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.”
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.”
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?