Decoding the Inner Critic for Good

inner critic podcast Feb 02, 2022
The Enneagram One Project

What if we could lower the volume of the inner critic. You know the relentless, unrelenting voice that reminds you of your supposed flaws, deficiencies and unworthiness?

 

I’ve been able to do just that!

 

The reason why I think I’ve been successful is because of first my personal take on the inner critic, influenced by what I know of CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) and the intimacy I’ve developed with my inner critic.

 

The inner critic is simply a collection of well rehearsed and well practiced thoughts your brain cycles through because that practice has kept you alive so far so the brain thinks they are essential to your welfare or at least a good option. 

 

Brain shortcuts aka programming

 

Our brains are really amazing. Think about it! 

 

The brains is always coming up with a bunch of shortcuts I don’t even need to think about that keep me safe and alive. That’s freakin’ brilliant. I’m all in! 

 

When I cross the street, I automatically look both ways, register the information without really thinking about it, and then I either wait, cross, speed up my pace, whatever it is but I didn’t really have to think about it. Good job brain!

 

The brain itself however is not too concerned about how good the effect of this shortcut is in your life so long as you’re still alive. 

 

The inner critic is just another shortcut but it’s one that can be debilitating.

 

Why the criticism

 

It has a tone of criticism because as Ones, we’ve trained ourselves to look for how to improve what we see. At the developmental stage when we were fortifying our personality, events occurred and when we experimented with improving the situation, it worked, we stayed out of trouble, we found a way to belong with our group, we may have even been praised for our actions.

 

It’s pretty boring when I explain it this way. 

 

That’s what we want though. 

 

The more we make the inner critic bigger than it is, more important than it is, more shady than it is, the more difficult it is for us to lower the volume on what it’s saying. 

 

It’s a shortcut, a collection of thoughts. Thoughts, no matter how often you hear the same ones, are not facts and you don’t have to believe them.

 

Am I being discerning or is that my inner critic?

 

Now how do you know if it’s your inner critic you’re hearing or if you’re being discerning? Your body. The answer is always, your body. Any thought that’s from the inner critic will have you feeling some version of disconnected like closed, judged, defensive, unworthy, incapable, flawed, urgency to change to name but a few. 

 

It’s up to you now

 

You can absolutely answer the following questions from your mind, it is what we’re used to. However, consider answering these questions from deep within as opposed to from the head. What does your gut tell you?

 

What do you want t make that mean about you?

What do you want to make it mean about your ability to function?

What do you want to make it mean about your worthiness?

 

I personally like to think that my brain is great at keeping me safe and it just needs some redirection at times.

 

I’m still 100% worthy, the critic is part of my wiring and I wouldn’t change anything.

 

The inner critic is a brain shortcut. You dear One are the essence that notices it. It cannot be more powerful than you.

 

Listen to full episode HERE

 

Resources:

 

Getting on my weekly newsletter: dominiquevandal.com/links

 


 

Transcript

 

Welcome every One, you are listening to The Enneagram One Project Podcast, episode 5 - Decoding the Inner Critic for Good

 

In this episode I’m offering you my take on the inner critic because I’ve found it super useful for me and I think it could offer some relief to you as well. 

 

There are loads of theories and I don’t know that we’ll ever know exactly which is most accurate, especially as we keep making discoveries on how the brain works. Some say it’s the voice of a parent, some say it’s an internalized external view of ourselves, again most likely from a parent.

 

I don’t much like those options because it puts blame on someone else making them the villain and puts me in a victim role which I’m absolutely done volunteering for.

 

What I mean here is that by default, if I’m putting the responsibility on someone else’s behavior, it makes me completely powerless. Add to that the feeling of being done something too, think about it, it’s downright disempowering.

 

So what is the inner critic. It’s simply a collection of well rehearsed and well practiced thoughts your brain cycles through because that practice has kept you alive so far so the brain thinks they are essential to your welfare or at least a good option. 

