1.2 Why disengage from inner criticism?
Learning to disengage from inner criticism is important because it brings greater inner peace and contentment. It liberates the energy that is bound up in fruitless and painful self-doubt and self-debasement so it instead can be used to pursue your goals in life with more playfulness, enthusiasm, and wonder. Learning to disengage from inner criticism allows you to follow a healthy path of growth throughout your life.
Learning to disengage from inner criticism is also important because by disengaging from old rules for living, you make space for learning new and better ways of navigating and thriving in life. As mentioned above, during childhood you pick up a whole set of rules for living and a set of methods for enforcing these rules. This is the seed of inner criticism. At a certain stage in your development, inner criticism may be very useful. It can give you some means of navigating and thriving in the world – at least in the environment in which you grew up. However, some of the rules for living and the methods for enforcing these rules that you learn by being a child in your particular childhood environment can also limit your ability to navigate and thrive in life. Furthermore, as you grow older and your world expands, even the rules that worked well for you in childhood are likely to become obstacles to your continued ability to navigate and thrive in your expanding world.
Some of the rules you learned may be very specific to the temperament of your parents and the culture in which you grew up. In some families/cultures common instructions may include: Don’t stand out, keep your head down, don’t think you are special, don’t speak unless spoken to, calm down, etc., whereas in other families/cultures common instructions may include: Stand up for yourself, be a somebody, don’t be shy, don’t be a wallflower, don’t be a sheep, take a stance, etc. While such messages may be useful in some contexts, they may also be limiting in others. Trying not to stand out may prevent you from developing talents and contributing to society. Trying not to be shy may prevent you from developing sensitivity, humility and flexibility. Adhering to rules that are very specific to one culture may hamper your ability to collaborate (or even to co-exist) with people from other cultures. Furthermore, some rules you learn as a child may only help you as long as you are a child who is dependent on your parents. For example, children of alcoholic parents may learn to be overly serious and reject any kind of enjoyment or to pledge loyalty to and protect authorities who are undeserving of such loyalty and protection. Such rules for living are unlikely to serve these children once they leave the “care” of their parents. In other words, as you grow up and have to deal with new contexts beyond your childhood environment and with growing degrees of freedom and responsibility, what you learned in childhood may increasingly hamper rather than support your ability to navigate and thrive in life.
Finally, learning to disengage from inner criticism is important because inner criticism is one of the main things that obstruct the process of growth and maturation through which you may develop new and better ways of navigating in life. Below, I discuss four important ways inner criticism obstructs growth. This is not an exhaustive list, but it should suffice to illustrate the many ways in which inner criticism prevents your growth and maturation.