Do you have a Harsh Inner Critic?
Updated: Apr 8
My inner voice was critical, harsh, dripping with vitriol. I’d walk by a mirror and grimace. I’d poke disgustedly at my postpartum body spilling out of my ill fitting clothes. I would lay awake at night, anxiously listing all the ways I fell short that day. I’d make mistakes and call myself inept. I forgave others and called myself foolish. Someone I loved would struggle and I would immediately try to figure out how I screwed them up.
I had spent most of my life with this inner bully, and those neural pathways - the ones that made it oh so easy to criticize myself for everything - were deeply embedded. I put myself down for anything & everything.
I spoke to myself in ways I’d never imagine speaking aloud to others. I thought I was compartmentalizing it. Of course I’d never talk to my loved ones that way! But the truth is, my self talk impacted every single relationship I had. I was full of criticism and so every time life rattled me, it was criticism that spilled out of me and all over whoever was around me - usually my kids.
My inner critic also held me back from rising up in my life. I was so afraid. Afraid to rise up, afraid to try new things, afraid to set boundaries or do anything that seemed too good for someone like me.
Between failing relationships with the people I cherished most and self created obstacles in my business, I knew I needed to change. It was a shift for me to even recognize that I needed to change - I realized I had accepted my harsh inner critic, conflated her with my true self, and assumed I would live my whole life that way. And, most importantly, I had assumed she was correct in her harsh assessments and demands. It took time for me to even accept that my inner critic was harming me - I operated under the assumption that if I changed the things about me she would criticize, then I would be happy. If I lost weight, changed my face, became a Pinterest mom and a sexy but demure wife then I would be content. Right?
So the idea of loving and accepting myself NOW, instead of saving that for after I transformed, was extremely radical to me. I thought my inner critic was a sort of motivational coach. It took honestly reflecting on my life to recognize that she was a bully and an oppressor. The truth is, releasing my harsh inner critic has freed me up to do and create more goodness in my life than I ever did or could have while my inner critic ruled my days.
How does it happen?
Children internalize the voices of their caregivers and people in their lives. I have seen this to be true with my own children. So a possible source of the harsh inner critic are people in your childhood who, by virtue of their own wounding, spilled their hurt and pain in the form of criticizing you, of speaking to you harshly, of being triggered by your gifts and reacting. We can give grace for those who have deeply wounded us when we are ready, and in so doing, we give grace for the ways in which we have wounded others. Once we internalize that voice, then we subconsciously gather experiences that serve as evidence of whatever that voice is saying. So numerous experiences snowball and that inner critic can grow stronger.
Possible signs that point to an active inner critic:
Being overly concerned about what others think. It is human to care about others and about their opinions. But if what others will think drives our choices, it is likely that the inner critic is running the show.
Perfectionism. A need to make everything perfect may indicate that we don’t feel good enough as we are.
Jealousy. If that inner voice is constantly comparing you to everyone else, then those feelings of inadequacy and scarcity take over when someone else experiences the goodness we crave but fear we will never receive.
People pleasing/saying yes to everything.
Defensiveness and/or being easily offended. I was triggered every time anyone said anything remotely similar to what my harsh inner critic was already telling me.
Tips to help us change the inner voice:
Compare what the inner critic says to what you would like to say to dear loved ones. What would you say to someone you love and accept unconditionally if they expressed the same self critique or made the same mistake? Pause when you notice the inner critic and ask how you would feel saying this to your child or someone else you love.
Remember that everyone has flaws. As much as you feel like it’s only you, it’s not. I promise.
Consider your family of origin and what you saw modeled for you. Did you experience harsh criticism? Did you see others berate themselves?
Make cultivating self love and self compassion a high priority.
Journal and reframe the criticism.For example, if your constant criticism is about the size or shape of your body, journal what you appreciate about your body.
Notice if you criticize your struggle to resist criticism. A lifetime of that pattern means that you may shame even your efforts to break the pattern.
Notice when you criticize others and pause to reflect on what that means. Example - if you find yourself criticizing someone else's appearance, ask yourself what you feel about your appearance. If you impugn someone else's integrity, reflect on your own.
Affirmations and/or mediation, particularly combined with essential oils.** See examples below.
Essential oil rituals, such as applying oils over the heart, or on wrists, diffusing, and especially using them in conjunction with any of the tips above.
Essential oils to use for support:
Bergamot, oil of self acceptance:
Use for overall struggles with self acceptance, constant self judgement, feeling unlovable. Affirmation: I love and accept myself.
Patchouli, oil of physicality:
Use when judging body harshly, feeling disconnected from body.
Affirmation: I love my body. I am present.
Grapefruit, oil of honoring the body:
Use when struggling with body shame, obsession with food or dieting, eating issues.
Affirmation: I honor my body's intuition.
Cassia, oil of self assurance:
Use when in need of courage and confidence. Use when struggling with feeling shameful, foolish, embarrassed. Supportive for struggling with impostor syndrome.
Affirmation: I am confident and worthy.
Pink pepper - oil of intrinsic equality:
Use when struggling with comparison to others or with feelings of jealousy.
Affirmation: I am uniquely powerful.
Small practices - the little daily habits and rituals around body, mind & spirit, learning how to reparent ourselves with love and tenderness - this is what transforms. There is no magic bullet, no way to instantly flip the switch on negative self talk and keep it there. It boils down to little daily things - each one an incremental step closer to seeing yourself as the divine glorious being you are!
Comment here or message me with your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!
*As with everything I share, I am not an expert. I am simply a woman on her own healing journey sharing my ever deepening and expanding Truth.
**My suggestions and recommendations are based on doTERRA essential oils. Here's why.