We’ve all fallen victim to the voice inside our head that tells us we’re not good enough.
Not pretty enough. Not smart enough. So undeserving.
She’s that inner mean girl. The inner critic. The voice you wouldn’t unleash on your own worst enemy.
Yet she plays the starring role in our own inner monologue.
The letter below was penned by a dear friend of mine. A message to herself from her own inner critic.
We hope this resonates with you and reminds you to keep your inner critic at bay.
She was created to keep us safe. Not keep us small.
Letter dated 19 April 2018
We’ve been together 28 years now. Can you believe it?
We’ve come so far and learned so much.
It’s been a relatively smooth ride. Well, apart from those few times where we took a wrong turn and it got a little bumpy.
I remember our first wrong turn.
We were oh-so-young with new emotions and new hormones raging through our body.
It was hard to handle sometimes.
One moment we were in a euphoric David Guetta trance, not a care in the world. The next we were trapped in a Slipknot, stewing on Korn and Rage’ing’ Against the Machine.
It was my first real opportunity to step up and take charge because during those teenage years you insisted on being weird.
I had to intervene.
That objectionable fashion sense? The repulsive hair and mouth full of braces? Not good enough.
Plus those horrible social settings you kept forcing us into. What did you call them? “Gatherings”?
I mean honestly, what was the point? It was almost fun for me, entertaining. You really thought boys would notice you.
Throughout high school I kept at you until one night you actually listened.
After all the times I told you that no one wanted you around and they were better off without you, you finally gave in and agreed. I had you all to myself.
I remember beginning to worry that night when you went looking for your brother’s stash of alcohol.
I thought you were trying to drown me out but I shouldn’t have worried. Whatever you drank just gave me more fuel to tell you how miserably inadequate you were.
I’m sure you remember how sick you were the next day…
Swiftly moving on to our second wrong turn – do you remember your ex?
Ah. That pivotal point where you decided to take a leap and move on in life without him.
I remember how busy I was back then, making sure you were aware of every single aspect of your life you were ruining with this change. And what a mean horrible person you were for even thinking of leaving him in the first place.
But I admit it. I probably went too far.
I know you remember ‘that’ night.
I could see you were hurting but I just kept going, pushing you further and further to think about what you had done.
I remember you said you just wanted to feel something other than emotional pain. You wanted to feel real pain.
So you did…
Not much. But just enough to remind you. You’re alive, this life is real.
You scared us both that night so we grabbed all those remaining painful memories and pushed them deep, deep down inside. Where no one could ever find them.
I really thought it was a good plan. I mean, we went on to survive another four years with no qualms.
Until at age 25 when we hit our final cataclysmic wrong turn.
What a doozy it was. A ‘breakdown’ I think they called it?
Cried for days on end, didn’t you?
…I suppose you blame me for this one too.
I wasn’t taking kindly to the new work environment you were in.
That lovely lady you called your ‘mentor’ left. You had new colleagues to adapt to. And at home there were new people and new challenges too.
You were becoming unraveled.
This was not part of the plan and I warned you it was not the time to start dredging up those painful memories we worked so hard on burying.
But you did.
And it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Out of nowhere the waterworks started and we needed Noah’s ark to survive the flood that ensued.
Days and days this went on for.
What the hell was happening?
I was at a loss.
I used to have so much control over you and now I had nothing.
And eventually, you had nothing too.
You just laid there staring into this imaginary black abyss.
It’s like we were floating.
Not towards or away from anything. Just floating. Suspended…
After that our relationship began to change.
You started opening up to other people instead of only talking to me.
Do you remember that counsellor? She gave you the book The Happiness Trap.
She said I’m your fiercest protector but sometimes I got it wrong.
She said I’d rather keep you all to myself to avoid you getting hurt. From other people, new experiences.
So you kept talking to her and reading that book. And you began to learn all sorts of things.
It made you realise there was an imbalance in our relationship.
You gave me the power and I relished in its glory.
The bigger I got, the smaller you became.
All those times I thought I was helping you, protecting you… apparently I was controlling you? Keeping you small?
When we really sat and thought about it, we’d never treat another person like that.
If we did, think about the charges we’d face?
Harassment, assault, domestic violence…
We now say our last wrong turn was in fact our biggest triumph.
“Look at us now!” you say.
“Our balance is so much healthier.”
And as time moves on, I’m beginning to understand you’re right.
As your counsellor said, I’m your fiercest protector. All I want is for you to be safe and happy. I just don’t always know what that’s meant to look like.
So let’s recite our new plan again, ok?
1. Call me out if I step out of line – you know I like to push the limits
2. Label our emotions so we understand how we’re feeling – say it loud and say it proud
3. Keep doing regular exercise to keep me occupied – and to keep our nasty friend Cortisol at bay
4. Let’s talk it out sister – find a mate and talk about it, we are not alone
5. When we look in the mirror we tell each other that we are strong and confident – we got this!
It’s been a hell of a ride.
All my love.
A note from Fiona:
Our brains are the most powerful tools we have.
But “with great power, comes great responsibility” (thank you, Spiderman).
Keeping on top of our mental health can seem like a constant battle.
And sometimes we can’t avoid taking a wrong turn. But it’s what we do after we take those wrong turns that matters.
We must learn from them. It’s what makes us stronger and wiser.
And as we learn how to better manage our mental health, it becomes easier to cope next time we take a wrong turn.
What are you doing to keep your mind healthy?
Explore. Experiment until you find a routine and plan that works for you.
Most importantly, remember if you do take the step to talk to a counsellor or psychologist, sometimes you need to try a few before you “click” with someone. Helpful tip: You can also specifically ask for a female to talk to.
I am a woman who strongly advocates for equality and I can now proudly say, my most important relationship is equal.