My inner critic


critical voice
credit: johnhain

The ‘inner critic’. I’d heard about it a lot, and read about it in articles on the internet, as well as in books like Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art. For a long time I have been aware of my lack of self-belief and my self-doubt, and just thought that this must be how it is for all of us.

As it turns out, my inner critic casts a stronger shadow than I was aware of. My therapist, who I’ve now had 8 sessions with (at time of writing), is an integrative psychotherapist who likes to use art and creativity in her practice. Her room is warm, bright and accommodating, and scattered around the place are all sorts of weird and wonderful objects, from cuddly animals through to pine cones, lego figures and different coloured feathers and shells.

In one of my first sessions with her, I was asked to pick out an object that best represented this critical voice of mine. I chose this cute little monkey with a kinda sad/awkward/uncertain expression on its face.

At the start of each session, there he is in that same spot on the sofa, looking my way. Sometimes, I forget he’s there.

She then asks me questions like “What does this (the critical voice) sound like?” I’ll be honest, it doesn’t even appear to have a distinct voice, as such. It seems to be just ‘my’ voice, and that’s even if you can even describe it was a voice. It’s just in my head, merged with my thoughts.

Apparently, over time, such negative chatter can become more entrenched, and I expect that this is what must have happened. That’s my guess, anyhow.

Now this voice means well, it worries about me and it cares about me, but it doesn’t always act in my best interests. It can be stifling, overwhelming, overbearing, causing me to question e-ver-y-thing.

Am I doing the right thing here? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Will this just be another thing I start and don’t complete? Am I capable of this? Do I deserve to be happy? That last one is especially potent, and I find it can slowly creep up on me as this intrusive, paranoid though that emerges and sees me question whether I am a good, decent human being who deserves happiness, a life that I enjoy, and things to just “work out”. This can sometimes happen after I’ve had a good day or something good in my life has happened, as if it’s attempting to counteract and sabotage this – and a sense of “Is this good experience I’m having too good to be true?” can arise?

For example, the whole ‘work’ situation feels like it’s weighed on me for a significant portion of my adult life; when I was choosing a course for university, when I then picked another…only to dropout. And then re-apply, and drop-out again. And then falling into a job, and then 5 years later going back to study, and then trying my own thing, and then taking a year out, and now attempting to get into book publishing after a lot of considered thought and reflection.

Starting over, again. It feels like this pattern of constant worry/anxiety, jumping into something – and then failing or it otherwise not working out. Rinse, repeat. My 5-year sales career (can you even call it that?) was the closest I’ve had to any consistency when it comes to work, even though I knew from the outset that that wouldn’t be “it”.

On some level, I am afraid that I won’t ever find something I am truly content in. That I’ll continue to be pained by this constant state of fear, and doubt, and yearning for more.

I am already aware that I am a people-pleaser, and that I care about how others perceive. That said – I have come in leaps and bounds in this area of my life of late #proudofme. I’ve left social media several times due to it becoming all-consuming, overwhelming, and even feeling paranoid that people I know are watching my every move and seeing me fail out in the open. That I left my job and have since crashed and burned. That I’m almost 29, living at home, and feel like an irresponsible adult who sometimes can’t look after himself properly and has a lot of growing up to do.

There it is again, loud and clear. That critical voice. It’s amazing how, a lot of the time, I don’t even realise that he’s there, the b*stard. Unaware of what he’s even saying and the impact he’s having on me. Like I said before, it doesn’t feel like a voice, rather just my thoughts.

By getting to know him better, by facing him head-on, and talking and writing about him, I hope to recognise him even more and – in the process – reduce the hold he has over me. I acknowledge that he is there, but realise how much him to take at face value.

After all, I am not my critical voice, just like I am not my thoughts. He does not control me. Not if I don’t let him. And, with time, my own voice will be heard above his. And that will be the very opposite of critical. It will be loving, and kind, and compassionate, and resolute.

And courageous.

✏ Written: Wednesday, 7th March 2018 @ 1.24pm

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What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
Do you have a critical voice, or an ‘inner critic’? Does it sound like a voice, or something else? What impact does he/she/it have on you? It’s always so lovely to hear your perspectives 💙

16 thoughts on “My inner critic

    1. Yeah – I don’t think I’ve ever come across an INFP-A! I find it so strange that we are so emotive/intuitive/in touch with emotions… and yet our head also gets in the way majorly!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. For males, it’s easier to predict because if the society’s expectations to be unemotional (T type) and quick to decision (J type). For females… No idea. I’d say it’s the perfectionist thingy. Yeah our head do gets into the way, and I’m trying to find a balance between appreciating and dismissing the self critic. It seems to me that Western society have emphasize so much on confidence that sometimes it’s not even real

