“You can’t do that — you’re not good enough, smart enough, tall enough, pretty enough….” or “What do you mean you’re not signing your kids up for soccer, art appreciation and Conversational Mandarin? How are they going to keep up?” It’s back: the Inner Critic chatter with the power to turn even the most competent parent into a quivering mess.
The pain of Inner Critic chatter is common: writers dread “the Inner Editor” and folks in the recovery community speak of “the Addict in the Attic.” Regardless of our primary role on a given day, there’s some form of the relentlessly self-critical voice in our heads available to shake our confidence.
As parents we seem especially vulnerable to the part of the brain so good at fault-finding and the amplification of fear. It makes sense:
- all parents want what’s best for their kids: protecting them from harm is part of that
- having children seems to wake up (or intensify) the ability to perceive threat
- much of our power to perceive danger lives in the “old brain”
- primitive instincts don’t always mesh well with modern circumstance
It helps to recognize that critical inner voice as part the hard-wired early warning system we share with any species that has survived. That’s both good and bad news: it’s not going away but we can learn to manage it.[Tweet “Primitive instincts don’t always mesh well with our modern circumstances…”]
Next time your Inner Critic roars, stop and check in with yourself. What, specifically, is stressing you that moment? Then, give your Inner Critic its due. How might you be interpreting that stress as a threat to the survival of you or your loved ones?
Let’s return to the after-school example. Faced with a full schedule and a child is pining after lots of pricey options, you set a limit and choose one. Immediately “that voice” starts. You’re tempted to second guess.
Instead of questioning your worth, try asking yourself a question like this: have I internalized a message that Conversational Mandarin (or one of the other choices) is absolutely essential to earning a living in the future? Or that my child won’t have the same earning opportunities as other kids? Now translate that message for your primitive brain where “earning” equals “eating.”
Does your anxiety about the decision make a little more sense now? That primitive part of the brain has decided that this is a “life or death” decision. It probably isn’t… so you can thank your Inner Critic ….and move on to school supplies!
[Tweet “Thank your #InnerCritic and move on to buying school supplies!”]