All of us are familiar with the ‘Inner Critic’ who resides within our minds and interferes in possibly every decision we deliver. Sometimes we consider her/him as a friend as she/he allows us to improve and become a better version of ourselves. However, unfortunately, most of the time, the inner critic acts as our worst enemy. “Do not even try, you are not good enough… Look at yourself! It is a shame to have a body like this!” we usually ‘hear’ her/him saying. These are some examples – and probably the most subtle ones – of what is the nature of the inner critic.
Yet, people often forget about the inner critic’s essence and, therefore, tend to believe and accept everything that is being told instead of critically evaluating these messages. For this reason, I decided to increase my awareness regarding this issue through a mindfulness exercise, as suggested by Bays (2017). The latter implies that I should identify the inner critic’s voice among my thoughts and in the words of others. As for me, I tend to criticize myself a lot about my performance in college and my diet habits. I also observed that there are some words through which it is possible to identify the inner critic. For instance, they include such words and phrases as ‘should’, ‘should not’, ‘necessary’, ‘not healthy enough’, ‘you do not have enough willpower’ and ‘your work is not good’, to name a few. As a result, especially when inner criticism is very strong, I start feeling sad and depressed. Moreover, I noticed that my muscles usually become very stiff, and my head starts aching.
Therefore, it is seen that when inner criticism is accepted and not controlled, individuals can suffer negative consequences. Additionally to bad mood and physical issues, it can deter people from certain actions, cause neuroticism, and generally lead to lesser enjoyment with life. Thus, it is important to address the high levels of self-criticism. In this regard, another exercise proposed by Bays (2017) can be used, which postulates the necessity to acknowledge the criticism but avoid accepting it. Instead, it is important to practice loving-kindness towards oneself, which would help to ‘reduce the volume’ of the inner critic’s voice as the latter appears due to the lack of self-appreciation. Other exercises can also include mindfulness, making fun of the inner critic, and seeing events or actions from a positive perspective.
Bays, J. C. (2017). Mindful eating: A guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food (revised edition). Shambhala Publications.