Your Horrible Inner Critic is not You
When your negative thoughts and your Horrible Inner Critic are strong, it’s easy to feel it’s at the very core of who you are. But the Horrible Inner Critic is not at your core. Your Horrible Inner Critic is not you.
Some of you might be saying ‘well of course it isn’t me,’ – others, where the negative voice dominates, might be thinking, ‘well, it’s feels like me,’ and, ‘if it isn’t me who the heck have I got in here?’
And then there’s another question that naturally follows: if your negative thoughts aren’t you, who or what is?
Philosophers, psychologists and religious scholars have spent thousands of years and millions of words trying to sort this one out. For the purposes of this article, here’s my two-penn’orth. It will only take a couple of minutes.
A Beautiful, Powerful ‘You’
Here we go – let’s begin with my favourite definition, borrowed from the wonderful Clare Walters:
You is what’s left without all the shit.
Because you know that when all your negative and unhelpful thoughts are absent, all the doubts, cares, jealousies and miscellaneous crap – when all that is taken away – then you get to the core you, and it’s powerful, able, generous and just plain beautiful. And it’s there inside every one of us.
Susan Jeffers calls this your Higher Self and describes it thus:
Inside you is a place filled with joy, creativity, intuition, peace, power, love and all good things. I call it the Higher Self. Whenever in this place, your confidence soars and all seems right with the world.
Susan Jeffers, The little book of confidence, pp 6-7
The prominent social psychologist Amy Cuddy (yes, she of the Ted Talk) uses the term Authentic Best Self, which I like a lot. (Presence, Amy Cuddy, p43).
What I love about this is that this best part of us reveals itself in our moments of positive action and thought and courage. We just know that this is the real us – our Authentic Best Self.
As Cuddy says: “we recognise it because it ‘feels right’.”
So: Core Self, Higher Self, Authentic Best Self, True Self; whichever name sits best with you, go for it. Know that within ‘you’ is this beautiful, powerful you – and one thing is for certain, this Core You is not your Horrible Inner Critic; it is not your negative thinking.
How Your Inner Critic and Negative Thoughts feel like ‘You’
When we feel swamped and overwhelmed by nagging doubt and negativity, it can be difficult to embrace the message that ‘you’ is a positive and powerful core. Instead it feels like all the negative thinking is actually you – and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Such a perception is understandable given what might well be your long-term experience. However, it is just a perception based on habitual negative thoughts that obscure everything else.
Here’s a visualisation that often helps.
Imagine a room. This room is beautifully furnished exactly to your taste in gorgeous complementary colours, with comfy sofas and armchairs, inspiring artwork and other objects that reflect the very best version of you.
Slap-bang centre of the room stands an ugly old wardrobe. As you walk in the room it’s the first thing you see. Wherever you are in the room that horrible looming lunk overshadows everything. It fills your awareness to the point that, when you think about the room all you’re really thinking of is that dreaded wardrobe. In fact it becomes ‘the room with the horrible wardrobe’, and you are unable to appreciate or enjoy the calm power of the all the beauty in the room.
This is one way of understanding how we can see one small part of us as if it is the main part – as if it is who we really are. When our negative thoughts are dominant it feels like we are naturally negative and doubtful – and always terrified of our next humiliating mistake. It feels like we are stuck with being ‘who we are’. But that’s just another of our Horrible Inner Critic’s lies.
Moving the Negative Thinking Out of the Way
So, back to the room.
Is there any reason why we can’t just shift that wardrobe out of the way? To a corner? Behind a screen? No – we can do that, and many of us do. But what if it feels too heavy to shift? What if seems bolted to the floor?
Then we employ tools to help. Tools that undo the bolts and wheel that heavy old lump to wherever we want it. Whether we are talking about a heavy old wardrobe or our horrible inner critic, we do have the tools to move it out of the way.
And some of those tools are focused on knowing that your Horrible Inner Critic is not you. And your negative thoughts are not you.
Knowing that there is a better part of you, knowing that your Authentic Best Self is present within you, helps you to nurture and grow it. Knowing that it’s there helps you to access it – to use its power, its hope and its positivity.
It allows you to make better choices, and to see other, brighter perspectives than the ones offered by your Horrible Inner Critic and your negative thoughts. For now, keep that in mind – get used to the idea that you have an Authentic Best Self. It is there within you and you know what? You wouldn’t be searching for solutions or reading this article if it wasn’t there.
In my next post I’ll introduce some tools and approaches to help you harness the strength of your wonderful, beautiful Authentic Best Self.
As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please do comment below.