My Inner Critic

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From the second I wake up each morning until I fall asleep each night, I hear a running commentary in my head. It usually goes something like this:

“You’re so freaking stupid. I can’t believe you did that.”

“What is wrong with you?”

“Of course you screwed up. You always do. Typical.”

“You’re an awful mother. If you worked with her more, she wouldn’t have delays.”

“Don’t bother showering or putting on something nice. You’ll still look like shit.”

Before you can ask, no, I’m not kidding.

There’s a very old record player somewhere inside of me. And this same record has been on the turntable for years. Because it’s scratched in places, some parts just play over and over again. Drumming it in. Sealing it. Locking it tight.

“Just shut up. You don’t have anything important or intelligent to say.”

“I can’t believe you left the house looking like that. You’re disgusting.”

“Look at your flabby stomach. You’re so lazy. You need to go on a diet.”

“Why haven’t you been exercising? It’s your fault you are so out of shape. What a slob.” 

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 8.59.06 AM

I had a Fisher-Price record player similar to this one. Did you?

I talk to myself inside my head and the voice I hear is my own, but it is not very nice. It’s loud and coarse, angry, bitter and demeaning. There are no manners, no niceties. I’ve been doing this for so long I can’t quite remember when it began, or how or why. I don’t recall a time when I didn’t hear these things. Sure, the language evolved a bit over time and cuss words got sprinkled in here and there, but otherwise– it’s the way it’s always been.

And although I just became aware of how severe the problem is, it’s an entirely different matter to try to stop it. The behavior is so deeply ingrained, so habitual– it lasts all day long, every day. The idea of not doing it seems too daunting a task. Removing a ritual that’s been in place since I was maybe 10 or 12 years old? How do I even begin?

My therapist said, “It’s no wonder you’re depressed and feeling so strung out. Think about how it makes you feel to be beaten down in this way, all the time. That takes a toll on a person.”

Huh.

I chewed on that for a few minutes before I started to cry.

I am, and have been, my own worst enemy. Self sabotage at its best.

And you know what’s almost comical? The things I say to myself I would never dream of saying to someone else. Not even on my worst day or if I was really upset. You just don’t speak to people that way! It’s rude and downright mean. It’s fine to have an opinion on something, but if you disagree you still need to be respectful in the process. There’s certainly no need for name calling.

But it’s totally acceptable to treat myself like shit. Because after all, I deserve it.

You know how sometimes you’re driving in the car and you wind up at your destination with absolutely no clue how you got there? You pull into a spot and shift into park and all of a sudden it’s like you snap yourself awake.

How did I get here? Wait, what? I’m in carpool line? I drove here myself? When?

It’s life on auto pilot. You go through the motions because you’ve done them a million times before and so you can multitask with the best of ‘em.

And so is the way with my inner critic.

My children don’t know about my inner critic. I hope they’ll never find out. And I pray every day that they’ll never develop one themselves.

Do you have an inner critic? What does he/she say to you? And if not, am I all alone in this?

 

 

 

 

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  • Lisa Allen

    Yes, I have one too. She sounds exactly like yours. xoxo

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Lisa,

      I’m really bummed you have one too. We need to kick them out TOGETHER. xo

  • http://sarafhawkins.com/ Sara F. Hawkins

    No, no, no, no, no! Your inner critic is a liar and not your friend. Banish that mean person because you don’t deserve to hear those things EVER! Answer your inner critic back with THE TRUTH. Thank you are smart. That you are a GREAT mom. That you are beautiful, funny, loving, caring, giving, generous. Your inner critic doesn’t deserve the right to say those things to you!

    • frelle

      you tell her, Sara!

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Thank you, @saving4someday:disqus & @frelle:disqus. You are both too kind. I’m working on this, but it’s a tough habit to break, like I imagine smoking would be…you do something for so long, and…? Ugh.

  • Kate Coveny Hood

    Some inner critics are pleasant enough about it… “Already over 40 and
    you’re still kind of a nobody – BUT maybe you’ll make something of
    yourself before you get REALLY old.” Most most of time though, that type is just resigned to you being a big disappointment.
    It’s hard to not buy into the negative and insecure self flagellation.
    But keep fighting the good fight and give your rational side just as
    much air time. It helps.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Kate,

      You are the sweetest. I can’t believe someone like you struggles with something similar. You are NOT a nobody. You are Somebody Spectacular in my book! xoxo

  • http://www.adayinmollywood.com molly

    I have dealt with negative self-talk my whole life. It’s really really awful. The thing is I didn’t even realize it was happening until I was 30 and by that time my brain had perfected it! It takes REALLY hard work to stop yourself from doing it. Please know I think you’re amazing. Parenting is HARD WORK! It’s hard not to beat yourself up but just remember that some things are out of your control.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Molly,

      It’s good to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this, but I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. You’re right– it’s such hard work to break this, my brain has it down PAT.

  • http://auerfreelance.com/ Kerstin Auer

    I definitely have an inner critic and my biggest concern so far has been that my kids don’t develop that as well – and I’ve been successful with that so far. Now I just need to apply the same technique to myself :)
    I also want you to know that you are awesome and your inner critic can suck it :)

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Kerstin,

      Your post from the other day…with all the things you guys have accomplished together (& separately?) totally indicates that you’ve done a tremendous job with your kids. And thank you so much for reading. I’m amazed by you and all you’re doing and maybe I can insert a little Kerstin spunk into my routine and life… ;-)

  • http://www.oldschoolnewschoolmom.com/ Old School/New School Mom

    I can completely utterly relate to this. Thank you for having the bravery to write this piece and be honest. You’re a rock star.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Old School/New School Sarah,

      YOU are the rock star! Thanks for reading!

  • Marty Long

    Mine isn’t any nicer. And it tells me to go ahead and eat the donut because I’ll always be fat anyway.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Oh Marty. I’m sending hugs and I love you, I think you are AWESOME. Too fun and smart and funny and pretty with your hair in braids…and you are NOT fat. But it’s probably hard to hear this from me. I always wish I could see myself the way others say they see me. And I wish that for you, too. <3 xoxo

  • tonyawertman

    My inner critic is a complete bitch and doesn’t know what she’s talking about! Clearly, neither does yours. This post brought tears to my eyes, Erin. How can we stop these nasty voices in our heads?

    xoxo

    • TheMamaChaos

      You are most definitely not alone.

      • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

        @TheMamaChaos:disqus, I am relieved I’m not alone, but unhappy to hear that others struggle with this as well. PS Are you going to BlogHer??

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Tonya,
      I don’t know how to stop it. My therapist said it’s not going to happen overnight and I know that much is true. At least I SEE it now, whereas before it was so automatic I didn’t even really stop to think about it? Ugh. xoxoxo hugs, I think you’re spectacular!

  • frelle

    mine too. every day, that inner monologue. have to work hard to shut that bitch up, otherwise she will totally overtake me.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Frelle,

      Yes, she is a total bitch. Need masking tape, rope… maybe a gun? Sheesh. I’ve had enough. It’s grating on me.

  • http://www.misselaineouslife.com Elaine A.

    Oh yes, I have one. She’s usually talking to me about my body image issues though and nothing else. I guess I think I’m pretty good at every thing else. ;) I want you to find and figure out that YOU are pretty damn good at too. I really, REALLLLLLLYYYY hope you can Erin, because you are an amazing person and friend. I KNOW that about you. I wish I could tell your inner voice to Shut the F up because that is what it needs to do. And I hate to say this to you, because I do not want to make you feel bad, but even though you think your kids do not know, they may in some way. Do you know what I mean? Try to lift yourself up every morning in some way. Find an inspiring quote or verse you love and make it your positive mantra. This is your homework from me, someone who loves you beaucoup!! xoxoxoxoxo

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Thank you, sweet Elaine. Yes, I do worry that they can sense some things even though they don’t hear the voice. My therapist says they’re young enough now that I still have time to turn this thing around. So…that’s what I’m working on. Not easy. Not at all. But I’m aware, which is something. xo

  • http://goodgirlgoneredneck.blogspot.com Andrea B.

    Oh, G-d, Erin. I want to shut her up for you. You don’t deserve her. Please tell her to go away. Shut her out. You are not all those things. You’re just not.

    I have that voice, too. Mine says different things. I try so hard to kick her to the curb regularly. We need to band together and make a force field and shield ourselves and one another from them. Love to you, my friend.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Andrea,

      Yes, we do need to band together on this one…find a resolution and/or help one another. Sometimes it’s SO HARD not to listen. ANd believe. I’m not happy to hear you have a voice like this, too. xo

  • http://lovelivegrow.com/ Issa Waters

    I know this voice well. It’s so horrible to have to go through every day with all that weighing down on you in your own mind – I know just how horrible it is!

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Issa,
      It is horrible. I wish the voice goes away (or gets nicer) for both of us!!

  • Kim@Co-Pilot Mom

    I have that voice too. She talks to me in a way I would never speak to someone else. I am trying to get her to change her tune, but it is an effort. It is easy to criticize ourselves, isn’t it?

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Kim,

      It is easy. TOO easy, which is the problem. and yes, the worst part is that we use language, words that would NEVER be okay to say to someone else– out loud! So where does it start, how do we stop it… and realistically how is it affecting my kids?

  • BipolarMom (Jenn)

    I have a nasty one, too. And I haven’t figured out how to shut her up completely yet, although reading Daring Greatly (which I just recently finished) helped some.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Jenn,

      I love Daring Greatly (& all things Brene Brown!). I know enough now to know that shame and childhood garbage play a big role in all of this. ;-(

  • http://chibijeebs.com/ Chibi Jeebs

    Dude. I could have written this post (in fact, I probably have written one eerily similar). I would never in a bazillion years EVER dream of speaking to others the way I speak to myself. When I first noticed by inner critic, she sounded a lot like my mom; sadly, over the years, she’s morphed into… me. :-s

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Chibi,

      I’m sad to hear this. And yes, mine sounds similar to my mom, too. But my voice. And I just want to kick her to the curb. Light her on fire. Load her into a spaceship that isn’t coming back. But how? :-(

  • http://writingwishing.com/ Alison

    You hit the nail on the head when you pointed out that you would never say those things to your friends and family. Why are we so unkind to ourselves?

