Some people are critical of others, while others are more critical of themselves.
People who have been severely criticized while growing up often develop an excessively harsh inner critic. They are primed to accept criticism, even when it is given disrespectfully, as they are the first to see their own flaws.
If they criticize themselves for being awkward or unintelligent, for example, they are ready to believe it when other people make those same criticisms. In fact, people’s attitudes toward themselves unconsciously invite others to see them the way they see themselves.
Generally, extremely critical people project their feelings of discomfort onto the world around them. On the positive side, they become expert in finding ways to improve things. On the negative side, they become expert at finding flaws in others.
In the beginning couples aren’t polarized into critical and self-critical extremes. The critical partner might simply be sharing insight in an attempt to improve life while the self-critical partner might enjoy being accommodating.
Eventually, however, harsh criticism hinders improvement more than it encourages it, because it creates so much tension and anxiety.
Moderating The Inner Critic
In order to stop putting up with judgmental or destructive behavior from others, we must become aware of and tone down our own inner critic. Ideally we want to moderate an overbearing inner critic so that it becomes more of a cheerleader for us, supporting and encouraging the beauty and strength within.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD