You know how people talk about their “inner child?”
Well what if I told you that your inner child and your inner critic were essentially the same thing.
When people talk about “telling your inner critic to shut up” or “silencing your inner critic,” I cringe. Because you’re basically telling your 5 or 15-year-old self to shut up. And you’re saying their worries and concerns aren’t valid.
I learned this back when worked with my coach and former therapist Brent Charlton.
It’s based around this idea of “ego states.”
Ego states are basically patterns of thinking and feeling that we develop at different parts of our life.
You’ve got your “child” ego state.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, scared, afraid you did something wrong, worried you’re not good enough — and basically want to curl up an a ball and hide from the world — that’s because your “child” ego state has been activated.
When you’re angry, aggressive, mean, harsh, or posturing, that’s your “teen” ego state.
And when you’re rational, confident, and trust your ability to handle situations, that’s your “adult” ego state.
When your “inner critic” is mean and harsh with you, that’s basically your teenage self. It’s the patterns of thoughts and feelings you developed in that time echoing at you.
And your teen is being mean because it’s trying to protect your inner child. Your inner child is scared and insecure, so your teen lashes out to protect them.
You see this pattern play out in real life all the time.
For example, copywriters who get all angry when someone critiques their copy. They start huffing how the other person doesn’t know anything and posturing about how smart they are and blah blah blah.
That’s their teen being activated. And their teen is lashing out because deep down, they actually feel inscure. They worry their writing isn’t good or they messed up or they’re not gooe enough. Those worries come from their child.
When you see people with this hard outer shell being aggressive and angry and pointing the finger blaming everyone around them, that’s the inner teen at work. And they are simply protecting that scared child inside them that feels like they aren’t good enough.
So your inner critic is basically your inner teenager.
Now think of yourself at 16. If you said something and you were then ignored or told to shut up, would you be cool with that?
Would you calm down and feel at peace? Or would you get upset?
Same thing happens in our heads now. Telling our inner critic to shut up or ignoring it just activates it more.
So instead, you validate it.
Here’s a helpful exercise:
When that voice in your head is criticizing you and making you feel like crap, see it as a 16 year old version of yourself.
Then, have a conversation with that 16-year-old version of yourself.
Really imagine them with you, wearing whatever you wore as a teenager.
Let them know you hear their concerns. You can see they are angry and upset and however else they feel and that it’s normal for them to feel that way.
Then talk to them like you would if your 16 year old self was actually in the room. Avoid shaming or blaming them. Talk to them lovingly and with compassion. And let them know that you’ve go this situation handled and they don’t need to worry about it.
Brent has a very specific process for how to have this conversation. It’s incredible, and you can learn it here. (I’m not an affiliate, just sharing his course because his work has been the most transformative thing I’ve done.)
Talking to my “inner teen” and inner child has been outrageously helpful in my own life.
When my “inner critic” gives me crap about how I did a bad job at improv or wasn’t social enough at a party or wrote something that I think nobody liked, I have a little chat with my teen.
I let him know his feelings and thoughts are valid. I share some info about the situation he may not know. And I let him know I’ve got the situation handled.
The anger and anxiety and fear generally drops from like a 7 to a 3. And when I do Brent’s full process, sometimes the thing that got me upset just stops bothering me for good.
Btw I know people who were taught a similar thing in therapy and they find it helpful. So it’s not just me 🙂
If this was helpful, or you buy Brent’s course, let me know.