    I’ll tell you this, Erin. You deserve love and kindness, most of all, from yourself. Listen to the ones who love you, not the bitch in your head. xoxo

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Alison,

      It’s hard to tune her out. And perhaps the root of the problem is, at my very core I do not feel I deserve love and kindness. So there’s that. ;-(

  • http://www.about100percent.com/ Andrea

    It’s amazing that we are so careful what we say to others, but we have no filter when it comes to self-talk. Where do we learn this?

    You are a brave, strong, lovely person, Erin. You deserve much more than that inner critic is telling you. Love to you. xoxo

  • heidi

    Heartbreaking – how we do this to ourselves. You are a kind, thoughtful and beautiful person. I hope one day your inner critic gets squashed by all the good that is in you. Because, oh my, there is so much good in you.

  • http://www.jenniferpwilliams.com/ Jennifer P. Williams

    I know this so well. I’ve done the same thing for years and years. My therapist asked how I would feel if Cady talked to herself this way. I bawled. And she asked how I would react if someone else talked to me this way. I got really mad. That’s when I started “talking” to myself, this other me. And that is when I really started getting to the root of a lot of my problems. Questioning that mean girl instead of trying to silence her was the best thing I ever did.

  • http://genieinablog.com. Leigh Ann

    Oh Erin. I want to hug you because I know how much intelligent stuff you have to say and I can see how beautiful you are on the inside and out. That being said, I know this voice too. It often tells me that I shouldn’t bother submitting writing anywhere, or even start working on an idea I have, because I’ll never be able to see it through. I think we all have this voice a bit, and some struggle with it more than others. Yours sounds like it needs a stern talking to, or maybe a good taco kick.

  • http://sellabitmum.blogspot.com/ sellabitmum

    Oh love – I think this is such a common thing and I JUST HATE IT FOR YOU. I do this. My daughter has started this. How to make it stop. xoxo

  • Kory Chatelain

    Everyone has an inner critic. I went through this with my therapist also. Just some people’s critic is harsher than others. Making it stop or slow down is another story. A lot of this has to do with self esteem and your own self image. You have to learn to like yourself, then love yourself…..and it isn’t easy. After 7 years of therapy I finally started to accept myself for who I was. Screw ups and everything. Tell you inner critic to shut up, learn from your mistakes and try to do better next time and instead of chastising yourself, try to laugh at yourself. You are only human after all.

  • http://aladyinfrance.com/ Lady Jennie

    This is the sound of my own internal voice, and although it’s usually non-stop, the voice has calmed down some. I can see it losing its power – not all the time – but many times. I can stop it dead in its tracks and call it the liar it is.

    But I relate all too well.

  • http://www.thingsicantsay.com/ shellthings

    Oh yes. No one is as hard on me as I am. I cut others so much slack for the same things I beat myself up for.

  • Galit Breen

    I get this. I do.

    Sending you all the love and lift you give everyone else — that, you deserve, We all do.

  • Sandy @endthecrazytalk

    My inner critic almost didn’t allow me to leave a comment because I suck at writing. I’m doing my best to push my inner critic aside because somewhere deep down I believe I have a voice, one that has something to say and maybe some of it might be important.

    Thanks for sharing your struggles Erin. You’re an incredible woman to expose your vulnerabilities and in turn allow others to feel we can too. xoxo

  • Arnebya

    My inner critic’s name is Shirley. I find myself saying before she even starts going, Shut Up, Shirley. It’s hard. It’s very hard. And it shouldn’t be, to tell her to stuff it. I hope you find a way out soon, Erin, that the voice begins to ebb as you convince yourself it’s wrong, totally wrong, about you and your abilities and heart.

  • Nicole Morgan

    I am not sure why we let her be the voice of reason .. because she is so God damn unreasonable I not even sure why we let her speak at all. It is the niceness in us, the need for justice … each to his own that lets her have a voice in the first place … perhaps we can invite her downstairs, to a meeting or something … lock her in the basement and keep her there?

  • Greta

    I wish you could see yourself the way everyone else does, Erin. You deserve for that inner voice to be nice to you…you’re smart, beautiful, and WORTH SO MUCH.

  • aninchofgray

    I don ‘t know why we are so darn hard on ourselves, but we are. I guess my inner critic says I’m a big fraud.

  • http://amandamagee.com amandamagee

    I wish I could say something to change it, but I know how my own ears would receive the words. I don’t want to lose my credibility with you by spooning sunshiny horseshit.

    I do know this, you are special and gorgeous, but more than either of those, you are fiercely smart and strong as hell.

    xo

  • http://www.thesuniverse.blogspot.com Suniverse

    Oh, hon. That inner critic is a motherfucker. Love you.

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