My Inner Critics

by Mary Ellen Collins

How does my inner critic show up in my life?

She yells at me. She shows up when I have made a mistake, and I couldn’t get away with it if I tried. She always tells me what I have done wrong. She never calls me stupid but her words sting. I hear her saying, “I told you so.” I find myself swirling into a self-pity abyss.

I try to stifle my inner critic with positive affirmations that I have written about myself. Every morning I repeat, “I am healthy, I am smart, I am caring, I love myself . . .” I hear her voice saying, “You sure think a lot of yourself. Prove it. If they are true it should be easy.” I take the bait and soon I am arguing and defending myself. With whom?

I now realize that my inner critics are the two narcissistic aunts who were part of my life after the loss of both my parents. Before I was 15, the war began. Each aunt fighting for a piece of me to control. Both of them competing for control in their own way. I made it through my adolescent years ignoring both of them. Surviving on my own. I did not realize that their voices would transcend death and live in me today.

Aunt G. so focused on image and how things would look to others, particularly how it would make her look. Referring to me, she said, “My niece is a registered nurse. I helped her make something out of herself.” The truth is that she told me that I just needed to find a good man to marry and take care of me. When I protested, her response was that it was just fine for her daughters. What made me think I was better than them? One would think she would be supportive. Not Aunt G.

Aunt M., always opinionated, always telling me how she would do it differently. Never just loving me for who I am. I was never good enough. My brother was, but not me. She was always bragging about my accomplishments on the outside. When the door was shut, she was mean, calling me all sorts of names. Criticizing even the way I washed dishes. I am grateful that she financially supported my brother and me after the death of my mother. She never let me forget what she did for me. Not my brother, just me. He was a joy, I was not.

So here I am today, allowing them to taint my views and perspectives. I am not sure I can become friends with them. I do need to tame them. I need to quiet them and give voice to the inner critic that I can dance with.

I will write a letter to both of them sending them into retirement.

Who is your inner critic? Are you friends with them or do you need to retire them too?

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