Challenging the Inner Critic

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Greetings from your community friendly psychotherapist. I hear this so frequently: “The scariest part is making the phone call.” Let me be the first to congratulate you if you have taken this courageous step of scheduling an appointment to pursue help and personal growth and healing through therapy.

The quality of our relationships is directly proportional to the relationship we have with ourselves. As a therapist, a tool I use in the initial intake session is called a genogram. A genogram is a map of the family system and it allows me to see what patterns have been learned and passed from one generation to another. Patterns can be observed as destructive and toxic, such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, blame and shame, guilt, alcoholism or substance use, suicide, and poor self-image, among many others. Patterns can also be observed to be healthy and productive in nature, such as strong work ethic, resiliency, altruism, faith and spirituality, values and morals, integrity and self-respect, and more.

Self-esteem has a special impact on the quality of the relationships that we engage in.  The level of confidence in ourselves is the positive or negative consequence that arises due to our life experiences. It is the way we learn to see ourselves, and the label we place on ourselves. It is the “I’m dumb,” “I’m ugly,” “I’m fat,” “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m stupid,” that we often internalize after hearing it for so long. This leaves an imprint and becomes what we refer to as the “inner critic,” which makes its appearance every time that these negative thoughts show up. The inner critic is that part of you that has been hurt by other people’s words or actions and who learns to speak those hurtful words even when those people are no longer present. Every human being is born with three needs in order to survive: to be heard, seen, and loved. Unfortunately, at a very early age we are programmed to trust that these needs will be met or to doubt that we are worthy of our needs being met. Trust and doubt are two components that are crucial for developing healthy or unhealthy relationships. If we trust, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and to engage in a secure relationship. However, if we constantly doubt that we are worthy of being treated with respect and love, then we learn to accept maltreatment and even abuse.

As a therapist, when I begin to see patterns of unhealthy attachment in childhood, I introduce a tool that helps the client to identify which attachment style they protect themselves with. Unhealthy attachment takes place as a means of protection from what we have processed as possible threats. There are three different types of unhealthy attachment: avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized.

An attachment style that is not secure will typically result in a person developing signs of low self-esteem and repeating patterns of unhealthy relationships. Signs of low self-esteem include  people-pleasing behavior, inability to say no, making decisions based on others’ approval, sensitivity to rejection, and believing you are not good enough, among others. Acquiring low self-esteem is a direct result of not processing and internalizing hurtful experiences. Therapy helps you by allowing you to challenge that inner critic and take back what belongs to you. I have the privilege of helping you to develop a sense of compassion for the part of you that has been hurt and rewiring your brain to transform into a healthy view of yourself.

It is my hope that these words resonate and that you are convicted to do something about your current situation. I look forward to collaborating with you in the therapeutic process.

Roxanne Pacheco is a licensed clinical social worker, certified clinical trauma specialist, and certified mental health integrative medicine provider. Contact her at The Counseling Center, 1009 S. Utah Ave., Suite A, Weslaco, TX 78596, call (956) 520-8700, or email rpachecolcsw@gmail.com.