Do you have a Ms. Gulch (aka “Wicked Witch of the West”) lurking in the background of your life, constantly casting doubt on you? Questioning whether you are “good enough”, “smart enough”, “loveable enough”, or “successful enough”? This is the voice of your inner critic (we all have one) It can either devastate you or you can learn how to diminish its power.
Let me introduce you to mine–I call her Gulchy. She’s a combination of my mother and ex-mother in law–a one-two punch of Jewish guilt and unbridled criticism. She’s ugly looking, ruthless, angry and very powerful. She lives in a dark castle with creaky floors, cobwebs, bats flying around and she eats rats for breakfast. She talks in a shrill threatening voice and thinks she is omnipotent.
Her desire is to deprive me of things that are important to me. She wants me to suffer as she has suffered. To experience loneliness, grief, doubt and emotional shutdown. To feel inadequate and insecure, just like she has in the past. By making me feel small, she feels more powerful so that she can thrive.
She has shown up very frequently in my life, particularly when I’m about to do something major or take a big risk (like when I published my book). And when something doesn’t go as expected, she’s the first to say “I told you so…Xanet, you will never be good enough”.
I used to let her run my life. It’s what kept me in a loveless marriage for such a long time. In a corporate career that I was never passionate about. Wearing baggy clothes because I did not feel comfortable in my own body. She’s what made me feel unattractive, undesirable, sexually broken, and failing at being a good mother and wife.
Gulchy’s power and hold on me began to diminish when I started to engage with her. Just like every other negative emotion that we have, when we are actually able to lean into our fears and look at it with compassion and curiosity, it’s power diminishes.
Personifying Gulchy was the first step. By giving her a name, visualizing her looks, where she lives, what she eats for breakfast, what car she drives, made her less scary. All of a sudden she became a cartoon character who I could laugh at, rather than cower. Try this for yourself and see who you come up with!
Understanding the rationale behind her actions was the next step in disempowering Gulchy. It’s not that she was just mean and cranky. She was actually threatened by my own power and success at being a Mom and having a career. Deep down she wanted that for herself too but didn’t know how to accomplish it.
Also, Ms. Gulchy needed to always be the center of attention because as a child her needs were never met. I felt a lot of compassion for her around this (I know that what feels like too), but I also told her, quite vehemently, that this activity needed to stop. While these actions might accomplish her short term goal, of getting what she wanted in the moment, (e.g. preventing me from feeling good about an accomplishment), it was completely contrary to her real need, for love and acceptance. Rather than pulling me towards her, her actions pushed me further and further away.
The way I got Gulchy to shut up, (or at least pipe down) was by writing her a letter. Writing to or about your fears is another way to help diminish its power. Also free-associative writing, I suggest handwriting so you don’t edit it, allows your inner consciousness and voice to take over. You know who I mean. The one who is wise, rationale, and actually can offer good, rather than bad advice.
Try it yourself and see how quickly and effectively you quelch your own inner critic!