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Self-Criticism Works 99% Against You

By Conscious Owl | Inner Peace

Aug 15
self criticism development

You may remember the Blue Meanies in the Beatle’s incomparable film, Yellow Submarine. They were the ultimate party killer. All they could do is threaten, suppress and destroy the Beatles and their fans.

They played havoc throughout the animated cartoon until the Beetles sang, “All You Need Is Love,” in which their arrows of hatred suddenly turned into flowers, and the Blue Meanies could not help but be caught up in all the positive vibes.​

Very few of us realize that we have internalized something much like the Blue Meanies as a negative voice that constantly attacks us and puts us down.

This voice comes out of our childhood from one of three institutional contexts: family, school or church. It is the voice of fear, the ultimate authority figure, the drill sergeant, the bogey man.​

How We Keep Being Fooled

Very often we respect this negative voice. We take it seriously. We even regard it as your own voice. It appeals to our sense of being right. It bolsters our pretense of perfectionism. You should get straight “A’s” in school.

You should get an MBA or Ph.D., or you won’t amount to very much. You should find a trophy wife. You should end up being a millionaire, or something is really wrong with you.​

In the face of all these strenuous demands, the negative voice knows something you all too easily believe. You don’t have what it takes. If you did have what it takes, you would be somewhere today. But look at you now, what have you really done for yourself? You are no good!

Somehow, we feel better after a beating. Maybe it is because it lets us off the hook. It is like going to confession and foreswearing lustful thoughts. While we are in front of the priest, we go along with the game. The moment we stop out of the cathedral, we go back to being our naughty little self.

Behavior Development: Critical Parent vs. Rebellious Child

A generation ago, a popular psychiatrist, Eric Berne, modernized Freudian psychology, and showed us how we are controlled by the continual playoff between the parent above us, and the child beneath us. In the middle is the adult, whose reasonable requests are all too often drowned out by the in-fighting.

Eric called it “Transactional Analysis,” and immortalized this therapy with his classic, Games People Play. He showed us how our mother and father’s voice and presence continued on into our adulthood.​

When they were loving, they were the nurturing parent. When they were angry and controlling, they were the critical parent. When you were just doing your thing having fun, you were the natural child. When you were confronted by them, you were either the adapted child (if you knew what was best for you), or you were the rebellious child, if you wanted to give them a run for their money.​

Many times, your parent or authority figures weren’t controlling you out of pure sadism. They didn’t what you to cross the street and get hit by a car, or stick your hand on the grill and get burned. The only way they knew how to control you was to sharply intervene.​

child maltreatment

As you grew older, your mom or dad, most likely dad, spanked you, or even whipped you. I was lucky, in that my dad spanked me only a few times, and kissed me afterward. He really loved me. Most of us aren’t so fortunate.

Some parents begin to totally lose patience with their children and tell them that they are no good, and will end up being a nobody. This scenario often revolves around the report card.

To add to this, you may have had a primary school teacher who wasn’t very adept with kids and berated you to keep the class in line.

You also may have gone to a church where the man behind the pulpit was into fire and brimstone. “You are going to hell if you don’t straighten your ways.” Usually they pointed out that God was gracious, and would eventually forgive you. But that forgiveness was often tinged with guilt and fear.

Feedback - Yes; Criticism – No

As we grew past 18, it was supposed that the adult function of our psyche would outweigh the parental function, and we could start more rationally making our own decisions. For some of us, it was after college. For others, it took graduate school. For the rest of us, the critical parent stayed on uninvited.

Should you delete this voice entirely? This may not always be a good idea. 1% of the time, the voice actually is right. You have gotten into a mess. You got fired. You had an affair. You got nasty with your kids, and they ran away. You drink a little too much, and it has now gotten totally out of hand.

At such times, you are well-served by the critical parent. Yes, there are exceptions… when you actually need self-criticism. However, the critical parent will never really get you out of the fix you are in. You must look to spiritual forces within.

How to Turn Down the Critical Voice

You can try hitting the delete button on the critical parent. However, if you are like most of us, the voice has a way of persisting no matter what you do. You may be “blessed” with the critical parent sufficient to drive you to therapy.

Another way of looking at this is to turn down the volume on the critical voice, so that it doesn’t have the same command volume.​

Tony Robbins suggests you simply close your eyes and visualize a control panel. You gradually turn down the voice until it is barely audible. You can even throw in a sound mixer and make it sound ridiculous to the point where you burst out laughing.​

It is not enough to just turn down the critical voice. You must also turn up the loving voice with affirmations. “I can do it.” “I have what it takes.” 

Perhaps you write a list of lifetime achievements. You might type up some affirmations… the ones that make you super excited and give you goosebumps when you say them out loud daily. You can then close your eyes and imagine the loving voice growing louder and louder until it overpowers the critical voice.

Another way of looking at it… let’s say, your self-criticism shows up in a form of a hungry wolf and your confident-self is represented by another wolf… which one would choose to feed?​

feeding negative thoughts

It actually helps to visualize the scene in action. See your hand extending and feeding one of those wolfs. Which one are you feeding? Who wants to feed the wolf that brings only pain and darkness? The more you feed it, the bigger and more uncontrollable it gets.

It takes just as much energy to feed your "negative wolf"... as... ​

Catch yourself.  Re-focus your thoughts and energy! 

What No One Wants You to Know

We live in a post-modern world where the pace is constantly accelerating. Things are increasingly complex. Nothing is certain. The last thing people imagine today is that they are perfect just as they are.

This is true, not only for religious reasons, but also because so few people are conscious of their inner perfection. We are in a society where being out of touch spiritually and emotionally is the new norm.

This doesn’t invalidate the truth that you are inherently divine, no matter what you do. You only learn by making mistakes. At the core of your being is absolute love. Your task is to facilitate its emergence into the outer world. This is what true enlightenment is all about.

All you need do now is finally forgive your parents and institutional figures that gave you the critical parent. Without their help, you might not have made it this far. However, if you are like me, you may want to do something beyond merely survive. You might thank your parents, and move on. (And we can’t begin moving on until we establish some sort of inner peace).

You will then find that you are the man or woman you have always wanted to be!​


About the Author

One conscious owl to another... sharing what we learned over the years, and from many wise owls before us.