Types of Inner Critic

Jay Earley, PhD and Bonnie Weiss, LCSW

In our study of the Inner Critic, we have identified the following 8 types of Inner Critics that people can be troubled by.

Perfectionist

  • This critic tries to get you to do things perfectly.
  • It sets high standards for the things your produce, and has difficulty saying something is complete and letting it go out to represent your best work.
  • It tries to make sure that you fit in and that you will not be judged or rejected.
  • Its expectations probably reflect those of people who have been important to you in the past.

Guilt-Tripper

  • This critic is stuck in the past. It is unable to forgive you for wrongs you have done or people you have hurt.
  • It is concerned about relationships and holds you to standards of behavior prescribed by your community, culture and family.
  • It tries to protect you from repeating past mistakes by making sure you never forget or feel free.

Underminer

  • This critic tries to undermine your self-confidence and self-esteem so that you won’t take risks.
  • It makes direct attacks on your self-worth so that you will stay small and not take chances where you could be hurt or rejected.
  • It is afraid of your being too big or too visible and not being able to tolerate judgment or failure.

Destroyer

  • It makes pervasive attacks on your fundamental self-worth.
  • It shames you and makes you feel inherently flawed and not entitled to basic understanding or respect.
  • This most debilitating critic, comes from early life deprivation or trauma.
  • It is motivated by a belief that it is safer not to exist.

Conformist

  • This critic tries to get you to fit into a certain mold based on standards held by society, your culture or your family.
  • It wants you to be liked and admired and to protect you from being abandoned, shamed or rejected.
  • The Conformist fears that the Rebel or the Free Spirit in you would act in ways that are unacceptable. So it keeps you from being in touch with and expressing your true nature.

Taskmaster

  • This critic wants you to work hard and be successful.
  • It fears that you may be mediocre or lazy and will be judged a failure if it does not push you to keep going.
  • Its pushing often activates a procrastinator or a rebel that fights against its harsh dictates.

Inner Controller

  • This critic tries to control your impulses: eating, drinking, sexual activity, etc.
  • It is polarized with an Indulger –addict who it fears can get out of control at any moment.
  • It tends to be harsh and shaming in an effort to protect you from yourself.
  • It is motivated to try to make you a good person who is accepted and functions well in society.

Doubter

  • This critic doubts your ideas, decisions, and abilities.
  • This makes it hard to move forward with your life.
  • It is afraid that you will make a bad decision or fail at something.

Perfectionist Testers Needed for Self-Therapy Journey

For the last two and a half years, I have been developing a web application, Self-Therapy Journey, where people can get help in transforming psychological problems.

It is like an interactive self-help book, based on the Pattern System and IFS. It should be ready by fall 2013.

We would like to try out the current version of the application with people who are willing to use it while I (or one of my assistants) follow along by phone/computer or get feedback from you afterward. We want to get feedback on how it works for you and what needs to be fixed or improved.

Soon people will be able to use the application to work on a wide variety of different psychological issues. However, right now we are looking for people who have one very specific issue to volunteer in trying it out. We are looking for people who tend to strive overly hard to be perfect. (Later we will be looking for volunteers on other issues, and in the fall we will want people to test the whole application.)

You will be able to learn about your Perfectionist Pattern, its underlying motivation, and where it comes from in your past. You will get a customized report about all these things based on what you enter in the Self-Therapy Journey, which means that you can also use this application for guided journaling. You will also be able to set up a life practice to activate the healthy capacity to replace your pattern. That would be the Ease Capacity. The application will provide you with online support in carrying out the practice.

If you are interested in volunteering, email me at earley.jay@gmail.com. Let me know (1) your phone number and (2) what time zone you are in. We want to try out the application on a variety of different people, so please also let me know (3) if you are a therapist and (4) whether you are familiar with IFS.

We may have more volunteers than we can use, so you may not hear from us for a while or possibly not at all. But I still appreciate your volunteering and there will be other opportunities.

A Story of a Perfectionist Pattern

Jay Earley, Ph.D. and Bonnie Weiss, LCSW

Stories have always been an excellent learning tool. Oftentimes it is easier to get glimpses of yourself in another person’s story. Here’s a story of a perfectionist pattern.

Jeremy was always smart as a whip. As soon as you spent some time with him, it was clear. And if you hung around a little longer, you’d see that he was creative, artistic, and easily thought out of the box. Sounds like a ticket to success, right? Not quite.

Jeremy’s Midwestern family did not support his capacities. He wasn’t a toiler but was inclined to hop to the end of a project because he didn’t want to finish what wasn’t a challenge. His father was always strict and critical, and very often deeply disappointed in Jeremy, as he was with his own life. They clashed over and over.

Jeremy moved away from home and began to get some better opportunities for success, based on his apparent talents. He wanted to please his bosses in Silicon Valley and prove how skilled he really was. He would take on a project and overpromise his deadline, when deep inside he knew it was an impossible task. He usually almost finished the job on time. [Read more…]

A Perfectionist that Isn’t an Inner Critic

I received the following response from Karen Olsen to the draft of a chapter she was reading on the Perfectionist Critic.

