In order to protect you, to shield you from harm, rejection, failure and anything else painful, your inner critic lies. It distorts, deceives, misleads, misrepresents and fabricates.

Your inner critic convinces you that you need to do certain things in order to be loved. It convinces you that there’s only one way to act, to be. It is harsh and mean and cruel. It speaks—usually shouts—insults and commands and shoulds in rapid succession.

If you don’t lose weight, no one will love you.

If you do lose weight, you’ll finally be beautiful. And acceptable. And popular. And not a loser.

If you can’t stick to a diet, you are a failure.

If you take time out for yourself, if you don’t buy that toy, if you let your kids watch cartoons, if you let them eat sugar (and eat it yourself), you are a bad parent (and person).

If you stay in bed and skip your workout, you are lazy.

If you make a mistake, you are worthless.

If you say the wrong thing, you are an embarrassment.

If you can’t pay off your credit card, you should be ashamed of yourself.

If you say no, if you decline, they will think you’re selfish. And you can’t handle that. You also can’t handle failing, being rejected, breaking up, being alone, getting lost, getting fired, having a panic attack, having a hard time.

You don’t know what you’re doing. You never do. You always mess up. You are a mess. You sound stupid. You don’t belong here. You get anxious about the dumbest things—and no one gets anxious about these things.

Who do you think you are to share your opinion? Who do you think you are to stand up for yourself?

Our inner critic learns these lies from all sorts of people and places. Maybe your inner critic learned them from caregivers, from certain family members, from childhood bullies, from society, from certain companies, from so-called “experts,” from so-called “friends.” Our inner critic means well, but uses terrible, shame-inducing tactics.

So what do we do?

We realize that thoughts that aren’t supportive, compassionate or encouraging are the words of our inner critic. We realize that these words are distortions, fictions, untruths. So we don’t follow them. So we don’t contort ourselves to fulfill these prerequisites. We don’t make ourselves miserable chasing these lies. We acknowledge them. We hear them out, and we say, I appreciate your worry, your concern. I know you’re trying to protect me. But I’ll pass. 

There’s a quote from Scott Stabile that I love:

My fear whispered to me, “I am just trying to protect you.”

I whispered back, “I know, but I’m stronger than you think.”

This is the truth. The ultimate truth.

Photo by Rachel Walker.