Why getting rid of your inner critic isn’t working - 3 vital insights
Liberate yourself by working WITH this voice
Let's start with the bad news: getting rid of your inner critic is not really an option. There are no exercises or practices that will make this voice disappear. But wait, there is also good news! You can live a very pleasant and peaceful life WITH this voice inside your head. And although getting rid of your inner critic is not a possibility, detaching and liberating yourself from it certainly is. Here are 3 key insights, inspired by the Knight of Swords, that will help you do this.
Insight 1: You are not your inner critic
Very important. Super important. Incredibly important. This. Is. Not. You. You are not this voice. It’s a mechanism that is born out of the accumulation of your past experiences, the things you had to do or be (or specifically not do or be) in order to keep yourself safe, or receive (fragments of) love, appreciation and/or recognition. For example: ‘If I am nice, know how to adapt, and ignore my own needs (you know, if I’m a good girl/boy/kid), appreciation is on the table. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s there. Check. From now on, if I am not being ‘good’ (enough) or if I’m taking up (too much) space, I will intervene and bring myself back to safety.' And even the words this voice utters did not originate within you, you’ve picked them up from your environment. Think of a small child that suddenly starts shouting 'fuck' all day long. Of course that little one didn't just decide it has nothing more to say to their loved ones than ‘this all sucks & kiss my tiny bumbum’, they just heard someone else say it. Same for this voice.
So, in conclusion, your inner critic is a result of conditioning. In other words: NOT. YOUR. FAULT.
‘The existence of your inner critic is not your fault; but it is your responsibility to learn to work with it.’
Insight 2: Your inner critic means well
Very hard to see and even harder to believe, I know.
Somewhere, in the very beginning, this voice was created because you wanted the best for yourself - a good life, with as much warmth and security as possible. Even though, now, it often causes you to keep yourself small, to hold back from standing up for yourself, to constantly procrastinate because perfection is unattainable, your inner critic has the very best of intentions. And once upon a time, in those particular circumstances in which the voice originated, its mechanisms worked really well. So well, in fact, that you still carry them with you.
Can you try to show some compassion for the intention of your inner critic and how this part of you is - with its limited toolbox (read: judgment, disapproval and criticism) - trying to arrange a good life for you? You have your best interests at heart and you’ve simply learned that this is the way to get there. That is (very!) shitty, but not wrong, it's not bad. It's okay. It is.
Insight 3: You have no control over this voice
You now know that your inner critic is working properly and means well, but it is still bothering you, very much so. You may still feel quite powerless in the face of this internal voice, but you are not. Because, even though you have no say in when this voice gets triggered and what your critic is going to cry out this time, you do have the freedom to choose how to respond to it. That’s the only thing you have any control over; your reaction to your self-criticism. You don't have to fight it, you don't have to get angry with it (because then you often get angry with yourself - more about that in this blog post), you don't have to go agree with it, you don't have to believe the words that come out of its metaphorical mouth. You don't have to do anything with it at all.
Focus on the only thing you can control
So, the only thing you can really do is try to accept this voice. And choose again and again not to resent, reject or blame (this part of) yourself. No matter how loud the critic may shout. And no, this ain't easy. This requires a lot of courage and stamina. But you can do this. You can decide that as soon as you become aware of your self-judgment, you will no longer participate in it. In such a moment you might, for example, say to this voice: 'Thanks, but no thanks. I know that what you are saying is not true. I am not going to blame myself for what you are trying to make me believe. It's bad enough as it is, and I'm not going to make it any worse.’
Knight of Swords – Tarot of the Abyss
Getting rid of your inner critic isn’t the answer, collaborating with it is
The goal is to collaborate with your inner critic, like the Knight of Swords with her sword. Every moment is the best moment to (re)find that compassion within yourself. Even if you have been berating yourself for weeks (months, years), now is the time to stop making it worse than it already is. This voice does not have to quiet down, change or disappear – this sword belongs to you and your current experience. It's on you to keep reminding yourself that you are the one holding it, you are empowered to choose how to handle it, you can decide how you respond to your inner critic. Relief and softening are always just one decision away. It's all about this insight - which you now carry with you - and the choice, which you can make anew every single moment of every single day.
P.S. Looking for some support on this journey? This meditation for self-compassion may be exactly what you’re longing for.
Tags: mindset & identity, swords.
Wat een mooi en duidelijk artikel. Zelf hoor ik idd bijna de hele dag door mijn innerlijke criticus. Het probeert mij van alles wijs te maken. Vandaag met mijn therapeut de innerlijke criticus getekend en ene naam gegeven. Nu komt het aan op signaleren van deze stem en oefenen.
Bedankt voor je waardevolle reactie, lieve Mirthe! En wat ben je met een onwijs moedig proces bezig – dit gaat je echt heel veel opleveren. Bij het signaleren van de stem helpt het mij ook om de ‘catchphrases’ van de stem te verzamelen, zodat het herkennen van bepaalde woorden of een bepaalde toon steeds makkelijker wordt. Heel veel succes en vergeet niet de kleine stapjes te vieren!!