I am wondering if there is a slightly different sort of Perfectionist than those which you have developed in your chapter. After going through your exercises, I came to the conclusion that it is not so much that my critic is yelling at me and belittling me as it is that there is a fear of and a huge resistance to appearing to be, to exposing myself to be….. less than special and exceptional.

Remembering back to my childhood, I don’t remember not being able to get approval from either my parents or other adults in my life. What I remember is that I was always an exceptional student and that I felt special and that I became very attached to feeling special. “Feeling special” is probably entwined all through my sense of identity. [Read more…]

Inner Critics: Should vs. Should Not

Some types of Inner Critics mainly tell you who you should be–the Perfectionist, the Taskmaster, and the Molder. They try to make you be a certain way in large segments of your life–perfect, hard working, or fitting a certain mold. Other types mainly tell you what you shouldn’t do or feel–the Inner Controller, the Underminer, and the Guilt Tripper. These tend to be more specific. They prohibit certain types of feeling or action–impulsive, addictive behavior, courageous risk taking, actions that harm others. It’s less clear where the Destroyer fits in. It tries to keep you from being alive and here, but it’s prohibitions aren’t so specific; they affect most of your life.

I wonder if there is something important about this distinction among types of Inner Critics. Any thoughts?

The Perfectionist as Enforcer

This is a continuation of the last few blogs on the Inner Critic, the Pattern System and enforcement. We can look at three levels of Perfectionist.

1. A healthy version of the Perfectionist will help you make your work excellent and your life organized without being extreme or punitive.

2. The Perfectionist will go overboard in these things by going for extremely high standards, causing you to overwork or be obsessive. However, it may just try to be perfect without self-criticism.

3. The Perfectionist Critic will push you to be perfect, often using harsh, judgmental language. It will attack you when you aren’t perfect enough.

I hope these distinctions help you in your work on this part. I would love to hear your feedback on this series of blogs.

The Perfectionist and the Pattern System

In the last blog, I showed how the Inner Critic is in the Self-esteem dimension of the Pattern System. Each of the seven types of Inner Critics also resides in a dimension of the Pattern System. Let’s look at the Perfectionist:

The two polarized protectors are the Perfectionist and the Sloppy Part, which just does tasks in a cavalier way, not caring about how well they are done or the consequences. The healthy version of the Perfectionist is the Inner Mentor who helps you to do things in an excellent way without judgment or extremes. It is caring and supportive and knows when something is good enough. The healthy version of the Sloppy Part is the Inner Champion who supports you working in an easy flowing way without sacrificing quality. And it also supports your feeling good about yourself. [Read more…]

The Inner Critic as Enforcer

Inner Critic parts want us to be a certain way, to fit a certain mold. The Perfectionist wants you to be obsessively perfect. The Taskmaster wants you to be hard working and striving. The Underminer wants you to be overly cautious. And so on. If you are that way, your Critic may not attack you and make you feel bad because you are living up to its standards. We may have parts that simply are that way. For example, I have a Taskmaster part that is a striver and achiever. It isn’t a Critic because it doesn’t attack me. That part just works too hard. You may have a part like this, and if it fails to live up to the Critic’s demands, then you may get attacked for this. That’s what I mean about the Inner Critic being an enforcer. It tries to enforce its standards for you by attacking you if you don’t meet them.

Luckily, my Taskmaster isn’t a Critic, and I have been working with it for many years to lighten up and allow me to relax, enjoy my life more, be present, and be free. Today it did that. It relaxed its push to get our Inner Critic book out as soon as possible. I have been feeling very happy today because of that. I feel like a burden has been lifted and I feel easy and expansive. Such a nice way to be.

Three Kinds of Perfectionist Inner Critics

In our study of the Inner Critic, we have identified seven types of Critic parts. The Perfectionist is one of the seven. As we looked more deeply into the Perfectionist, we have identified three types:

1. Not Enough: This Perfectionist tells you that you must do more on a project because it is not perfect yet. It tends to make you work far too much on something because it is never good enough. Often you can only turn something in when you are forced to by a deadline.

2. Creative Block. This Perfectionist prevents you from producing anything because it has to be perfect the first time. Any ideas are blocked because they aren’t good enough to put out. It doesn’t allow you to be a learner or to experiment because both those situations involve putting out stuff that is far from perfect at first.

3. Control. This Perfectionist demends that your world be perfectly in control. You must get everything right. Your home and family must look perfect. It keeps you working overtime to get things perfect. It exerts rigid control over your behavior, taking away your vitality and spontaneity.

For more information on the Perfectionist Inner Critic, see www.personal-growth-programs.com/documents/PerfectionistReport.pdf. For more information Inner Critic parts in general, see https://www.personal-growth-programs.com/inner-critic-section.