Aug 132014



Spinosaurus - 04

Spinosaurus – 04 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


“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!”]



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 Inner Critic Chatter  August 13, 2014  Posted by at 5:53 am

  12 Responses to “Inner Critic Chatter”

  1. As the watcher of my thoughts, I have learned to ignore that “inner critic” and let it’s opinion float right on by. There was a time that I “thought” I knew best, but when I come from a place of love and compassion, I listen differently. Oh, those whispers still come.. though much less often, and i now see them as a test… and to pass it, I choose not to engage.

    Thanks for another great post, Andrea!

    • Thanks, Shelley. Learning to apply that love and compassion to ourselves — even “parts” of ourselves — can be one heck of a learning curve, no?

  2. Hi Andrea,

    I think there are a bunch of different techniques out there to help manage the Inner Critic, because she ain’t going anywhere any time soon. What works best for me is to acknowledge my Inner Critic who most of the time appears as a fretful sometimes whiny 6 year old. For me, I realized she wanted to be heard so I learned to listen without judgment or attachment. I’ve discovered that Miss Cranky Puss is a one line argument and rarely backs up her “warning Will Robinson” with anything factual. So I’ll let her know it’s only a draft or ask her what’s the worse thing that can happen if I do X or don’t do Y and that usually stumps her.


    • I agree with you on several fronts — there are lots of techniques and we need to explore a variety of ways to manage the “Bad Neighborhood in my Brain.” And, as when you ask her “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” many of the techniques work — WHEN we remember to use them. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Peggy, this is so important to teach our children to have self respect, and part of that is to not listen to that inner critic. I often say that if we had a friend who said the things to us that we think, we would no longer be their friend. Speak and think LOVE to ourselves and others!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Deanna. Amazing the things we’re willing to hear from “within” that we wouldn’t tolerate from another.

  4. I used to have an inner critic or how I called it “harsh, unkind , inner voice that does not nurture but destroys” Once I discovered it and realized that I wanted a strong, kind, inner, nurturing voice” I made the decision to fire inner critic and to rewire my brain to receive strong nurturing. Every time inner critic or harsh, unkind, inner voice sneaked back in….I caught him out!!! And rephrased what he/she was saying. I imagined little Nadia and what she so wished for as a child. What was it that she woukd have loved to hear? – ” Nadia, it is okay to have strong feelings. It os okay to be angry.” Opposed to ” Suck it up girl. Really!? You wanna make a scene!”

    So inner critic no longer lives with me. He has been fired for good and replaced with strong, kind, nurturing, loving, inner voice.

  5. When my kids were young I wanted them to get a chance to try a lot of different things but quickly realized they didn’t have to do it all at once! We learned that it made us and them stressed out to worry about more than one activity at a time. I learned to follow their lead, push them to try new things when ready and feel free to let go of activities they stopped being interested in. At 15 and 12, my kids will be just fine, without having learned Mandarin, violin and trigonometry by now 🙂 Love this post and parenting taught me so much about making peace with my own inner critic as well as my super high need to achieve!

  6. I really have gotten better at releasing my inner critic and I encourage my kids to do the same. A common phrase in our house is, “Don’t put that energy out there!” 🙂

  7. I say kick the inner critic off the cliff! When we are ‘shoulding’ on ourselves and others with all kinds of inner negativity and nonsense our energy gets depleted. Embrace inner power, confidence, courage and love. When you do, you become a better parent, partner and friend.

    • ….or put it in a jail cell, send it for a long time out, or give it a bad case of stage fright! There are lots of techniques for getting it to be more cooperative.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. When my inner critic becomes too destructive, I tune it out and focus on the positives.

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