There Are 7 Types of Inner Critics – Here’s How to Identify & Calm Yours
It’s a common scene; I’m working with a client, one-on-one, when her loud inner critic rears its ugly head. Her inner critic is a punitive taskmaster. Its elixir: spilling words of fear designed to keep her in a self-fulfilling trap of self-doubt and criticism. The foundational belief cemented by her inner critic is that if she is not consistently “busy,” “pushing,” or “forging ahead,” then she is and will forever be a failure.
We’ve all had a run-in with an inner critic at some point in our lives. An inner critic is simply that harsh voice that spews out negative and fear-based statements that keep you locked in repetitive cycles of pain or shame. It’s that voice within that constantly tells you that you are not enough. In essence, your inner critic is the mouthpiece for the many different parts of your psyche. These “parts” are the psychological aspects within your own mind that require your attention, compassion, and healing.
According to psychotherapists Jay Earley, Ph.D., and Bonnie Weiss, LCSW, there are seven types of inner critics.
As someone who helps people own their innate power, I’ve seen that when people can discover which inner critic (or critics) has a hold on them, it becomes easier to identify that voice when it arises and greet it with compassion. The aim is gaining a better understanding of your own mind, and in the process learning to alter your knee-jerk responses so that you can experience more peace.
Like my client above, you may strongly identify with one inner critic or you may find that you resonate with a few different types. Here they are:
Type 1: The Perfectionist
This type of inner critic will always set incredibly high (often impossible) standards for you to reach. The theme for this inner critic is always around perfection. For example, the focus on perfection could be around your work, your appearance, and/or your relationships. According to this inner critic, if you are not doing things perfectly, then you are at risk of not fitting in, which for this type of inner critic is a fearful place to be because that may mean you could be judged or rejected. In essence, this inner critic is trying to shame you in an effort to protect you from your own self.
Type 2: The Inner Controller
This inner critic is a harsh and shaming voice focused on controlling your impulses. Your impulses can range from anything to do with your eating or drinking or your sex life. The fear for this inner critic is that you could lose control at any moment, so it shames you into controlling your own behavior so that you can come across as a “good” person. In essence, this inner critic is trying to shame you in an effort to protect you from your own self.
This inner critic is determined to make you work as hard as possible. Success at all costs is the goal. This inner critic voice will become very critical if you slow down or take a break. Laziness is out of the question. According to this inner critic, if you aren’t “hustling” and “crushing it,” you are failing.
This inner critic will do anything to undermine your self-confidence in an effort to stop you from taking any risks. This inner critic believes that playing it small is the safest place to be. Any attempt to rise, be visible, or simply be big is seen as a threat to Self. This inner critic will do anything to prevent that from happening. If you have very low self-esteem, it is likely that you have this type of inner voice.
This type of inner critic leaves you to believe that you are intrinsically flawed, that no matter what you do, you are innately bad. It will consistently attack your foundational level of self-worth, and if you have this type of inner critic, you will know firsthand how debilitating its effects can be. This type of inner critic is usually formed if you have experienced any trauma, deprivation, or abuse at an early time in your life.
Type 6: The Guilt-Tripper
This inner critic brings up the past at any opportunity that it can. It will harbor resentments and is unable to forgive you or others for any difficult experiences that may have led to pain. It believes that in order to stop the past from repeating itself, it must remind you of it at all times.
This type of inner critic will try to get you to conform to societal or familial standards so that you will be admired and loved. If you step slightly out of line, it will shame you so that you don’t “rock the boat.” If you’re not conforming, you’re at risk of being rejected.
As counter-intuitive as this may sound, every single type of inner critic is actually trying to protect you from a perceived psychological or emotional threat. Learning to understand why that is, is the key to long-lasting, positive change. Remember that self-compassion is both a process and practice, not a destination, and you are in charge of the journey.