The Seven Types of Inner Critics
In our study of the Inner Critic, Bonnie Weiss and I have identified seven specific types of Critics. Each type of Critic has a different motivation and strategy, and identifying which Critics are affecting you can be useful.
The Perfectionist tries to get you to do everything perfectly. It has very high standards for behavior, performance, and production. When you don’t meet its standards, the Perfectionist attacks you by saying that your work or behavior isn’t good enough, which makes it hard to finish projects. Sometimes the Perfectionist even makes it difficult to get started, as with writer’s block.
The Inner Controller tries to control impulsive behavior, such as overeating, getting enraged, using drugs, or engaging in other addictions. It shames you after you binge, use, or react with rage. It is usually in a constant battle with an impulsive part of you.
The Taskmaster tries to get you to work hard in order to be successful. It attempts to motivate you by telling you that you’re lazy, stupid, or incompetent. It often gets into a battle with another part that procrastinates as a way of avoiding work.
The Underminer tries to undermine your self-confidence and self-esteem so you won’t take risks that might end in failure. It tells you that you are worthless and inadequate and that you’ll never amount to anything. It may also try to prevent you from getting too big, powerful, or visible in order to avoid the threat of attack and rejection.
The Destroyer attacks your fundamental self-worth. It is deeply shaming and tells you that you shouldn’t exist. You might experience the Destroyer as a crushing force that wipes out your vitality or a pervasive negative energy that stamps out any sign of creativity, spontaneity, or desire.
The Guilt Tripper attacks you for a specific action you took (or didn’t take) in the past that was harmful to someone, especially someone you care about. This Critic might also attack you for violating a deeply held value. It constantly makes you feel bad and will never forgive you. It might also make you feel guilty for repeated behaviors that it considers unacceptable, in an attempt to get you to stop.
The Conformist tries to get you to fit a certain societal mold or act in a certain way that is based on your family or cultural mores. This mold can be any kind: caring, aggressive, outgoing, intellectual, or polite. This Critic attacks you when you don’t fit into that mold and praises you when you do.
You can take a quiz to learn which of these types are more trouble for you.