 

Brain shortcuts aka programming

 

Let’s take some time here and dive into the brain.

 

Our brains are really amazing. Think about it! Because of its need to avoid pain, seek pleasure and conserve energy, my brain has come up with a bunch of shortcuts I don’t even need to think about that keep me safe and alive. That’s freakin’ brilliant. I’m all in! When I cross the street, I automatically look both ways, register the information without really thinking about it, and then I either wait, cross, speed up my pace, whatever it is but I didn’t really have to think about it. Good job brain!

 

In short, we are constantly programming that brain for these types of shortcuts. The super simplified formula is that you’re faced with a situation, the brain chooses some way of dealing with it and then if the outcome is at least somewhat favorable, that gets programmed as a good option. This eventually creates strong neural pathways in your brain which means it no longer has to think about it, it just executes. Neural pathways are a series of connected neurons from one part of the brain to another. This of course is a very simplified explanation but what’s important for today is understanding that the neural pathway makes getting to that shortcut easier.

 

The first time that connection happens, it might be slowish but the more you use it the faster it gets, the stronger it gets and next thing you know, it’s automatic. Some of these neural pathways have to do with things like brushing your teeth - I mean when’s the last time you really contemplated the mechanisms of brushing your teeth, and some of these are thought patterns or what is also known as habitual thoughts. Those are the thoughts your brain cycles through because they’ve been programmed as these sort of shortcuts.

 

Now remember I talked about the need of the brain to avoid pain, seek pleasure and conserve energy, that’s actually called the motivational triad and it’s always in effect. So whenever you attempt to do something new, the brain is like wait, what! That’s the opposite of what keeps us alive human! I have no way of knowing if there’ll be pain, I have no way of knowing if there’s any pleasure over there and it’s going to take a bunch of energy just to figure this out. Nope, I’m out! See the brain’s sole purpose is to keep us alive and that’s being threatened so now the brain will cycle through the thoughts that have worked in the past to hold you back from doing something new.

 

These thoughts are often but not limited to “I’m not good enough, I shouldn’t even try”, “I’m not smart enough”, “I don’t have enough time to make it perfect”, “others have done it so well, who am I to do it too”.

 

So your brain, unattended, is always operating from the motivational triad to avoid pain, seek pleasure and do so with as little energy use as possible. That means that if this group of thoughts has kept you alive, it’s not going to want to work to come up with other thoughts, that’s more work and it has zero certainty that those thoughts will keep you safe, these ones have. So unless you ask it to come up with more useful thoughts, it’s not going to.

 

You probably never chose, like actually took a second and said, yes brain I want to believe that I’m always lacking in some way. But at some point in your life, believing you were lacking created an urgency to improve something, and the result may not have been great but it was good enough for your brain to classify this thought as useful in keeping the human alive. In fact, the next time the human is wanting to improve something, I’ll remind them that they are flawed because that has given us an ok result. As Ones, we have that running in the background most of the time “how can this thing here be even better” it’s not a bad thing but when the inner critic comes in, it adds a flavor of well criticism to it. That never feels good.

 

I want to add here that It’s not that keeping you alive is a low standard, it’s actually fantastic. That is what made our ancestors survive but now that our basic needs are met, the brain hasn’t caught up. Of course, I know that that is not the case for everyone but I imagine that if you’re listening to this podcast, and are basically able to afford the tools necessary to listen to podcasts, or if you’re reading the show notes or the blog post for this episode on my website, that your basic needs are met. That’s the assumption I am making here.

 

My theory on the inner critic then is that it’s no more than a collection of thoughts that have worked in the past but that the brain is misusing in the moment. The brain itself not being too concerned about how good the effect of this thought is in your life so long as you’re still alive.

 

 

Why the criticism

 

It has a tone of criticism because as Ones, we’ve trained ourselves to look for how to improve what we see. At the developmental stage when we were fortifying our personality, events occurred and when we experimented with improving the situation, it worked, we stayed out of trouble, we found a way to belong with our group, we may have even been praised for our actions.

