Joy Rigberg, MEd, MA, CC
Recovery & Life Coach
Certified B.E.S.T. Practitioner

Understanding Your Inner Critics

A few days ago I sent out a blog post entitled, Acknowledging Your Inner Critics, in which I exposed some of my own personal inner dialogue and shared one of the processes I practice to release and transform them.

In today’s post, my intention is to help you gain further understanding about the evolution of your inner critics and to offer some tangible tools to learn how to release them. 

P.S. If you prefer to continue reading this post on my blog, click here.

Where do these critical voices come from?

Short answer: Your ego.

Longer answer:  We are all products of our conditioning.  Our family environment, teachers, and other important people who have played a big part in raising us and in our early lives.

Each and every one of us has, at one time or another in our childhood, (more likely many times), experienced being reprimanded, punished, abused (either verbally, physically or sexually), made fun of, criticized, rejected, broken hearted, beat up, judged, or a number of other events, (fill in the blank for you), that we have labeled and embodied as either negative or traumatic.

It is as a result of these events that our ego comes to the rescue and develops these voices as defense mechanisms. 

Their intention is to protect us and to keep us from being re-traumatized.  They will do anything and everything in their power to make us feel safe, loved and protected. 

And they actually do a great job, for a short time anyway.  Until we begin to grow up, change, mature and survive the events for which the voices were created, and we no longer need them. 

Only they don’t know that. 

They were created to fulfill a job that we invented for them, so they don’t know how to do anything other than what they do, i.e., bully, criticize, perfect, doubt, fear, shame, judge, etc.

Are you starting to get the picture? 

Let me illustrate an example for you from my own life.

My family moved to Phoenix, Arizona when I was in the third grade.  I remember my first day of school feeling scared, self-conscious and awkward.  I was eight years old.

I learned pretty quickly who the popular kids were, and I wanted to be a part of their group so I would feel like I fit in.  One of the popular girls was a real bully.  I remember she used to make fun of me, push me around and laugh at me.  It got to the point where I didn’t want to go to school anymore. 

Hence, the birth of my inner critic. 

I began to defend myself from this bully with my tongue.  I became very mean and defensive.  Lashing out verbally and being sarcastic became my defense and way of being.  And oddly enough, it seemed to gain me respect from this bully, and before I knew it, I was in the group.

At the time, my sharp tongue was a refuge from the verbal attacks and the benefits were very rewarding!  But not always. 

Fast forward 20, 30 almost 40 years and the benefits aren’t so great anymore. 

My inner critic is still only doing what she knows how to do, which is criticize, only today, verbal lashings and sarcasm aren’t nearly as accepted or rewarding as they were when I was in the third grade.

Will I ever be free of my inner critics?

Yes, if that’s TRULY what you desire!

All it takes is some self-awareness, patience, compassion and practice.  

That’s all. 

It’s really that simple. 

Although, don’t get me wrong, simple does not necessarily mean easy.  

You’ll need to call upon your inner strength, courage, determination and perseverance, as well as have a strong desire to re-write that inner soundtrack that has been playing for most of your life. 

In other words, you’re going to need to start LOVING YOURSELF!

How do I begin?

In four words…Stop Feeding The Voices!

Energy goes where attention flows. 

Here’s an illustration of that in the form of a Cherokee Legend.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

“The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Gratitude and a New Task

The process that I described in, Acknowledge Your Inner Critics, is one method that I’ve experienced which seems to lower the volume and even silence the voices of my inner critics.

In a long and ongoing process of self-awareness and growth, including lots of meditation, mentoring and coaching, along with many failures and successes, I now understand when and why I created each of my own inner critics.

Just learning about their evolution seemed to lighten my burden and dissipate their energy.  My anger towards them has since transformed into respect and gratitude.

Understanding that they each were and are only doing the job that I created them to do, changed their entire chemistry and energy. 

So, armed with all of this new understanding, what I do today when I hear one of their voices is the following:

  • I let them know that I appreciate them trying to protect me, but I’ve got it handled right now.
  • Then I assign them a new task by giving them a job that is worthy of their talents. (Inner critics love to stay busy).  I’ll send them out to go do important work helping in the world, tending my garden, etc. 
  • Next, I make a conscious choice to feed the joyful, loving and kind wolf, or voice, by creating a positive and empowering affirmation.
  • Then we both feel better! 🙂

Which wolf do you choose to feed today?

I hope this has article has been helpful!  I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, questions and experience!  Post your comments below, or come on over to my Facebook page and we can talk there!

With love,


4 Responses to “Understanding Your Inner Critics”

  1. Lynne Rigberg says:

    Incedible Blog… Thankyou!!!

  2. Joy says:

    Thank you guys for your support! And I’m really glad you enjoyed the post!

  3. Kelly says:

    Thank you for your post. I literally stumbled upon your website. I was just looking for relief. The committee has been taking my inventory…my mother and I had an argument yesterday and the committee has been in charge ever since. I guess I needed something or someone to tell me I am ok. And I am. I have been angry with myself for allowing her to push my buttons yet once again. I thought I had a handle on that for the last couple of years. My guard was down and she took advantage.

    My inner self has been at so much peace for so long, not having to endure her abuse, that I lost it. I thought she had gotten past her meanness and subtle but very sarcastic comments. I thought she had lost her taste to work at trying to be destructive in my life.

    I have a background in drug & alcohol counseling. Today, I am fighting to not self destruct, I am recreating my power and I am not going to let her have my peace and serenity. In order to do that I needed to do something different. Forgive me for using you web page for my personal journal. I needed to let the universe know that I am fighting back. I am not giving up on all of the work I have done to not allow my mother have my power.

    But, I also know that I need to do my part. And the beginning was right here. I thank you for your blog. I needed to remember some of the things you talked about. One thing for certain, I do not need to beat myself up, she already has. It is ok for me to heal now and contemplate just how much of her anger, bullying and abuse, will be allowed in my life from now on. I am the parent of me…