The Inner Critic, a Commentary on “Physical”


Physical Apple TV

Image credit: Apple TV

Are you watching the series “Physical” on Apple TV?

If you’re not, it’s worth the price of admission (BONUS: Ted Lasso. Don’t miss that show).

I want to talk about it. Not only because I see so much of my early aerobics career in the main character (I started teaching group exercise in the’90’s; it brings back a lot of my hi-lo days), but because of the honest, loud, narrator that exists not for the premise of the show, but as a character IN the show.

That voice is Sheila’s inner critic, or “ego,” and she is relentless.

Sheila struggles constantly with her self worth and value, and is badgered constantly by the voice, probably stemming from being abused as a child, as well as the pressure of just existing as a woman, a professional, and a mother in the 1980’s.

I can relate. Can You?

I applaud and appreciate the show talking about the hard topics, like self image and body dysmorphia, but I also appreciate the honesty of that ego voice and how relentless she is. And how it is a mental health issue.

Not only that, but I think it’s a wide variety type of mental health issue.

I had a very similar internal ego voice for about 25 years. From age 10-35.

She came in very subtle. Probably had been sneaking in for years by the time I really remember her. She called me names. She abused me mentally for hours on end. She incessantly told me I wasn’t good enough. She told me there was no room and no time to be less than perfect. Because being less than perfect is a fate worse than death. And they are all going to laugh at you.

She got louder and louder, and by the time I had children, compounded with postpartum anxiety, she got so loud that I struggled to hear anything else. It was a constant barrage of hate filled speech. Never good enough, physically, mentally, or spiritually. No one was ever going to value me because I had none. I was nothing to no one and valueless.

And what I think is really important here, and something you should understand: I didn’t know there was any other way. 

She didn’t come in and say “hi; I’m not real. I’m just here to torture you from the inside… and I’m not necessary.”

This isn’t the part of mental health that people talk about (until now on this show) because it seems… crazy. But it’s a reality I think many MANY people struggle with, not understanding that it’s not real, necessary, true, or inescapable.

I mean, do you ask your girlfriends “what’s the inner critic telling you right now?” Probably not; we don’t discuss it. We just carry on with self hatred, thinking it’s normal and that anxiety is normal.

And yes, I did escape her. 

She no longer torments me. When she does show up, I can easily recognize her and ask her to stand down. In fact, I am so free now that I have space for grace, space for focused attention, space for deeper meaning, space for my own loves and interests…. my life is completely different now, and I would say I am a completely different person than I was before age 35. I would say people who knew me then wouldn’t recognize me now. I am honestly, truly, myself now. And I wasn’t allowed to be myself for a really really long time.

If you are struggling with the inner critic voice, you can start taking steps now to dissipate it and free yourself. I will write out my journey …. eventually. It’s so hard to put into words, which is why I haven’t yet, and I broke from her in 2011 (it’s now 2022).

But I will say if you’re ready to start, these resources may help:

“The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle

“A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson

“Happy Days” by Gabrielle Bernstein

“Spritual Liberation” by Michael Beckwith

And please get help from a licensed mental health professional. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, call 211 (in the United States) right away.

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