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The Value of the Harsh Inner Critic

Image of red flowering plants against white rock formations.Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, Harsh Inner Critic, Katherine Broadway

In my e-book The Harsh Inner Critic, I talk about the many difficulties that can be caused by the HIC. That discussion might make you wonder how there could be any value in the HIC. However, we can find that value by looking at its origins and its primary purpose.

The Origin Of the Harsh Inner Critic

The HIC came into being at a time in your life when you needed connection in order to develop a sense of self. If that connection was insecure, undependable, absent or abusive, it did not provide what you needed and you were left alone. For a child, that's intolerable. It creates a sense of isolation and a fear of annihilation.

Adam grew up with an overachieving father who worked 55 or more hours a week. Weekends were devoted to yard work and maintenance. His mother was anxious and was constantly waiting for the next crisis to occur. When Adam was born his mother suffered from depression and anxiety. She was terrified about how to take care of a baby, so the contact she had with him was brief and filled with anxiety. His father was seldom home and when he was, he was too preoccupied to give Adam his undivided attention.

Adam grew up believing that he was a burden to his mother, and that he caused her to be overworked, overwhelmed and anxious. He felt that he was not important enough or good enough to deserve his father’s attention. The human psyche is so creative that it comes up with a solution for this situation. It creates an internal self, the Harsh Inner Critic, that is there for you no matter what happens. Therefore, the Harsh Inner Critic has an important role to play in your life until you find better options.

For Adam, he developed a Harsh Inner Critic that was confident, talked to him constantly and gave him the answers to his struggles. He was told that he should work harder and make sure he had very few needs. If he did have a need he was to take care of them himself. He had few close friends, little trust in others and no intimacy in his life. He was lonely but it was a fair trade off

for him because he felt safe. His Harsh Inner Critic was with him, directing his life.

The Harsh Inner Critic brings negative consequences in your life. It is also crucial to acknowledge that it is an important survival tool for children like Adam who grow up in adequate or abusive homes. It is an essential aspect of a person’s life and is not to be taken lightly. Adam’s story illustrates the ways in which the Harsh Inner Critic adds value to one’s life.

The Value of the Harsh Inner Critic

1. The Harsh Inner Critic is an internal compass:

The HIC always has an answer for any problem: work harder, do more. As a child, having the ability to try something new, stick to a hard task and work hard, is an important key to success. The Harsh Inner Critic tells you that you are not good enough but if you continue to work hard, it will get better.

2. The Harsh Inner Critic takes care of your needs:

The Harsh Inner Critic takes care of your needs by telling


• you do not have needs,

• needs are not important and

• if you do have a need it is to be hidden

The Harsh Inner Critic works to keep you in denial about having needs so that you don’t feel...anything.

3. The HIC's focus on the outside world creates drive and ambition:

The Harsh Inner Critic lives by comparisons in which you always fall short. It demands that you be the best while telling you that you are not good enough. It promises that if you are ambitious and work hard you will someday arrive at that illusive goal of “good enough.”

In the movie Cast Away, Tom Hanks plays a FedX employee, Chuck, stranded on an uninhabited island trying to survive. He is alone. In one poignant scene, he takes a volleyball that survived the plane crash, draws a face on it, and names it Wilson. Wilson becomes his companion and friend. It became his witness. At the end of the movie, Chuck claims that it was the volleyball, Wilson, that saved his life.

As a child, in order to feel that we exist, we have to have someone who mirrors and reflects back to us who we are. Through this experience we begin to know who we are, see our value as a human being and see our abilities. In homes where this does not happen, the Harsh Inner Critic plays this role for us. Through this internal dialogue, we develop a self so that we can function in life.

Cast Away Illustrates the Value of the Harsh Inner Critic

In Cast Away, Chuck decides through a conversation with Wilson that the probability of being rescued is unlikely. He decides to build a raft in an attempt to save himself. During the journey, while Chuck is asleep, Wilson rolls off the raft and is set adrift. Chuck attempts to retrieve him but is unable to catch him. Chuck breaks down in tears.

There comes a time when you need to let go of the Harsh Inner Critic as your sole means of survival. Just like Chuck’s grief having lost Wilson, there will be grief and loss as you begin to let go of your Harsh Inner Critic. That is to be expected.

It is important to understand yourself as you look toward the future and make decisions about who you want to be. By understanding the many aspects that make up who you are, you will become more compassionate toward yourself. Compassion for yourself makes it possible to change and is an essential ingredient in creating a satisfying life.

Do you have problems with self criticism? Is there always a ready criticism for all you do? I can help you find a way to live. Call me at (919) 881-200.


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