My Inner Critic

Shut UP!!! That’s what I tell the voice in my head that chastises me periodically. It’s the voice that makes being a mother hard. It’s the voice that sums up all those times you’ve made mistakes in your life and spits the feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, fear and doubt right back in your face.

Go bother someone else with your negativity!!! When I’m fed up with listening to the voice, that’s what I tell it. I left out the bad words though, but they’re in there.

Sometimes I feel like all the people who ever made me feel bad or wrong in my life follow me around all day. If I’m rushing through the dishes, I’ll hear: “You left some suds on that one, rinse it again!” If I let Jacob’s clothes stay in the dryer over night because I’m too tired to fold them, I’ll hear “You’re so lazy. How long does it take you to fold a load of baby clothes? Just do it now. You’re sitting while you do it anyway, that’s relaxing enough.”

On the days that I’m super tired because Jacob was up in the middle of the night, I’ll lay down for a while during his naps. But sneaking a nap in is impossible because the critic in my head is screaming: “Wow. You’re just gonna lay there? You do realize the dog left paw marks all over the floor, don’t you? You’re just going to leave them there, aren’t you?”

It’s usually in the moments that the voice is so loud that my husband will come downstairs for a break from work. I’m feeling defeated because the voices are telling me I’m lazy. So when Andrew will see the paw marks and clean them, I feel like he’s siding with the voices in my head. I jump off the couch as though I were a criminal caught stealing…stealing time for myself.

Poor guy is just cleaning up some dirt he saw, he’s not thinking anything about my housekeeping skills, nor does he resent me for leaving the paw marks there a little longer. He knows I’ve been up all night, and he thinks I deserve some rest.

But because I’ve just had a lashing from the critic in my head, I get defensive. I tell him to leave the dirt alone I was just about to clean it. If he says not to worry he’ll just quickly clean it, I replace what he said with the critics words and hear: “Don’t worry, you just lay there. I’ll clean the house during my break from work while you keep lazing around on the couch.”

Andrew would never say something like that to me. But my inner critic will. And I have to remind myself that what my inner critic thinks of me is not what my husband thinks of me. Also, what my inner critic thinks of me is NOT who I am. I’m not lazy, I’m not a bad mother, and I’m not a bad wife.

When Andrew and I talk about my inner critic, it’s like we’re talking about a friend who’s a bad influence on me. We both know I need to cut this friend out of my life for good, but how? You’ve grown up with this friend. They’ve always been there, pushing you around. Sometimes their voice has even helped you succeed at things because it wouldn’t shut up until you’ve perfected whatever project you were working on.

But if I remember all those times, I could never really enjoy anything I accomplished because I was too exhausted. And the inner critic would find something to complain about. So even if there was a reason to celebrate, it would be in the shadow of the voice thundering in my head.

I’ve become much better at telling the critic to shut up before it has a chance to lecture me. But there are still days when I can feel it hovering over my shoulder as I do chores; watching how well I scrub or mop or wash or dust. When I feel the critic summing up all those bad feelings and preparing to throw the baggage at me, I look at Jacob. I just call his name and he’ll turn around to stare at me, and then it happens – he smiles ear to ear just because he saw my face.

Then I tell the inner critic to eat that smile and shut the hell up. Because my son thinks I’m the best mother and most beautiful sight that eyes can see. Nothing the inner critic says can overwrite the image of my son smiling at me with affection.

I can’t be the only one with the inner critic? Do you guys have one? And what do you do to hush its hurtful words?

3 thoughts on “My Inner Critic

  1. Love this! I have worked with hundreds of parents and spouses, and I can securely say that, yes, nearly everyone has this same inner-critic. You have mastered the most-important, first step to defeating this nuisance: identifying it as such, an inaccurate nuisance. Keep challenging it and keep reveling in your son’s smile :).

    A good next step? Share it with your husband. Give him some key, supportive phrases he can offer you when your inner-critic is too loud, and come up with a code word that cues him so he knows you could use an extra hand at defeating the nuisance. So, for example, whenever you say “Bugger,” he knows to remind you that, “You’re a great mother and a fantastic wife!”

    Thank you for sharing!

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