This is a true story about how the inner critic can interfere with your life. About what an inner critic attack can be like in real life, how it can unfold and how you can deal with it. After this umpteenth personal experience I can share some lessons that I hope will help you better deal with your critic's attacks.
I was having a normal day and everything seems to be going pretty smoothly. Although I had a bit of a cold for a few days I had been able to do my job, take care of the children and even go grocery shopping.
I was almost at the end of the day and on my way home after one of my kids' activities, when I got up, put my Air pod in their little case and walked to my car to drive home. I remember the moment I put the Air pods in the case, but I'm not sure where I put the case.
The moment I got home I reached for the Air pod in my bag but couldn't find them and that's when I started noticing the inner critic.
When I couldn't find what I was looking for in my bag, what I heard the critic say was:
'That bag is a mess, how can a decent person at your age walk around with so much junk in her bag, naturally you can't find anything in there.'
This specific comment I have often heard from the critic, every day to be honest, when I look for my keys, it didn't hurt. In a way I like the fact that I'm not a "decent person at my age" but more of a 'special edition'. However, after I turned the bag upside down, emptied all the contents on the table and went through everything, and I knew for a fact that my Air pod was not there, the tone of the critic then became much more harsh.
"Look what you've done" in an extremely judgmental and condescending voice. 'Look in your pocket idiot! You don't even remember where you put them. Like you don't even care ' and it went on like this for a while.
Note: I really care a lot, it's a gift I love.
At that point the dialogue with the critic was really painful to the point that I started making all sorts of stupid mistakes, I dropped things, I forgot other little things etc. Emotionally I felt like I was worthless and didn't even deserve to have those Air pods.
It took all my strength to decide what to do: retrace my steps and try to find what I had lost, think of all the places I could have put the Air pods in. I also asked for help and shared my disappointment with the people around me. In this way I was not alone, I was supported in the research and emotionally comforted.
This is actually the part of the story where I notice all the work I've already done with my inner critic. I don't allow him to isolate me from the people I care about, I don't believe what the critic says about me and about my worth as a person when something bad happens. It still hurts what the critic says, however, and I share this personal story just to be completely honest about that. Sometimes it will still hurt and you will have to deal with it, and each time it will be different.
In general I would say that this kind of attacks becomes less and less frequent and you get out of it faster than before.
But my story isn't over yet. I asked for help, I retraced my steps, I was helped and still couldn't find my precious Air pods. I went to bed thinking that only a miracle would return my Air pod to me and that I would probably have to go back to using headphones.
The tension got the best of me and I little series of small accidents: I burned my fingers while cooking, locked the car with the keys inside etc. I decided then that I had to let it all go and accept that it had been a bad day and go to bed to wake up to a better day the next day and so I did.
The next day my cold got worse, this distracted me and I almost forgot about the Air pod, but then something reminded me and I felt that harsh criticism again, draining the joy from my heart for a moment. I managed to stay calm, waited for everyone to go to school and to work, then took the spare car key and went to look in the car to see if the Air pod had dropped there somewhere. I had also done it the day before with a flashlight, but I wanted to try it out again, in daylight. I had thought about it a lot and concluded that this was the only place it could be. And so it was, I found my precious Air pod under the driver's seat. Happy ending!
The critic commented "You were lucky this time, but I confirm everything I have told you about this situation".
Here are some thoughts that I think might be helpful to share:
- The inner critic was simply wrong. If I had listened to it I would have immediately given up on research and would have only cried desperately for my misfortune, completely devoid of any power to react;
-I know that the inner critic's deep motivation is to help me not lose the things I care about, it could be said that its intentions are good, however, this does not really diminish the brutality of its attitude towards me. Its ways are horrible!
-Even knowing that the inner critic would like you to never have to face the pain of losing things, I have to say that it doesn't help the way it behaves. The way I was treated by the inner critic did not help me in any way or shape to find my Air pod. The pain that the words of the inner critic inflicted on me was worse than the pain of losing an object even though it was dear to me.
- Since I was aware that I was dealing with the inner critic, I did not project it outward into the people around me. There was a time when in such a situation I would have had people around me telling me the things my inner critic was telling me from the inside. This time it was different, I got a lot of support from my environment.
- It was important to be open about what happens inside me in a case like this. It has been extremely valuable to share my pain and disappointment with the people I love. Writing this blog also helps me heal and move forward stronger. What would it be like for you to share the story of an attack from your inner critic with someone you care about?
- Hoping to avoid criticism altogether is an unrealistic goal, in my opinion. Learning to manage attacks, how to protect yourself and keep your life on track despite possible attacks from the critic, is a realistic goal.