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What Is Your Inner Critic and Where Did It Come From?
On the journey of self-discovery, let us stop looking for what is wrong with us. Let us discover, instead, who we are and how we work! Let us put our judgment aside as we explore the amazing system Of selves within us and learn to live with ever-increasing honesty, choice, and freedom.
There was once a dreadfully wicked hobgoblin. One day he had a simply marvelous idea. He was going to make a looking glass that would reflect everything that was good and beautiful in such a way that it would look dreadful or at least not very important. When you looked in it, you would not be able to see any of the good or the beautiful in yourself or in the world. Instead, this looking glass would reflect everything that was bad or ugly and make it look very important. The most beautiful landscapes would look like heaps of garbage, and the best people would look repulsive or would seem stupid. People's faces would be so changed that they could not be recognized, and if there was anything that a person was ashamed of or wanted to hide, you could be sure that this would be just the thing that the looking glass emphasized.
The hobgoblin set about making this looking glass, and when he was finished, he was delighted with what he had done. Anyone who looked into it could only see the bad and the ugly, and all that was good and beautiful in the world was distorted beyond recognition.
One day the hobgoblin's assistants decided to carry the looking glass up to the heavens so that even the angels would look into it and see themselves as ugly and stupid. They hoped thatperhaps even God himself would look into it! But, as they reached the heavens, a great invisible force stopped them and they dropped the dreadful looking glass. And as it fell, it broke into millions of pieces.
And now came the greatest misfortune of all. Each of the pieces was hardly as large as a grain of sand, and they flew about all over the world. If anyone got a bit of glass in his eye there it stayed, and then he would see everything as ugly or distressing. Everything good would look stupid. For every tiny splinter of the glass possessed the same power that the whole glass had!
Some people got a splinter in their hearts, and that was dreadful, too, for then their hearts turned into lumps of ice and could no longer feel love.
The hobgoblin watched all this and he laughed until his sides ached. And still the tiny bits of glass flew about, And now we will hear all about it....Adapted from "The Snow Queen,"by Hans Christian Andersen
The Inner Critic is like the bit of mirror that makes us see a distorted picture. It is that inner voice that criticizes us and speaks about us in a disparaging way. It makes everything look ugly. Most of us are not even aware that it is a voice or a self speaking inside of us because its constant judgments have been with us since early childhood and its running critical commentary feels like a natural part of ourselves. It develops early in our lives, absorbing the judgments of the people around us and the expectations of the society in which we live. When we talk about this critical voice, please keep in mind that this Inner Critic is the voice within us that criticizes us, whereas the Judge is the self within us that criticizes other people.
The Inner Critic is a Citizen of the World
As we traveled around the world and worked with people from many different cultures, we were amazed at the power and universality of the Inner Critic. It might wear a different costume, but it was easily recognizable! Whether we were teaching in Europe, Israel, Australia, or the United States or working with people from Japan, China, or Southeast Asia, we found that the Inner Critic was always present. The content of its criticisms, however, varied according to the value system of each particular culture. We have been particularly fascinated by these variations.
For example, in America your Critic is likely to criticize you if you are not special enough or if you are not superior to others. Your Critic does not want you to disappear into the crowd, to be ordinary. Australian Critics take the opposite view. In Australia they have a saying that goes something like this: "Don't be a tall poppy because tall poppies get their heads cut off." You are not supposed to stand out, to be special, or to do anything that will draw special attention to you. Holland and other northern European countries with a strong Calvinist background have a similar value structure, and there too it is important not to stand out, even if you have done something special. In these countries, the Inner Critics are quite judgmental toward people who stand out too much or who try to be special.
The great similarity we have noted among all the Inner Critics of the world is their ability to cripple people and to keep them unhappy and ineffective. Although it is interesting to think of what life would be like without this critical voice, in reality we can never get rid of it, nor would we want to. As we shall see in the course of this book, the Critic can become our ally once we learn to recognize it and to handle it. However, as long as we are unconscious of it, we must constantly appease it.
You Cannot Please Your Inner Critic
No matter how much you try, you cannot please your Inner Critic. No matter how much you listen to it and try to change yourself in the way that it wants, it follows you and grows stronger. It is exactly like a parent who has been critical of you. Nothing that you do is okay. It is also like a dragon that keeps growing more heads as long as you do not deal with it. The harder you try to change yourself, the stronger it gets. Try to...Embracing Your Inner Critic. Copyright © by Hal Stone. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.