When we are growing up, we are completely dependent on those in authority to help us – our parents, other adult family members, our teachers and even our older siblings. So it is hardly surprising then that these people hugely influence what we become.
This becomes a problem when these people tell us things like "you are always too shy to speak up" or "your brother is good at everything – why aren’t you more like him?". We begin to internalise and take on their beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.
Then when we become teenager, we begin to reject what we have learned in favour of our peers. We start experimenting with different belief systems, attitudes and behaviours and we begin to take these new ideas on as our own. During this time, we begin to mix with people who hold different world views. We may experience rejection and absorb harmful criticism such as -
"Nobody really likes you – they are just letting you join in to make up the numbers"
"You can’t trust the “establishment” they are out to get you"
"You like XYZ music? Ha ha only losers like that kind of music"
As we grow older we carry this commentary with us and, over time, we begin to believe these things about ourselves forgetting that originally it was someone else’s opinion or belief system. We even hear this voice as our own.
An entrenched Inner Critic feeds on every tiny bit of information that is in any way relatable. That is, every negative experience, every negative comment or criticism (even those that aren’t are construed as negative).
The Inner Critic grows in this way it until it dominates our every waking moment. We anticipate the worst and fear taking risks or making changes. We become anxious and depressed. We lose confidence at work, our relationships with others are undermined and it intrudes on our ability to function effectively.
And so, whatever the Inner Critic is telling us is a self-fulfilling prophecy and it is all true.
What can I do about it?
When I coach clients who suffer from low self-confidence, I teach them techniques to tame the inner critic. If this is something you’ve been struggling with, why not sign up to my free 6 part ‘moving forwards’ series?