If you’ve studied psychology then you will recognise what we call the Inner Critic as Freud’s superego, part of his Structural Model of the psyche. For the rest of us who haven’t – you are more likely to
Recognise the Inner Critic as the internal voice which pulls you back just as you were about to hand in your notice to go travelling, puts the gorgeous, but daring, red dress back on the rail and/or keeps you awake in the wee small hours going over the toe curling conversation you had yesterday.
Good news is we all have an Inner Critic! (Or rather those of us not serving custodial sentences do)!
The bad news is if you are reading this, then yours is probably a tad over active in the “keeping you safe” stakes, which bless its little cotton socks, is all the Inner Critic is actually trying to do.
The Inner Critic develops in childhood according to the social environment you grew up in, which is why when you listen hard to your internal voice it often sounds like a scolding parent and loves using some of Mum and/or Dad’s favourite lines – “Well -don’t you think …..” is the signature opener when mine kicks off!
All of this internalised socialising was great news at school, keeping you out of the Head Master’s study and on track to A* GCSEs. Trouble is whatever kept you safe at age 8, is in all probability a bit out of place now you are just that little bit older!
Why do you need to meet your Inner Critic?
Whenever we start to engage in any Personal Development work with a view to making some changes in our lives, within a very short time our Inner Critic is going to get pretty agitated.
The Inner Critic knows only one way – “do what you have always done and that will keep you where you have always been” – its mantra being “I’ve kept you alive so far so hey we must have got this life stuff pretty much figured out!”
Well yes you have, but
if you are going to start to live the life you want to live, rather than the one your socialised “Inner Critic” thinks you SHOULD then we are going to have to re-educate the Inner Critic!
And there it is – the clue! As soon as you inner dialogue starts to include lots of “shoulds and shouldn’ts – must and mustn’ts” then you know your Critic is at work.
Now I am not advocating that you start doing the opposite of what your Critic thinks is good and proper, rampaging around the high street and stealing iPads is not a great idea.
But starting instead to engage your Inner Observer the part of you that has been reading this and saying – oh yes, I have one of those alright!
And it is oh so easy at this point to start making your poor old, well intentioned Inner Critic wrong, and actually tying yourself in knots with your Inner Critic telling you off for having an Inner Critic!
In Coaching our actual starting point is just to go a bit slower so you can start to become more familiar with this internal voice and all the rules it has made up for how you should live your life.
What is your Critic saying? When does it get active? What works for you to quieten it down?
To start you off meeting your Inner Critic, I suggest you keep a journal to record all the things your Inner Critic thinks are essential rules for life – start each phrase with a “should, shouldn’t, must or mustn’t”.
Jot down things as they come to you over the next few weeks and then see what you discover.
And remember the Inner Critic is on your side so don’t make it the bad guy.
By meeting, recognising and honouring what the Inner Critic wants for you without judgement, you can gradually loosen it’s grip to let you move forward.