Learning to Notice My Inner Critic

I’m so hard on myself, and I always have been. This has produced a me that I am pretty proud of – one that gets stuff done and focuses on doing things the right way for the right reasons with the right timing.

This critic seems to have served me well. I’m stable, happy, living a life I love.

But deep down, the critic is a difficult weight to carry. Its voice is strong and deep, rumbling beneath the surface almost all of the time.

I’m learning to notice, and I guess that’s the first step toward freedom. For the longest time, I just thought it was normal. “Everyone feels like this, right?” “It’s typical to analyze every moment and interaction to make sure things were not just done correctly on my part but also received correctly on theirs.” “It’s fine to have high standards. That’s why I’ve made it as far as I have.”

The truth is, I don’t know what it would be like to live without that inner critic. I’ve grown so accustomed to adjusting my behavior based on those impossible standards. The consistent whisperings that sometimes are more accurately shoutings have kept me grounded. Right? Right?

What if instead, I was grounded – rooted – in love. What if my harsh critic that tends to tell me I’m not good enough, didn’t communicate clearly enough, didn’t do my very best, didn’t produce it perfectly, was instead drowned out by the still, small voice that also resides inside of me. The voice that is the Spirit’s, a voice of only love. Of acceptance. Of enoughness.

I’ve heard that voice before. I’ve heard it often, actually.

Sometimes, it sounds like my gentle husband who believes the best in me and sees my flaws and loves me right in the middle of it all. Who truly thinks I’m wonderful and doesn’t care if I fall short of perfection.

Sometimes, it sounds like my girls, who correct me when that negative voice in my head overflows into what I say to myself aloud, “Mom, you’re not bad at that. You’re great.”

Sometimes, it sounds like scripture, the verses that bring comfort and connection, the ones that called me toward Jesus when I was still a teenager. 

And sometimes, it’s not even a voice, but a gut feeling – one that rises up from within and quickly produces tears. The Spirit’s way of getting my attention. “Right here, right now. Just as you are. You are fully known. Fully loved. You’re just one teeny tiny part of a much bigger story. I see your faithfulness. And even though you always ‘could have done more,’ what you’ve done, who you are, it’s enough. I’m not keeping score now and I never was. You just get to be part of the work I’m doing in the world. The kingdom I’m building. Enjoy the process. It’s a gift.”

May I learn to hear that gentle voice more clearly. And may I find myself being rooted and established in Love.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

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