Jim’s Story About His Inner Critic

Jim’s Inner Critic Story

Here’s Jim’s story about his Inner Critic and how he integrated experiences into his life, allowing him to focus on creating balance in his life. 

Jim was a successful corporate executive. His easy affable manner belied the internal tension that drove him towards success. He was the corporate man, the good guy, everyone’s buddy, but relentlessly self-critical on the inside. He had trouble taking time off, chronically worked late, and never felt he had done enough. His internal tension was beginning to manifest in physical ailments. His GI doctor suggested he seek psychotherapy because of the pressure he kept putting on himself.

The Inner Critic Jim had an Inner Critic that constantly judged him for not working hard enough, not achieving enough, not being enough. Its aggressive expectations caused him to push himself unmercifully and also to feel inadequate at a deep level despite his outward successes.

Jim came from a military family where he was the youngest of 6 brothers. Genetically gifted athletes, the family was very competitive. They always excelled in school sports, skied together, and rough-housed constantly. The military moving around solidified the “band of brothers” mentality. Though also a competent athlete, Jim was naturally more sensitive than the rest. He had more artistic inclinations, which he identified as being more like his mom.

His father, Arthur, was the iconic figure in the family. Jim looked up to him and sought his approval. This wasn’t easy to get, and Jim felt disappointed that he couldn’t please his father very much.

Being the youngest son by a number of years, he wasn’t allowed to join his brothers on certain family adventures. He remembers feeling left out, feeling small and inadequate. When he was included, his father wasn’t able to adjust his expectations to his youngest son’s age. He was pushed to keep up with his brothers and ridiculed when he couldn’t.

In his therapeutic work Jim accessed this Critic and discovered that it had the voice and face of his father. Now, of course, this was a part of Jim, an Inner Critic part, but internally it looked like his father. Jim began to dialogue with this “internalized father” as if it were actually his father. As he began to get to know the father, Arthur, he opened up to Jim about his own relationship with his father, Jim’s grandfather.

It turned out that Arthur, too, had felt that his father, a successful self-made, depression-era business man, was never satisfied with him. Arthur also had a softer, more aesthetic side that was totally unacceptable to his dad. His decision to join the military got him out of the house at an early age, and was aimed at snuffing out his gentler leanings.

This line of men were all carrying a burden of “being a tough man.” It came as a legacy burden from Jim’s grandfather through his father to him. Jim drive toward success was actually more his father’s drive than his. In working with this legacy burden, Jim’s therapist encouraged Jim to openly dialogue with Arthur about Arthur’s life and struggles. Arthur let Jim know that he actually identified with Jim more than his other sons, and was therefore harder on him.

Jim was able to listen to Arthur’s sadness and remorse about the way he had treated Jim, and Jim offered him forgiveness and healing. Together the two of them released their burden of ignoring the softer side of themselves and pushing themselves to be successful at all costs. They also offered this healing to Arthur’s father and the men of even earlier generations.

Jim and Arthur invited back into themselves, their gentleness, aesthetic appreciation, and feelings of positive self-worth. Jim was able to take in Arthur’s genuine pride in him. This completely shifted Jim’s Inner Critic. It no longer judged him and pushed him.

As he gradually integrated these experiences into his life, it allowed him to be easier on himself about work. He began to leave the office at a more reasonable time, take vacations, and focus on creating balance in his life.

He not only had a much more relaxing, enjoyable life, he also felt much better about himself, and therefore more confident in his dealings with people.