sceptical of anyone who tried to support me and I struggled to believe that anything could help or make the situation better. I became stuck as every idea presented to me was automatically and instantly pooh-poohed by my inner critic, before I could even comprehend it as a possibility. This was incredibly at odds with how I behaved “normally”.
As time progressed, I’d lose confidence. For anyone who has come to know me over the last few years, this will seem like a lie. However, when my inner critic was in control, I constantly sought reassurance from those around me. Even for the simple tasks I was more than capable of handling. I needed people to check my emails, to back me up in meetings, and to confirm that my plan of action was sensible. I struggled to trust myself, and needed other people to believe in me.
Writing about this now takes me right back to when I was bullied at work. It happened over a period of 8 months. My manager undermined any work I produced and controlled what I could and couldn’t do. As a complete kick in the teeth, when he eventually left, I discovered that he’d taken credit for my work. The crazy thing is, if he’d handled it better, I wouldn’t have noticed. Instead, he’d managed to trigger my inner critic, spiralling me out of control.
As I continue to reflect on this, I can’t help but think that my inner critic only took over when I couldn’t manage the situation myself. It helped me to create a coping mechanism that in turn allowed me to seek support to manage my core activity and to do what was necessary. It allowed me to focus on what I could handle without becoming caught-up in the overall situation. Surprisingly smart really. It didn’t resolve the issues, but it did allow me to keep going.
With what I know now, it’s highly unlikely I would get stuck like this again. Predominately due to the fact that I now pay attention to my inner critic, listening to what they have to say and responding thoughtfully. I also have an incredibly supportive network around me, and I know they’d speak up if my behaviours changed so much.
If you notice yourself experiencing anything I’ve described and you can’t see a way out, please talk to someone. Seek help, especially when you notice this isn’t your “normal” self.