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My Inner Voice Is So Mean 

         Never tell any of your inner parts that they have a bad or wrong feeling. Allowing the feeling is precisely what heals it!



My inner voice is so mean. I can clearly hear myself saying, “You’re so fat,” “You’re a terrible mother,” and “You look so old.” I’m wondering if you can shed some light on this.

Why would my inner voice be so mean when no one has actually said these things to me, and I definitely don’t say them to anyone else? And how can I fix my inner voice to be more compassionate?



The inner critic is one part of everyone’s personality, and everyone’s personality has many different parts. We’re like a bus that has a driver’s seat and a whole bunch of characters sitting in the passenger section. Whoever drives the bus — each of the passengers can become the driver at any given moment — gets to steer it. The one whose hands are on the steering wheel temporarily controls not only the driver’s hands (determining which direction the bus will go in), but also the driver’s words, thoughts, and actions.

The “driver” of the bus calls herself “I.” When you stand in front of a mirror and say, “I’m so old/ugly/etc.,” then a harsh, judgmental “passenger” has hijacked the bus and is steering it her way, expressing her views. Fortunately, your normal, healthy adult hears the insults and wakes up from wherever she was taking her nap, hops back into the driver’s seat (pushing the critic to the back of the bus), and thinks to herself, “My goodness! That lady is very mean! I need to do something about her.”

Interestingly, the characters on our personal bus are just like the people we meet in real life. We have some passengers who are very rational and wise, some who are scared and insecure, some who are highly motivated, others who are lazy, some who are kind and compassionate and those who are highly critical.

When one of the healthier parts is driving our bus most of the time, we tend to get to where we want to go in life, functioning well even if we occasionally hear rumblings in the back seat. But if less healthy parts routinely push their way into the driver’s cab, then we’ll find our bus frequently off track, failing to reach its destination, turning around in circles or even rolling into the occasional ditch.

Our less healthy parts, just like people, are who they are. We can “organize” them (keeping them in the back seat where they can’t do much harm), but we can’t change their personalities. Sometimes we can improve their behavior.

For instance, critical parts are often trying to be helpful, albeit in an unpleasant way. They want something to change for the better. Your critic, for example, wants you to improve your parenting skills. You might be able to get your critic to communicate more politely and/or productively.

You might ask her if she could make suggestions instead of complaints. The critic could say, for instance, “You could take a parenting course.” Like regular folk, when shown appreciation for their efforts and underlying motivations, critics are more likely to comply with requests to change their style.

Of course, sometimes critics don’t have any suggestions to offer. They’re simply expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo. “You look old” may be an expression of fear or disappointment. The best approach is to refrain from arguing and acknowledge the critic’s pain. “Yes, I can see that. Does it upset you?” Again, critics are just like people, and having had their feelings acknowledged, they’ll sometimes just melt.

Don’t be surprised if the critic actually starts to cry. “Yes,” the poor thing might say, “I’m afraid the good days are behind us, and we’ll be discarded.” Then you will be the compassionate one, comforting the vulnerable critic. “Don’t worry,” you might say. “Even if everyone wants to park our bus, we’ll make our own good times!”

Never tell any of your inner parts that they have a bad or wrong feeling. Allowing the feeling is precisely what heals it!

But if you find your critic is out of control, lowering your mood and productivity by harping on your flaws and foibles all day long, you might meet up with a psychologist. Professionals have a wide range of tools to help work with critic parts, including facilitating a process of transformation and healing.

Meanwhile, befriend your critic, allow it its feelings and perceptions, and move forward without debate. This strategy can provide significant relief and healing on its own.


Have a question for Mrs. Radcliffe? Send your queries about parenting or personal growth to familyfirst@mishpacha.com


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 787)

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