Perfectly Imperfect: Recognizing And Challenging the Inner Critic
What Is The Inner Critic?
Perfectly Imperfect. The inner critic brings to mind visuals of someone beating themselves up with harsh self-criticism. Many of us can think of a Type A perfectionist who is never satisfied with themselves. We can also think of people with Impostor Syndrome.
Those with Impostor Syndrome are often perfectionists with fears of being exposed, with high standards, and a harsh inner voice. However, despite these images, many of us have an inner critic. In fact, it’s quite normal.
A GoodTherapy.com article of the same title defines it as “An inner voice that judges, criticizes or demeans a person.” The article also mentions the inner critic affects someone through harsh judgments even if they are not true or objective. Having an inner critic can reduce someone’s confidence, and faith in self and others as well as reduce motivation.
It can also encourage shame, depression, and anxiety. Overall, it’s almost like feeling like an impostor or having a fake friend saying mean and harsh things on a constant basis. Fortunately, there are many ways to challenge the inner critic we all have.
Where Does The Inner Critic Come From? How Do We Develop An Inner Critic?
Many of us develop an inner critic in childhood. Similarly to perfectionism, if parents had high expectations of children, they can internalize these thoughts. For example, let’s say a father figure was strict and only showed warmth if their child succeeded. However, during failure or disappointment, the father became cold and critical, even harsh.
The child can develop this same pattern of behavior toward themself into adulthood.
Another example can be a child getting attention when they are obedient and try extremly hard. They’re praised for working hard. But when the child decides to play and relax, the parent criticizes them for not working and instead, relaxing. The child can learn to judge himself or herself as lazy or not good enough due to a harsh inner critic.
As the child develops, he or she can experience the inner critic surfacing in new experiences when needing to be strong and courageous. It can also emerge in times of uncertainty or after failure. The inner critic can appear during times of anxiety, challenges, failure, or loss.
Lakeasha Sullivan, a licensed clinical psychologist believes the inner critic holds valuable truths to keep us safe and protected. Others believe it’s something to be addressed with love and understanding. If behavior becomes problematic due to a harsh inner critic, getting therapy sessions can help.
With God, All Things Are Possible: Being Enough
Following Christ or being a spiritual person allows us to share a connection with a higher source. Christianity tells us God’s children are made in His image, and we can have eternal life through Him. Therefore, we are enough and worthy of love. Since we are made in God’s image, His unconditional love for us can inspire us to practice self-compassion.
Practicing self-compassion can serve as a reminder for having grace for ourselves. We can do this by remembering we are human and imperfect. But we are still worthy and have value. Therefore, we deserve to give ourselves a break.
Having grace also allows us to release unrealistic expectations and high standards the inner critic feeds off of. Knowing we cannot be perfect—and shouldn’t try to be—takes the pressure off us, silencing the toxic inner voice. So how do we overpower our inner critic?
We can affirm we are enough by forgiving ourselves when we make mistakes. This can look like swapping negative self-beliefs with positive ones. To add, we can also understand God is the author of peace and love, and reject negative, confusing thoughts.
This allows us to free ourselves from further negative self-talk and self-judgment, thus taming the inner critic. The Bible is full of reminders that with Christ, we are good enough. With Him, we can learn to succeed in challenges or survive disappointments by trusting in the Lord.
To illustrate, the following Bible verses reveal empowerment through Christ to feel the peace of God:
- “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” (Phillippians 11:14)
- With man, this is impossible. With God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)
- “I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
There are many inspirational Bible verses available to use when you need them. Use God’s word to remember you are enough when the inner critic, perfectionism, or Impostor Syndrome strikes.
Healing The Inner Critic: Defeating Our Own Doubting Thomas
The inner critic is an aspect of us we can’t give much life to. We can use the example of Doubting Thomas in the Gospel of John for the inner critic. The original context represents a skeptical Apostle, Thomas, who refuses to believe in Jesus’ resurrection. His doubts remain a strong stance he takes in showcasing a lack of belief.
Ironically, the inner critic functions similarly. It makes us doubt our own potential by blinding ourselves with disbelief in our abilities until we’ve succeeded. In the end, God’s only Son appeared after resurrection, reminding Thomas those who have faith without seeing Him are blessed. God showed Thomas the power of faith through Jesus.
What does this mean for us and our inner critic? We can connect this with our inner critic focus to remember when we have faith in ourselves, we can succeed. We don’t need to succeed to have faith—we can have it now. Our faith can occur even without seeing our success at that moment.
All we need is a mustard seed amount, to create a healthy and supportive mindset. All in all, if we believe in ourselves, we can be blessed, loved, or successful—and sometimes more than we expect.
We doubt ourselves even when we know we have what it takes to thrive. In the end, we become our own worst enemies by believing the thoughts born from our inner critic. We sabotage ourselves by allowing limiting beliefs to control our lives. As a result, we get discouraged and give up sharing our gifts and talents with the world.
Healing The Inner Critic: Using Affirmations And Visualization
The inner critic produces an unsafe mental space for us, ruining our success, opportunities, and relationships. It’s safe to say living this way reduces positive thoughts and behaviors inside of us. When negative thoughts from the inner critic arise, take time to change them.
You can use affirmations as a tool for growth and inner peace. For example, believing you can’t do something properly allows you to recognize self-doubt is at play. This is the perfect time to change your inner dialogue. These are the thoughts you believe and the words you speak.
We believe the thoughts we have and this creates our belief system. If we believe our inner critic, it’s only certain our self-esteem and willpower become tarnished by them.
Speak life into that negative inner voice. You can affirm your strengths to yourself to feel more empowered and confident. For example repeat,
- “I release my self-doubt. I can succeed.”
- “ I am worthy of love and healthy relationships despite painful past experiences.”
- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
- “I overcome challenges daily. I am strong and courageous.”
- “I am worthy. I don’t have to prove my worth to others.”
- “I am blessed. All is well.”
- “I don’t have to be perfect. I can learn things along the way.”
Biblical affirmations encouraging faith in Christ can be a helpful tool for healing a nagging inner critic. To make these affirmations yours, craft a specific quote that speaks to you. Then visualize your success to support the intention and outcome you want.
Defying the Inner Critic: Key Takeaways
It’s natural to have an inner critic show up in various areas of our lives. Fortunately, we don’t have to feed the beast that keeps it going. Instead, we can choose to maintain grace, or get professional help if need be. In other aspects, we can have faith in ourselves and seek God’s love.
Last but not least, we can see ourselves renewed by asking for salvation. We can see ourselves washed in the blood of the Lamb, and pray for clarity, healing, and for growth. Here, we can be cleansed from the limiting beliefs of our inner critic, renewing the spirit, the heart, and the mind.
Put your trust in the Lord; see yourself as you are—perfectly imperfect— and not how the negative self-talk portrays you. Guard your heart against false beliefs or words from the harsh inner critic. Then affirm your outer reality with a personal behavioral analysis, challenging it.
I have found my cancer journey to be a positive and profound transformational experience. I’m inspired to share my healing journey here, and trust you’ll find hope, encouragement and purpose as you discover the healing power that lies within you.