22 Dec Our Inner Critic
Self–compassion and understanding our inner critic.
When we criticize ourselves, we often make our distress worse by criticizing our self-criticism. However, this is a counterproductive as it only serves to make us feel worse i.e., that we have an inner critic, and we then feel bad that we are finding it so hard to shift. However, what is important to remember in this context is that our inner critic, as described by author Marsha Rosenberg (Non-Violent Communication) is an expression of the part of us that is striving to better ourselves or to protect us. When this tips into self-criticism, this part of us is out of balance and the behavioural changes that it motivates tend to be also out of balance and we feel bad. This can then move into a cycle of unbalanced behaviour and self-criticism that is very unhelpful.
The feelings of stress, anxiety and depression that result from too much self-criticism can impact our overall well-being. Kristen Neff, the author of many books on self-compassion describes how self-criticism can activate the fight-flight fear system which was originally designed to help us escape from wild animals e.g., run away and/or fight. This hormonal response is entirely inappropriate when we are facing modern day challenges and are beating ourselves up – we end up emotionally beating ourselves up, feel anxious and restless, get stuck in rumination and accept harsh judgments about ourselves.
There are many practices to assist with self-compassion. However, overall, all approaches would benefit from us remembering the evolutionary origin of our self-criticism. Because it evolved from the need to protect, be better and improve. Things are simply out of balance, though “simply” doesn’t always mean it’s easy to adjust the balance. And remembering that simple does not equate to easy, is an important thing to remember when you are on the journey to develop your self-compassion, otherwise this knowledge can easily become a stick with which to further beat yourself up with.
If you would like to have a conversation further on how to navigate this and would like to engage with one of our clinicians to support your journey, please contact us at Prosper Health Collective for further information on 6381 0071.