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Your Inner Critic is Missing a Few Things

One of the people who live in the thought factory between your ears is a jerk. The person (one of many who lives there) has a lot to say, but none of it is particularly helpful. It's your inner critic. Everybody has one, and although this voice is full of fear and judgement, it's lacking a few important things.

First, a few critical observations about the inner critic. From an evolutionary perspective, the inner critic may have been essential to survival at some point. A voice in your head that says "only losers get eaten by saber tooth tigers" could have survival benefit. So you can thank your inner critic for leading previous generations off the savannah and into the towns and coffee shops of today. But here, now, in the land of very-few-sabre-toothed-anything, that voice is downright maladaptive, and it's not acting in your best interest.


The inner critic can take many forms. Researchers Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss have actually identified seven different manifestations of the inner critic, some of which are more malicious than others. You may experience one or more of these critics in your inner dialogues, and you may be tempted to try to outsmart or silence those voices. And by opposing, end them?

I would like to recommend another path: practice empathy for your inner critic. That voice is frightened, limited, and missing some important information.

What is the inner critic missing? First, its missing imagination. It cannot imagine that the future could be different from the past. But lets think about that for a second -- if nothing ever changed the world would still be a giant petri dish full of single-celled organisms. In fact, it's full of multi-celled organisms like us that invented airplanes, computers, and Christmas romantic comedies on the Hallmark Channel.

It's also missing basic statistical literacy. It's positively fixated on worst-case outcomes based on a selective sample of historical data. It likes to pretend it's data-driven, but it's actually riddled with bias. "Remember that time something bad happened?" it says. Yeah, that one time in 1000 times. It's a bad scientist.

Finally, the inner critic missing a name. When it starts chattering in your head, it likes to pretend it IS you. But it's not you, it's just a part of you, like your pinky or your appendix. So in order to get some space, why don't you give your inner critic a name? You know a name like "Ralph" or "Nebuchadnezzar". That might help you get some space between the real, eternal you and the short-term temporal you. Then you can turn the inner critic volume down and say "thanks Ralph, but you're not helping."

So let's review: inner critic is maladaptive, lacking imagination, bad at math, and in need of a name. You don't need it. Now go forth and be happier. Please.

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