Whether we’re aware of it or not, we all have an inner critic.
It’s that little voice in our head that tells us we’re not enough—good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, skinny enough, rich enough, whatever our particular narrative may be.
>> What does this inner critic want from us?
When I was a kid, I didn’t think I was smart. I got mediocre grades and was terrible in math. As a result, I always made myself seem less intelligent than I actually was. I would hide my eagerness to learn, tell my classmates how badly I did on my tests, and never participate in class. I knew that if I played dumb, my inner critic would keep me safe from disappointing myself (and my parents).
Our inner critic limits the way we show up in the world; it creates an invisible glass ceiling that stops us from tapping into our unlimited potential.
>> How do we get rid of our inner critic?
The voice of our inner critic is energy, a narrative we’ve chosen to focus on. And although energy can not be destroyed, it can be shifted. We have the power to change our narrative—but first, we have to get familiar with it.
When we put a name and a face to our inner critic, we take away its power.
I picture my inner critic as a little gremlin who longs to be a passionate performer. She wants to share her gifts in front of an audience, but she can’t because there’s black electrical tape covering her mouth. Her voice is muffled, she can’t speak, so she hides backstage, missing opportunity after opportunity.
That electrical tape was my security blanket. It kept me safe from humiliation, criticism, and judgement. I told myself that I didn’t have to be vulnerable if I was under these debilitating circumstances. And although I never truly experienced failure, I also never experienced the sheer joy of being in the spotlight either. The protective armour that I built stopped me from sharing the best version of myself.
Each of our gremlins has a unique message, but those tiny voices are only a representation of who we think we are—not who we really are.
>> When did our gremlin first appear?
It most likely showed up when we first experienced hurt or disappointment, like failing a test, getting our heart broken, or being teased for the way we look.
My gremlin appeared when my dad, an accountant, told me how important math was to my future. Since I was so bad at it, I was reminded more than a few times that I needed to get better. Every evening, my dad would test me on my multiplication tables and when I got it wrong, I felt like I had failed him. The whole process gave me so much anxiety that it was easier for me to tell myself that I just wasn’t smart enough to do it.
That was my narrative, the voice of my inner critic. I would beat everyone to the punch. After all, they couldn’t hurt me if they were telling me something I already knew. And if I continued to keep expectations low, I wouldn’t be disappointing anyone.
Our gremlin exists to protect us—it is neither good nor bad, it just is. It believes it is supporting us, keeping us safe from hurt feelings, humiliation, or let down. But what would it look like if we decided to ask for its support instead?
Who we are today is not who we were back when our gremlin first appeared. And what we needed protection from then is no longer serving us now. If we try to understand our gremlin without judgement, we can learn to effectively make peace with our own internal dialogue.
The power of the narrative, after all, belongs to us.
I might not be good in math, but that’s why we have calculators. And it doesn’t mean that I’m not smart in other areas. Intelligence is how we choose to define it.
When we stop judging ourselves as not being enough, we begin to courageously explore who we are and who we want to be. We get curious about finding the hidden gems within us that are meant to be shared with the world. When we shine a light on our inner critic, we can successfully re-negotiate a new narrative that opens us up to infinite possibilities.
Our narrative and our past can only define us if we let it.
>> So how is our narrative serving us today?
Today, my gremlin is my friend. She reminds me to pursue what lights me up from the inside. She encourages me to step up and be seen.
The black electrical tape is no longer there; in its place, she holds a shiny new microphone, which she uses to freely share her gifts with the world.
Author: Mandy Wong
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis