Noting the Inner Critic

Dear soft hearted people,

I find myself sharing about the types of inner critics (often using the book Freedom From Your Inner Critic*) to share with patients about their inner loving parents and inner critics.  I sought Maryam Fallahi’s expertise and knowledge to explain more for us in this post.  Maryam Fallahi is an amazing and compassionate Life Coach who graduated from William Glesser Institute of Coaching and Positive Psychology from Claremont Graduate University.  

While it can be scary to learn about the inner parts, especially the inner critic, there’s a lot of hope in identifying what’s coming up, what trauma it is rooted in, and nurturing all those parts with as much tenderness and kindness as we’d give our closest loved one.  

From Maryam: Hi folks! Happy new year! Today I want to introduce you to our internal family of critics by inviting you to do a little thought experiment with me. Imagine you are going to have some company over to stay with you for the holidays; not one, not two, but a family of seven! They are  going to come all at once and they are not going to tell you when they are leaving; in fact you are not even sure they have booked a ticket back!

The first family member I want to introduce is the youngest sibling, the perfectionist. This inner critic loves to get everything done perfectly. They have insanely high standards. When you don’t meet this critic’s standards, they attack. For instance, just this morning the perfectionist found out that you wanted to make some turkey and stuffing for tonight’s dinner and the perfectionist has been giving you demanding orders since. In fact the perfectionist can make you feel drained and like you have limited motivation to cook altogether.

The next inner critic thinks everyone should be in control of their behavior 24/7 and this sibling is called the inner controller. He humiliates and has rigid control when you overeat, spend more than you meant to, or do other things you may not have meant to do. He whispers insults and humiliation.

Next, is the taskmaster uncle. He is allergic to the idle world. He is going to call you lazy, stupid and incompetent if he doesn’t see you work your behind off non-stop.

Your next guest is the eldest sister of the family, the underminer. She is the one who will undermine everything nice you do for her. She will tell you that what you did is not enough, that you have to be  smarter and more attentive to your surroundings, and that you should essentially stay small and not try new things or take risks. 

The next person is the father of your inner critic family. He finds faults in you, tells you he thinks you are disgusting, and tells you innately don’t fit in anywhere. This inner critic is the destroyer.

The guilt tripper is also a wounded inner critic who tells you negative things about yourself. If for instance, your love needs 2% milk on your way home, and you say there is 1% in the fridge and that you are so tired from a week’s work, the guilt tripper will show up and  tell you what a horrible partner you are and how you and your boundaries should feel ashamed.  

The molder is the mother of this inner critic family. She is the inner critic who points out how you don’t fit the mold. If you try to cook for your guests for instance, she will tell you that your food was not good enough: it could use more salt, less cheese. It is overcooked, undercooked,… If you try to make a conversation at the dinner table you are too chatty, and if you sit back and  let them talk you are too boring. 

The inner critics seem scary, and I want you to know we have inner wisdom we can access to love ourselves and see why these inner critics are coming up in this way.  It can be powerful to note thoughts or inner critic commentary rather than attach to and believe it.  Powerful yes, and sometimes easier said than done.  You are not alone on this journey of noting what comes up and healing some of these wounds.

Please reach out to Maryam Fallahi to get started with coaching services.   

With a soft heart,

Dr. J

*No affiliation with this book.

Gentleness with Decisions During the Pandemic

Dear soft hearted people,

I know there’s a lot to consider with where to go, when, and with which people.  There are so many layers of privilege highlighted with the injustices of the pandemic including discrepancies in health care, individual transportation versus public transportation, having employment, having a home, and unequal access to education to name a few.  When it comes to choices outside of paying the bills we can choose what to attend for community/spiritual unity, family gatherings, and when and how to support friends.  It is crucial to have discernment with the understanding that our needs may change at any point.  

Decisions of when and who to see can be complex.  It may even be scary and you wish it wasn’t.  You may look at other peoples’ outsides and compare to how you think you should feel on the inside.  You may even be perceiving or experiencing pressure from a loved one to do something you are not quite ready for yet.  It is a pandemic and it is evolutionarily appropriate to fear illness or the spread of illness to communities/loved ones.  It is per our evolution that we freeze, fight, or flight when we encounter and try to survive a dangerous situation.  It is scientifically understandable if you have freeze, fight, or flight reactions to getting sick from this virus.  It is psychologically understandable if people have various responses to fear of death.  I want to share with you ways we can further soften the heart and gain connectedness to self and others during these times.  

It is crucial to be gentle with ourselves as we consider invitations, traditions, and time off or holidays.  That may be an easy sentence to bypass so I’ll say it again.  It is important to be gentle with ourselves.  Easier said than done! It’s okay to take a moment to assess your level of comfortability with an invitation/plan/commitment.  The cool part is, it’s okay to change your mind too!  As new information rolls in, financial stability/instability changes, new guidelines are released, or testing becomes more available, we can even be gentle with change and flexibility being a challenge.

If we plow through a commitment because we feel obligated or like we may be perceived as being too uptight we may be separating from our inner wisdom or authentic self.  For example, if you have a gut feeling you aren’t ready for dinner indoors with loved ones, but don’t follow that intuition you may feel internal conflict or inner criticism afterward.  It can be helpful to honor that gut feeling rather than to spiral from not aligning with your intuition.  If you’re thinking, “well how do I even get in touch with this authentic me in the first place” then please keep reading.

It can be so helpful to take quiet time (some may call this meditation or journaling) to reflect on needs/wants.  You may reflect on the setting, people, your definition of social distancing and theirs, and compromises.  If you do want to spend time with someone during the holidays you can discuss your needs.  We can even be gentle with ourselves if boundary setting around COVID-19 is awkward.  This can be easier said than done. If you decide to connect with someone and you want to experience the joyful moments fully you can meditate for a moment before you see them or envision the most loving person you know holding your hand as you arrive.  A quick deep belly breath, grounded moment, or imagery can go a long way to help the joy sink in.  It can also help your nervous system take a beat (ahh how wonderful).

These unprecedented times emphasize the importance of boundaries now more than many times before.  You can start or continue practicing boundaries that are more authentically you today.  And if you do something outside your COVID-19 comfort zone you can stop, leave, or not do it again for a while.  You can even forgive yourself without blame to yourself or others while assessing what you’d like to do differently next time.  It’s okay.  These times are weird.  Let’s be soft hearted with each other and ourselves as we all try to find or maintain connection in whatever that looks like for you today.

With a soft heart, 

Dr. J