 

It’s pretty boring when I explain it this way. That’s what we want though. The more we make the inner critic bigger than it is, more important than it is, more shady than it is, the more difficult it is for us to lower the volume on what it’s saying. The more power those sentences have over us to debilitate us, and the more we believe those thoughts as being fact. They’re not. Thoughts, no matter how often you hear the same ones, are not facts and you don’t have to believe them.

 

And listen, I don’t say this to minimize the effect believing the inner critic has on us. I know it far too well. It’s hard to have self trust when this is the voice you hear the loudest, it’s challenging to go after your dreams when even your own voice is constantly saying you can’t, it’s debilitating when the voice keeps telling you that you’ve messed up or that you have committed a great atrocity towards another.

 

That’s just my experience with the inner critic and I’m sure many of you can relate or have similar stories.

 

So yes, the effects of the inner critic can be devastating but when we know what it actually is, a collection of thoughts that have worked in the past but that the brain is misusing in the moment. Then guess what? The monster isn’t so big and bad anymore.

 

Am I being discerning or is that my inner critic?

 

Now how do you know if it’s your inner critic you’re hearing or if you’re being discerning? Your body. The answer is always, your body. Any thought that’s from the inner critic will have you feeling some version of disconnected like closed, judged, defensive, unworthy, incapable, flawed, urgency to change to name but a few. 

 

I know that identifying emotions takes practice so let me give you a few easy tips. If you can’t quite name them, you can pay attention to your body language, physically. Is your body coming in towards itself like a slumping or is it opening up. Whenever it is slumping, it’s an indication that the emotion is undesired, there’s a protectiveness of yourself by your body. If it’s opening up, then it’s expanding into possibility. 

 

If you’re in a place where you can try this now, I encourage you to try thoughts on like they were a coat. Start with one thought and notice how your body unfolds or folds in. Then try another. Give each thought a moment to land in your body.

 

I do want to make something clear. I don’t want you to now think there’s something wrong with you and that you should be really critical of your inner critic or it’s a problem that it’s there in the first place, or that it’s something else for you to improve about yourself.

 

Instead, I invite you to consider that it will always be there because your brain is wired to be efficient, that includes recycling thoughts. The conflict we create when we think it shouldn’t be there adds more challenges, making it harder for us to make any progress with it or be intentional with it.

 

Now that we’ve covered what the inner critic is, where it comes from, and how to identify it, I want to offer that you 100% get to decide how to approach the inner critic and what to do when you notice it.

 

It’s up to you now

 

You can absolutely answer the following questions from your mind, it is what we’re used to. However, consider answering these questions from deep within as opposed to from the head. What does your gut tell you?

 

What do you want t make that mean about you?

What do you want to make it mean about your ability to function?

What do you want to make it mean about your worthiness?

 

I personally like to think that my brain is great at keeping me safe and it just needs some redirection at times.

 

I’m still 100% worthy, the critic is part of my wiring and I wouldn’t change anything.

 

The inner critic is a brain shortcut. You dear One are the essence that notices it. It cannot be more powerful than you.

 

Before you go today, I want to invite you to join my email list because I’m finalizing the details on my upcoming workshop and I always announce these events to my email list first in the weekly newsletter. So if you’re not on there, consider this your invitation. You can get on my email list by going to dominiquevandal.com/links . Did you know there’ a free guide to help you Stop the Frustration Spin NOW available? You may as well grab that too while you’re there! It’s definitely what I wish I had when I discovered I was a One and was looking for tools to support myself.

 

Until next week,

 

Love to each and every One!

I like to send whimsically folded class notes with all my best feminine embodiment tips and tools so you too can remember who you are at your core.

If you want to receive these straight to your inbox, sign up here:

I hate SPAM and I value your rights. I will never sell your information, for any reason.