Recently, I’ve been speaking to people about their inner critics and each one is unique. Just like the person I’m conversing with. But what is an inner critic? I like to describe them as an internal feeling or voice that appears to criticise or judge your behaviour. They know exactly when to turn up to have the greatest impact. They’re persistent until they achieve their aims. They rarely seem to have anything pleasant or encouraging to say, unless they’re being sarcastic.
I came across a short blog by Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss describing “The Seven Types of Inner Critics”. This is incredibly helpful in developing a better understanding of what inner critics are trying to do. Just remember that yours may be made up of a combination of these types. I’ve noticed that many inner critics seem to target the elements of our lives that mean the most to us. The ones we’re most concerned by or are most passionate about. Yet, they don’t all show up in the same way. That would be far too straight-forward. In fact, some change tactics to make sure their message is received.
Mine whispers quietly to me and if I don’t hear him, he gets louder and more personal with his attack. I’ve heard of others that simply linger in the background muttering away but never making any real sense, until they have the individual’s full attention, and then they scream. I even know of one that pokes the individual in the arm, so they’re aware of the inner critic’s presence.
More importantly, I’ve learnt that, more often than not, the inner critic will say one thing, but mean something completely different. We often respond to the message we hear, rather than looking for a hidden meaning. And why would we look any deeper? Especially when we’ve regularly been told to ignore this voice?
Well, I believe our inner critic was created in our childhood, and therefore only has the tools and attributes of a child. So, if we’re behaving in a way that isn’t right for us, they can only communicate as a child would to get us to change. Leading to potential miscommunications. Seriously, try understanding any child who’s desperately wanting to communicate something to you. Their emotion and skillset garbles their message. Although entertaining, especially when they’re excited, we really can’t understand them or respond in a way they want.
Now, it’s not easy to listen to our inner critics, particularly when they’re being nasty to us. However, noticing them and paying attention to their approach, will start to create an acceptance of their presence. This in turn will create space to listen to them when they show up. This is the first step in connecting with our inner critics and understanding their hidden messages, so we can respond in the best way for ourselves.