In college, I took a literature course on female African American writers. It’s where I was first introduced to the writings of my literary heroes, Maya Angelou and Alice Walker.
Both incredibly strong and resilient women, Angelou and Walker have known the battle of the inner critic.
It was during this time as a college student when I read a quote by Ms Walker that said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
Walker’s words resonated so deeply inside of me. I was a young international adoptee who felt powerless within the experience of adoption. I couldn’t define this at the time, or even verbalize it, but I felt the disempowering whispers of an inner critic who kept sneaking around in my head, hiding inside the shadows of my thoughts. This critic would show up unannounced and uninvited. It would tell me that I’d never be good enough and that anything I did or tried would always fall short.
I didn’t know, for a long time, that I had power over this critic. I always thought that the critic had power over me. I was weak, it was strong. It had influence, I had none. This was the false language—the inaccurate narrative—that kept swirling around in my mind. And, one thing I know for sure: our thoughts and internal dialogue create our reality.
Taking this one step further, the inner critic has—when left to its own devices—the ability to lead a person down many dark and lonely paths. The inner critic whittles away at our ability to practice self-love which ultimately leads to confusion, isolation, frustration, and a denial of the beautiful gifts you’ve been given to share with the world.
When we allow the inner critic to attack, we in turn attack those around us. It’s like the saying goes, hurting people hurt people. When we silence the inner critic and begin showing ourselves life-affirming love, we find a freedom. Within that freedom, we begin falling in love with our lives, and everything and everyone in our lives. We stop hurting and we begin adhering to a new belief: loving people love people.
Historically speaking, I understand that adoptees have had a lot to be angry and hurt about. I was recently in my birth country of Great Britain and I visited the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children that does incredible work, today, to support vulnerable children in the UK. The museum houses information on Coram who advocated the establishment of the Foundling Hospital in the mid-1700’s, to care for London’s abandoned children. The legacy of the hospital continues with the work of the foundation.
There is one display, within the museum, where you’ll find little white shirts hanging on hooks. On every collar there is attached a label: a phrase from an adult, a once abandoned child, who shares words of criticism that were once used toward them.
Phrases like: It’s all your fault, as usual. You’re a liar. Don’t bother trying. You won’t ever be anything. You’re not a little girl anymore….
This kind of criticism sticks. If left to fester, it can become our identity. We believe the criticism is real.
If you’re reading these words, dear adoptee, do any of these phrases sound familiar? Do you ever hear similar criticism spoken to you by the inner critic currently residing inside your head?
Self-attack spreads like wildfire. It’s a virus. If we, as adoptees, desire to have a positive impact on our lives and in this world, it’s time to show our inner critic the door.
It’s time to get fired up. It’s time to stop allowing the inner critic to have domain in our days. Please excuse my expletive, but perhaps, as adoptees, we need to stop being pleasers and tell our inner critic, “Your ass is no longer permitted in the building!” Why do we feel an obligation to please a critic that is only there to harm us? To let it live inside of us and diminish our sense of worth, and rob us of our dreams?
We need to love ourselves and stop bowing to our inner critic. We need to get firm with limiting beliefs and tell them to leave us, today! We need to make space for truth to take root, and that comes with forgiveness. It also comes with a commitment to move forward, empowered, and ready to step into lives of abundance, joy, and purpose.
Whatever you’ve been told by your inner critic, or by another person, that has diminished your spirit—know that it’s a lie. Love cannot be experienced when it’s surrounded by lies.
Love requires truth, forgiveness, and gratitude. It asks of us to let go of the lies and see ourselves as what we truly are: powerful, strong, influential, wanted, and enough. The most inspirational life stories are filled with flaws, disappointments, and struggle. These stories are not defined by their moments of challenge, they are developed through their moments of challenge.
It’s time to make a shift and begin turning the false language into truth-filled mantras. Time to silence your inner critic. Remember, our thoughts and inner-dialogue create our reality. Choose wisely! If the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any, then start believing that you do.
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