Battling my Inner Critic
In this morning’s lecture, Sister Marie Hogg, the co-presenter of the workshop A Spirituality of True Self-Esteem, talked about the “inner critic” who resides within us. She pointed out that this critical inner voice:
– Blames us
– Compares us to others
– Reminds us of our failures
– Reminds us of our weaknesses
– Never compliments or praises us
– Exaggerates our faults and failures
– Calls us names like Stupid, Incompetent, Ugly, Weak, Boring
– Beats us up over what we “should have” done or how we “could have” done better
She included a quote from McKay and Fanning: “The first and most important thing you must know about your critic is that no matter how distorted and false his attacks may be, he is almost always believed.”
One person in the class commented that he has always sought perfection and now he has found it: his inner critic is successful at each of the items she listed. I am right there with him.
Marie brought up two other points that are helpful.
1: In no area of life do we get better (come to better health) just by wishing it; we come to better health by changing our behavior.
2: Changing our behavior is awkward and uncomfortable. (She had us cross our arms then cross them the other way and notice how different and our awkward that felt. I know that every time I have begun a new exercise routine, my muscles have been sore until they get used to the different way they are being pushed and stretched.)
So where does this leave me?
I recognize that much of the success of my “inner critic” has to do with me finding my sense of identity in being a “good” person. So how do I change that behavior? The solution will not be found in taking up some bad habits. But I can think of at least two things I need to practice doing differently:
1: I need to find my sense of identity not in being a “good” person but in being loved by God. In Changes that Heal Henry Cloud points out that approval is something we can earn; love is not. Love is given. It resides not in what we earn but in the heart of the giver. I need to recognize this in my relationship with Christ. I am loved by Him simply on the basis of His love for me, not on the basis of my “goodness.”
2: I need to own my “dark” side. Since I have tended to find my identity in being a “good” person, I have suppressed and disowned negative sides of me like hurts and resentment and anger and jealousy and pridefulness and greed and lust and pettiness. I need to practice facing those things in me and being honest about my struggle with them and confessing my sins.