We all have inner critics: a voice in our heads that always judges us, telling us what wrongs we have done and how we can never be good again.
This voice is different from our conscience which is our moral sense of right and wrong. While our conscience seeks to set us aright by helping us make right decisions, the inner critic is a false conscience that condemns us.
This difference (between the conscience and inner critic) can be seen when we do right things: the conscience commends us and gives us a feeling of satisfaction while the inner critic tells us we haven’t done enough, we are pretending, or it was only a coincidence and we will still fall back to our bad selves.
The conscience says ‘this is wrong’, the inner critic says ‘you are wrong’.
Why Do We Have Inner Critic?
It must be noted, however, that everything within us works for us, or was made to work for us. As evil as your inner critic seems, it exists for you.
The functioning of the inner critic is the same functioning that helps us in critical thinking. So the inner critic is a tool and just like every tool, it can be used either positively or negatively.
The knife is a tool; it can help you cut and it can cut you. It’s a matter of use.
Understand Your Inner Critic
You must note that your inner critic is not ‘another you’ trying to condemn you. You are just you and nobody else. Your inner critic is therefore “you” judging yourself. This might sound hard on you, but it is true.
You should be brave enough and rise to this awareness that your inner critic is only a tool you possess and you are the one using it against yourself.
Come to a conscious and deliberate plane in yourself and stop seeing yourself as being exerted upon by something you cannot control. Your inner critic, just like many other psychological functionings within you, seems uncontrollable, but you can actually control everything within you.
They are your workers, they work for you, and just like robots, they keep on doing what they have been told to do even if you don’t like it. But you can, however, consciously give them a new task (this time an empowering one) and they will be as committed to doing it as they were to the former destructive task.
How Does the Inner Critic Work?
The inner critic develops from our childhood when we receive criticisms and reprimands for certain things. We then begin to form a knowledge of good and bad, right and wrong; and in a bid to protect us from the judgements and criticisms of others or even from others hating us, our inner critics become judges.
It’s like “judge yourself so you won’t be judged”. This is supposed to be a good idea, but the inner critic becomes so good at, and used to judging us that it brings us to the conclusion that we have a bad self or are weak.
So even when we’re trying to do something good or brave, the inner critic reminds us that we are not good and the good we’re doing is for a bad motive. It reminds us that our bravery will only bring us to shame since we’re weak.
Now, if the inner critic was only telling us that we are bad, that’s enough harm; but it tells us we can’t be good, and that’s destructive.
Notice that the inner critic is still trying to protect us or keep us in safety, but it does it by criticism, not caution. The more external criticisms we receive, the stronger our inner critics get at condemning us because it gets more confirmations for what it has always wanted is to believe— we are not good.
How To Make Your Inner Critic Work For You
The process of getting your inner critic to perform productive tasks can be summarized in one word: re-education. You will have to re-educate your inner critic (yourself, rather) that you don’t have a bad self.
Remember that the inner critic is the same function needed for critical thinking, so you can use it to criticize the criticism it brings.
Carefully examine the conclusion that the critic is making just like you would deeply examine a bad story told about your trusted friend. When you do this you will discover that the conclusion of your inner critic is wrong.
The more you ignore your inner critic, the stronger it gets. So you must challenge it. Convince your inner critic of who you really are. Tell it you don’t need all the protections it is trying to give. Rise in bravery against this enemy.
You may have to get proof to convince yourself that you don’t have a bad self and are not weak. You may have to write down affirmations and speak to yourself daily.
The same way the negative inner critic developed through the negative impulses you received from the environment, you can build a positive inner support through sending in positive impulses.
And like we said earlier, like a robot, your inner critic will get really active in providing support for you. It will become your inner praiser.
This will surely take some time, but it will work. You will get to a point where the voice no longer demeans you but provides a check for you not to fail.
You don’t have to be held down by your inner critic. You can rise above the lies it brings and work into freedom. By challenging the conversation your inner critic is bringing to you and affirming who you really are to yourself, you can make your inner critic become your inner praiser and thereby, pushing you to greatness.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.