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Not criticizing or anything, but I find it interesting that your tagline starts with “just a … dude…” And that hit me. I would say something like that when I’m introducing myself. It really shows the turbulent attribute

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh, really? Someone recently told me that I like categorizing myself a lot… lol (my “about” section reflects this!). It’s like I’m always trying to crave certainty/self-understanding by putting myself in boxes.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I imagine for a more assertive person, they would emphasize what they’re most proud of and show how they’re special. “Just a…” gives off a sense of normality and perhaps humbleness (which is great!). To tie into that, I do find myself wanting to somehow be categorized and seen as ordinary and fitting. We love to be authentic and understand ourselves, and this society tells us that we are a rare kind, so we find joy in boxing ourselves into people that are like us

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Ah, I get you now, yeah that makes sense. Forever tryna be humble… and then getting annoyed at myself for downplaying myself too much and taking compliments badly lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. You too, man. I’ve met like 2 INFPs in my life (both in the last couple of weeks actually) – so it’s always nice when I do!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. This post makes me want to hug you.
    My inner-voice is a shithead too. It wasn’t always so, though. I’m no expert, but I’d like to think that perhaps our inner-voices are somewhat magnified by the messages the world gives us (i.e. because I’m still living at home at the ripe age of 29 — aka not meeting society’s standard of what an ADULT is…I ain’t shit). Or, maybe, messages closer to home. And, sometimes, even messages on social media, are pretty close to home, because we absorb them so often.
    After almost a year of living in a homeless shelter, every good thing that’s happened to me, I’ve questioned. I want to believe that God hears me, or the universe knows what it’s doing. That same voice will tell me the exact same thing: Do I deserve this? Do I deserve happiness, healing, stability, a chance at a life I actually want to live? And, that voice will tell me no. But, I don;t think that inner-voice is me. I think it’s these messages I’ve absorbed about what it means to be homeless, less than human blah blah etc.
    Your inner-voice should tell you that every experience (good or bad), every pit stop, every side quest, every project you dabble in (and don’t finish) — you LEARN from it. It leads you to where you’re going.
    Keep going. *hugs*

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aw, thank you so much for reading and sharing… and for the hug! We’re so hard on ourselves, aren’t we? And I think the messages we constantly received only add to that hard time we give ourselves. “But, I don;t think that inner-voice is me. I think it’s these messages I’ve absorbed about what it means to be homeless, less than human blah blah etc.” – it’s great that you have acknowledged that *you* are NOT your inner voice. Just like we are not our thoughts. Sending hugs back 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay, this post really got to me not just because of the inner critic which, yes, many of us are subject to, more so perhaps creative people like writers and artists who have to lay themselves bare so too speak. As an INFJ I know all about perfectionism too. But its the chequered career attempts which I really relate to and they in themselves can be a harping on voice coming from a place of comparing oneself to others, whose paths have been smooth and they seem so ‘together’ about everything, and they’ve done so ‘well’. I have a very similar past to you. Picked the wrong direction to go in for a degree when I was 18, dropped out after a year, hard to get any job at all. In the end after meeting my partner and moving away from home (which saved me), I found a ‘career’ – guess what – in sales!

    Here you say:

    ‘My 5-year sales career (can you even call it that?) was the closest I’ve had to any consistency when it comes to work, even though I knew from the outset that that wouldn’t be “it”’

    That’s pretty much me. I was a shop assistant in a department store (have to say it was soft furnishing, so that I can also say, i’m using the experience in my second novel) and I was desperate to prove to myself I could hold down a job. I lasted over 6 years (my target was 7) then moved on to another similar job. At last i found art, and became an artist, did a degree in the humanties with the open university, then moved on to writing. A very wiggly road to get to what i feel I should have chosen in the first place, but that’s the benefit of hindsight as they say.

    So keep going and maybe turn that inner critic (which is weirdly coming from a place of trying to protect you and keeping you safe – I know it takes something to get your head around) into more of a friend, not an enemy – to work for you in keeping you on track of doing what you find meaningful, what tunes in to your values. And to bear in mind that a good deal of this critical stuff also comes from comparing our own roads with others, its forced on us nearly all the time to do this comparing and is so destructive. It’s YOUR life, after all, YOUR journey, not theirs and you may end up in a far happier place because you’ve dug under the surface of yourself and truly know yourself, while many people just don’t have this self-knowledge. That’s where the learning pays off. Soul and Scribble is spot on – every experience leads to where you are going. Wishing you all the very best!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah thanks so much for reading and sharing this Lynne. I’m glad this resonated with you – such similarities! There’s a lot of wsidom in your words are feel… that our critical voice *is* actually just trying to keep us safe and means well, and comparison/expectations (I think they’re linked) are a big factor. I feel like I’m gathering more info + knowledge + awareness all of the time, so with any luck this’ll turn into something nice 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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