The 7 Types of Inner Critic - Which One(s) Do You Recognise?
This post is adapted from my new book ‘The Power of Self-Kindness: How to Transform Your Relationship With Your Inner Critic,’ which is out now! To find out more and start healing your relationship with your inner critic and yourself, click here.
We talk about our inner critic in the singular but most, if not all, of us have several critical voices in our heads, each with a different modus operandi. Even though the situations in which they show up – and how they try to manipulate our behaviour are different – they all aim to keep certain aspects of our personality hidden away from the outside world.
In an article on their website, psychotherapists Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss outline seven types of inner critic. Look at the following list and notice which kinds of inner critic are present for you:
• The perfectionist: Sets high, usually unobtainable, standards and struggles to call things completed or finished.
• The underminer: Undermines your self-confidence and abilities so you stay small and don’t take risks.
• The guilt-tripper: Criticizes you for past wrong-doings and lives by the standards set by your family, community or culture.
• The molder: Tries to get you to fit a certain shape or standard set by your family, community or culture, and fears showing your true self will lead to rejection and abandonment.
• The destroyer: Attacks your self-worth, says you are inherently flawed and undeserving of basic respect and understanding.
• The taskmaster: Pushes you to keep going and fears if you stop, you will become lazy or other people will judge you as a failure (I write about my own experiences with my inner taskmaster later).
• The inner controller: Tries to control your impulses around things like eating, drinking, spending and sex – often resorting to harsh tactics to do so (you might recognize this inner critic in the gym scenario I described earlier in this chapter).
As you read this list, you might have an inkling which inner critic is loudest for you. Perhaps, like me, you experience more than one depending on the situation. Right now, you don't need to do anything with this information—start by simply noticing what comes up for you and when.
It feels important to say here that having a vocal inner critic(s) isn't a reflection on your worth or value as a person. Your critic is just one voice in your head and not representative of you as a whole. A common experience is we start exploring our inner critics and find we are criticising ourselves for even having an inner critic. Oof; double whammy.
As I explain in the book (and will share more about in a future post here), your inner critic—however destructive—is trying to help you in its own misfiring, twisted way. It's working with outdated beliefs and information (and its tactics and manner leave a lot to be desired). But having one or more inner critics is not a sign you are broken or that there is something wrong with you... it's actually a sign you are good at adapting and surviving.