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Confronting the inner critic (essay)

Author’s note: Confronting the inner critic is about me taking a hard look at my own thoughts and feelings to confront the inner voice that made made me feel small in so many ways for so many years. It’s a reflection of my self-discovery, of the self-conversations that helped me see and understand it, to separate it from who I am and who I want to be. By personifying it and describing what it did to me, I was able to separate myself from it, challenge it, and take back control of my own mind, to establish a sense of confidence and self-identity. To know that I am not what the inner critic tells me, I am who I choose to be.

The thing about the inner critic, that self-sabotaging, mental hostage taking, reality distorting, judgmental passenger that you’ve learned to coexist with, is that it is a wholly internalized record of external messages. Woven into the foundations of your mind, it is a raw echo of your most impressionable childhood moments. 

An intangible presence that serves to regurgitate the limits you experienced on your expression in your early years in order for you to be allowed a sense of enoughness in your environment. Limits that if crossed, subjected you to feelings of insecurity and insufficiency, urging you to succumb to external expectations in order to maintain a feeling of belonging. Over time, all the spoken and unspoken rules became permanent fixtures in your mind. They discouraged your authentic expression, weakening your self-sufficiency, and instead heightening your dependence on others’ approval to feel emotionally fulfilled. Giving rise to the inner critic. 

The critic manipulates you.

It pressures you into thinking that your value is based on what you have, what you’ve done, what you’ve won, what you know, how you look or who you’re with. So that you’re constantly performing for others or competing with others and never focused on you, how you feel or what is right for you. The inner critic uses blame, shame, fear and guilt to normalize self-neglect, self-hate and self-rejection. Driving you to apologize for being yourself, to set aside the things that make you feel good, to second guess what you’re capable of and choose yourself last.

The inner critic thrives on suppression. 

Dictating the imaginary rules you must follow for others to grant you emotional safety, to be seen and heard by others, to be accepted and feel like you belong, to receive physical or verbal affection and be worthy of support. It takes your autonomy away and creates a sense of expression that hinges on others’ permission. So that your fulfillment in life hinges on others liking how you exist and not on you liking yourself. 

It invariably tells you that who you are, what you want, what you see, what you think, what you feel, is not ok. Not because you or how you want to express in any sense is actually wrong. But so that you too can continue to preserve the oppressive ideas of “wrong” that bind others to a muted existence. To judge others the way others have judged you. To see “wrongs” in others the way you’ve been taught to see them in yourself. It is a perpetual legacy passed on to you of how others before you have been limited. Of how those around you continue to limit themselves. Of how they seek for you to fit in with them by imposing those limits on you. And how they depend on you to self-impose the same sense of “wrongness” on yourself. 

The inner critic is a psychological bully. 

An internalized control mechanism that keeps you from practicing what feels right for you for the sake of what feels right for others. It’s a reiteration of all the ways you’ve been taught to fear genuinely expressing yourself. Those fears are rooted in misassociations. That is, you experience fear because of information that became improperly associated with your sense of acceptance and validation. Misassociations that when triggered by your environment today get slingshot into your awareness. Causing you to experience varying degrees of unpleasant feelings, thoughts, etc. every time you seek to organically express in a way that doesn’t conform with the limits placed on you in your early years. 

The inner critic polices you, inciting fear to dampen an organic moment of self-expression. It seeks to dissuade you from being, doing or saying what you were intending. It works to dim the freedom that comes with creating a mental space that’s right for you, by relentlessly stoking your sense of worry of being wrong for doing so.

The inner critic is like a series of pop-up ads that relentlessly nag their way to your awareness. 

It is a behemoth that will not easily subside and submit to being ignored. Set off by moments of emotional need, it exploits your insecurities. Hurling to your attention experiences that made you feel bad about you. Using difficult moments, memories, thoughts and feelings from your past, it convinces you that the only way to stop yourself from feeling that way again is not to be yourself. 

It distracts you from living in the present by keeping you cycling through all the things you didn’t or couldn’t do. So hypnotized by the shoulda, coulda, woulda, that you’re frozen in time, losing sight of who you can be today. It gnaws and weakens your sense of self-worth so that you never feel fully emotionally safe with yourself. So that sitting in silence with yourself is unbearable. So that you do not know that you are valid regardless of what others think is valid for you. To keep you from grasping that all you need is to see and accept yourself. 

The inner critic is almost indiscernible from your sense of self.

Its effectiveness is in large part due to the fact that it slowly began infiltrating your mind long ago. Gradually infecting you without your understanding of it. Like a disease that progresses undetected. It infested the deep layers of your mind space, so that today you never even question its origin. Now it occupies your mind convincingly pretending to be yours so that you rely on it in even the most vulnerable of times. 

When it emerges, you believe most of the insidious lies it sends your way. You often willingly succumb to its tainted perception of the world, because now you repeat to yourself the misguided justification dealt to you early on, “This is what’s best for you.” And so you welcome the false narratives it offers you. Even when it leads you to assume things that aren’t true, to misinterpret significant moments, influence life-changing decisions, sabotage your relationships with others, obstruct the opportunities that come your way and warp your self-view.

But the inner critic, it is not yours. 

It is a mental process. A consequence of misplaced expectations and unhealthy messaging absorbed from your early surroundings. You experience it, you hold it, you hear it, you feel it, but you did not create it. You never chose it. It was unknowingly ingrained in you. It is never an accurate reflection of your worth and always grossly underestimates your capacity and value. The inner critic has nothing to do with you, only with the outdated information your mind received about how to keep you emotionally surviving.  

The critic only matters to the extent that you continue to believe it.

To assume that its distortions are true and that you can’t do anything about it. It is a hollow presence that cannot withstand your challenging it. It does not think for itself. Its only power is the consistency and persistence with which it vomits the same messages over and over, relying on you to believe it. But when you understand it, it unravels. When you challenge it, it cannot stand. It is not you, but to defeat it, you much choose to see yourself. To engage your own mind in a way you were never taught. To gain back the control that the critic forces you cede to others and anchor your sense of expression back onto yourself. 



I am not a medical or mental health professional. The information on jaestruthserum.com is not professional advice. It does not take into account your personal circumstances, physical wellbeing, mental health status, or mental health requirements.

Do not use this information to treat or diagnose yourself or another person’s medical or mental health condition and never ignore professional advice or delay seeking it because of something on jaestruthserum.com. Any medical or mental health questions should be referred to a qualified professional. If in doubt, please always seek professional advice.




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