This is a good time to examine which irrational fears are being projected onto you and taken for your own when they actually belong to somebody else? Whose fears are they anyway? If you trace your steps back to when you first felt afraid or who communicated this messaging to you, it didn’t just get plucked out of your imagination – someone else in your life was using their power and influence to project imagined scenarios on you that limited what you were and did.
How do you know what an irrational fear is? It’s not logical or reasonable. Aside from the fact that you are your own person and so what does or doesn’t work for somebody else that’s based on their fears doesn’t mean the same for you, an irrational fear is based on imagined scenarios not reality, plus it’s based on a story that you may have been telling you without question.
As we talked about in the fear classes, if it was happening, it wouldn’t be a fear – it would be knowledge, which hopefully you’d be responding to so what you have to examine is what an inner critic has been preventing you from doing? If you’re not getting to live, if you’re not getting to grow out of the insights that you stand to gain from where things go as expected or not when you’re in the driving seat of your own life, who is getting a second run at life via you and taking over your controls?
Recognising that a lot of my inner critic is my mother / me repeating what my mother said or messaging that I taught myself in response to what she said or did, has taught me to have some compassion for both of us. As I’ve gotten older and gradually more secure, I realise how much fear comes out of her and I’m amazed that this person had so much power over me in real life and that even worse, I parroted her stuff to myself for much of my adult life.
I’ve learned to do something both in reality but also internally that’s incredibly beneficial: In much the same way that I’ve now learned to say thanks for your feedback (read: two cents, mouthing off etc) but I’m choosing to _________ or not even saying what I’m going to do but going ahead anyway, I do the same thing with my inner critic. What I won’t do is automatically comply.
I’ve mentioned this often over the years to readers, but around the time I started Baggage Reclaim, I caught myself in what had been a few hours of negativity rolling around my head and I was shocked! Is this what I listen to all flipping day without being aware of it? It’s like leaving on a radio for background music and not being aware of what you’re listening to but suddenly you hear something and it sparks an earworm or you sing along without realising that you know the words. That’s what living with your inner critic is like so you have to be careful of listening unconsciously or singing along.
When I had my first daughter, I remember lying in the bed still coming off the drugs as I held her in those first few hours and a horrible voice came into my head. It was as if it wanted to pee on my parade and ruin the most amazing experience. I hadn’t even thought I’d be able to have children at one point and here I was holding this thing that I’d created and this horrible, spiteful voice popped up. I let it slide a couple of times but I could feel myself becoming uneasy and even guilty and finally I stood up to it. I realise now looking back that if I’d judged myself for hearing what it had said or believed the voice and treated what it said as a fact, it would have been the beginning of a downward spiral and repeating the past. I held my baby tightly and I said no.
Over the years, I’ve remembered those moments and on a gut level, and it’s hard to pinpoint how or why I know this, but I suspect that something similar happened when I was born and that I possibly heard some of it too. Stories my mother has told about those first few weeks in particular as well as the impact on her bonding with me and our overall relationship, would corroborate what I know.
When you talk back to your inner critic, it lets it know who’s in charge. You can’t get rid of it but you can be more conscious of it and see it for the insecure, meddling, often sad busy-body that it is. It will stop by when you least expect it and you can give it a limited amount of airtime, thank it for coming by, and ask it to leave. What you don’t do is run around agreeing with it automatically or even consciously because you will silence your inner voice and shut down your needs, expectations, wants, feelings, and opinions.
Use your inner critic as a way of understanding the dynamics of your family or childhood so that you can see where you’ve taken on too much. Remember that inner critics don’t recognise and internalise your achievements and accomplishments hence you have to be conscious in noting the good in your life and what you do well. These become your rebuttals and your objections.
In much the same way that people share their opinions (and fears) on the way that we should live our lives, it’s important to remember that when they do this, it almost always isn’t about you; it’s about how they see themselves in those same circumstances and their fears about whether they could or couldn’t cope. Sometimes our parents and caregivers, in their desire to protect us or to scare us into not experiencing their lives, they go way too far to the other side and we become fearful people who treat people who activate our critic and in turn our pleaser, as if they’re infallible and that every word that comes out of their mouths is correct, when actually it’s not.
Much like your feelings, your inner critic may pipe up instinctively but you have to respond consciously so that you can moderate and regulate it. See your inner critic as separate, don’t treat it as if it’s factual and an authoritarian, and definitely don’t comply with negativity. Even if you decide not to do something that your inner critic has piped up about, make sure it’s for conscious positive reasons. Like any critic, pick out anything that’s useful or disregard it and choose your own way.