As I look back over my 20 years of practice, in the past I would see maybe one or two people a year who were dealing with acute anxiety and panic attacks. Currently I have three clients suffering with this. More than ever there is a need for inner peace as we navigate through challenges such as: uncertain economic times, aging parents, ourselves aging, relationship issues, etc. It is difficult if not impossible to have inner peace as long as our inner critic is screaming at us.
I have found that the ABC’s of Inffective Communication are: Accusation, Blame and Criticism. In a corresponding way, I feel that the ABC’s of Inffective Self Communication are: Self Accusation, Self Blame and Self Criticism. These are the tools of the inner critic at its worst.
Unless we are in a mode of self destruct, most of us want to remain in our integrity and play our parts effectively in life. At the same time, as we go through life we can adopt limiting beliefs and even self sabotaging programs. These can come through life experiences but they can also set in through messages received from parents, teachers, etc. Here are some examples. “You won’t amount to anything.” “Money is the root of all evil.” “There isn’t enough time in a day.” “True love is hard to find.” You get the picture. These external messages over time can get internalized and eventually they become the voice of the inner critic. For example, “You’re so stupid” can become, “I’m so stupid.” After all no one else on the planet has witnessed everything we have or haven’t done through life like we have. All of this data, left unchecked can be ammunition in the hands of our inner critic. If we are to move forward effectively, this is a leak that needs to be plugged.
Don’t get me wrong, we all need our inner critic. We all need to self reflect on our behaviors, our attitudes and our decisions. What I have grown to see however is that there is a healthy or green zone for the inner critic and there also is a toxic or red zone.
I recently was giving a presentation on the Inner Critic and one of the participants asked for clarification. He said. “In my business, if I find that my numbers are down, I tell myself that I need to focus on marketing.” I responded that this would be the inner critic in the healthy or green zone. I went on to illustrate what the inner critic would sound like in the toxic or red zone. In that mode the inner critic would be saying things like, “Your numbers are down; you are going to lose your business. You are lazy and are going to be on the street unless you gear up and do some marketing. I knew you would fail.” In the toxic or red zone, the inner critic is using fear and manipulation to motivate us. Not only is that ineffective but over time we can buy into those messages and do significant harm to our self confidence and our relationship with ourselves. Many of us are parents. We would never talk as harshly to our children as we talk to ourselves when we are in the red zone. We don’t want our children to feel badly about themselves. We can offer ourselves the same non toxic discipline that we offer to them.
Let’s consider the word “sin.” One of the roots of the word comes from archery and it simply means “missing the mark.” If I attempt to do something and I miss the mark, and my inner critic pounds me with toxic messages in the red zone, I wind up like Biff from the movie “Back to the Future” all covered in manure. In that state, it is difficult, if not impossible to hit the target on the next attempt. By staying in the green zone, we are setting ourselves up for success.
Early in my career, I was the Executive Director of a residential school for troubled teens. We had an expression there that has stuck with me, “You don’t beat a willing horse.” Chances are you want to play your part and do an excellent job. That being the case, you will respond much better to treating yourself with: unconditional self love, self respect, and positive reinforcement rather than self accusation, self blame and self criticism.
When you notice your inner critic pummeling you, know that this is an ineffective way of getting you to perform. Do what you can to shift the messages to the healthy or green zone. This helps change the inner critic into the inner co-worker.
Copyright © David Pasikov 2010