Since my inner critic usually stood over my shoulder to sound off, it was hard to describe her looks. I caught a few dim glances of her in the mirror. Her lips were in a perpetual frown; on her tiptoes during a rampage, she tried to make herself bigger than the whole of me.
She was my internal nitpicker. Her words, filled with perfectionism and off-handed remarks, hurt my feelings sometimes till they became numb. More often she just aggravated me. If I didn’t redo something till it was past good enough, she berated me over and over for days. She came at me about neatness, too, with a listed spool of criticism. “This house looks like crap,” she said. “Other people keep their houses clean. The young woman next door has two preschoolers and her house is spotless. You need to vacuum, mop, dust—oh, God, do you need to dust—and spray some deodorizer for that dog of yours. It stinks in here!”
Sometimes I wouldn’t listen to her. I’d write things all jumbled-up with my thoughts tossed-up like pick-up-sticks letting the chaotic words go out for the world to see; then I’d get mad at her. Why else was she in my head if not to keep me on my toes?
Once she verbally abused me as I drove down the road. When I missed the turn, I heard her. “Are you just stupid or what?” Fed up with her, my inner self-talker, I slammed on the brakes and shouted “shut up.” Surprisingly, she quieted down as if realizing she had gone too far.
But my inner critic also rescued me. When my father died, she stepped in. “You need to get someone for the funeral,” she said rather gently. I let her loose on all the details while other parts of me hid behind a wall of shock and grief. She did her job well that year pushing for the care of my mother, carrying out an elaborate Christmas party, selling our house, and supplying the energy and determination to go to work each and every morning.
Thinking back now, my father’s suicide must have terrorized my inner critic with all the details to look after as much as it did other parts of my psyche. It was hard to give comfort to that side of me though; I was always on the defensive against my perfectionist method of coping. I think I unknowingly invited more hopelessness allowing her to direct so much of my life at that time.
Living comes from all your faculties.
Become aware of your inner critic. This is a hard time for her, too.