It is the critic who counts. The inner critic.

“Why is it that, as we grow into our adulthood, wounds of the past seem to hurt more and more?” was one of the questions I heard on my morning podcast. As I let the question sink in, I realized that it was something I was feeling as well. After years of shaking off layers of standards and shoulds and this-is-how-it-is-dones, at 45, I feel like I am reaching a core that is quite sensitive to any contact. Read: painful.

This week I received a note of rejection from a job I really wanted. Well, to be entirely honest, it was the third rejection this week but this one stung the most since I was almost confident that I could make it to “second base”. And it was a job I was enthusiastic about, in a country that I like. The letter told me (as I am sure it told others too), that my experience did not match what they were looking for. Of course, I can’t contradict them, they know what they are looking for. It wasn’t the potential employers I was getting ready to stand up against. It was my dreaded inner critic.

The rejection catapulted me into various moments of my life as a middle and high school student, an adolescent, when I felt so average and not at all special it hurt. And when it felt like, regardless of how quickly I ran, I was never going to get close, let alone beat, some of the students who were considered to be better, cooler, smarter. And that, generally, I could disappear and it would not be noticed.

I was a fifth grader again, acutely aware that I am not witty enough, that I don’t sing well enough, I don’t draw well enough. Always playing catch up with the first two students in the class, touching moments of really good but never exceptional. I blinked and went directly into my sixth grade when one of the bullies de jour was giving me a hard time about my grades in math – my Achilles heel of all times. Or in tenth grade when someone saw something in me and made it possible that I study abroad for a year only for my classmates to immediately start the interrogation about “How come you, of all people, got this opportunity? How come you were considered to be the best?” The implicit idea being, there is nothing really special about you .. .

“Come on, don’t sing your own praises?” “How does your result compare to [insert name of person deemed to be better here]?” I heard these so much at home, where my favourite game, behind the closed doors of the bathroom, was my walking into a room and people noticing me right away because I was … special. And they really wanted … me.

As we were walking our dogs in the evening, after my receiving the message that threw me into a downward spin, my ever loving partner asked me softly: “Why are you so hard on yourself?” It rang true, that was what I was doing. I felt ashamed – she was looking straight into the eyes of my inner critic – but it also felt like she was challenging a home I had known for so long. How else would I progress if I am not tough on myself? How else would I better myself? Isn’t the danger of sleeping on any laurels bigger than keeping a tight leash on yourself?

And then the small voice in my head dared to whisper: what if nobody will see you as anything other than average until you see yourself other than average? What if the whips you pull out each time you don’t get to where you want to be only leave you more traumatized and set you further behind? What if being kinder to yourself is actually what might make a difference?

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash


  1. Good morning from Western North Carolina USA! I was just telling my son turned 34 yesterday, that if he doesn’t take care of the trauma, and the trails that he’s experienced in the past couple of years, it will come up when we get older. I really believe God doesn’t want us to hold onto these stories that we’ve believed for ever I remember one time when I was at a church meeting, I heard these words you are accepted in the beloved. I changed my life forever. I was in my mid 30s and it has helped me my entire life.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s