The Worst Critic in Your Job Search, Part 2

Now that you've identified the critic, it's time to disempower it.

Posted Jul 20, 2014

In my last post, I described a therapeutic process called Internal Family Systems (IFS), developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz, which can be used to reduce the power of the inner critic living in your head. The inner critic can have a devastating effect on the job search if it prevents the job seeker from exploring new opportunities, or destroys their confidence to interview well and present a positive face to the employer. Before you read further, I recommend you read the previous post and take a few minutes to describe your inner critic. 

Early and Weiss identify seven types of inner critics. See if any of them sound familiar to you:

  1. The Perfectionist sets high standards for behavior. It you don’t live up to those standards at all times, the perfectionist inside will attack you. In the job search, perfectionism can keep you from finishing your resume, writing a great LinkedIn profile, etc.
  2. The Inner Controller uses shame to punish you for impulsive behavior like over-eating, using alcohol or drugs, or playing excessive computer games.
  3. The Taskmaster uses words like “lazy”, “stupid”, or “incompetent” to get you to work harder. It is the voice warning you that you are a loser if you don’t keep working. The Taskmaster can make you hate your job search by making it all work and no play—it removes the artistry and creativity from the search.
  4. The Underminer fears rejection so it tries to keep you from taking any risks. It warns you that you probably aren’t good enough to do whatever the task is you plan to do. It cautions you to not get too big or powerful or visible. An Underminer can keep you stuck in the same job too long, or keep you from considering a more meaningful career field. It can keep you from publicly displaying your portfolio for fear of appearing vain.
  5. The Destroyer is a powerful force that attacks your self-worth and dignity. The Destroyer effectively destroys ideas, creativity, and energy. The Destroyer can keep you stuck in your current job.
  6. The Guilt Tripper reminds you of actions you took (or didn’t take) that harmed someone else. It makes you feel bad and casts a pall over your day. The Guilt Tripper can keep you from investigating your true desires because of family or other obligations.
  7. The Molder wants you to conform to a certain ideal. Molds can take all forms in the career search: from believing you have to pursue a particular career because of family heritage, or because of a degree you obtained.

Now that you have this list of inner critics, which ones apply particularly to you? When do they show up? What part of the job search have they inhibited? What do you want to do that you haven’t attempted yet because one (or more) of these critics are hovering around?

(To learn more: visit Early and Weiss’s website for a test to identify your critics as well as a free downloadable workbook and other helpful materials.)

It is important to recognize that whenever these critics attack, there is an inner criticized child who receives the attack. And that inner child is why we can’t always defeat or ignore these critics. They have more power. And here’s where the process and techniques of IFS therapy can help.

The first step in overcoming the power of the Inner Critic is to recognize it. Identify the places where it shows up, and what it looks and sounds like. Take the quiz referenced above, or read through the list and identify your Inner Critic.

Next, see if you can identify the positive intent behind the critic. For instance, what might be behind a perfectionistic critic? Perhaps it’s the desire to have you succeed, such as the desire to shine or do well in an interview or create a compelling portfolio. Behind the Taskmaster might simply be a desire to help you get things done.

Examine the source of the part. When did it first appear and why? Sometimes, in IFS therapy you might have a conversation with this “part”—to find out what its fears and concerns are. The goal is to unblend from the parts—both the inner critic and the inner child. To recognize that there once was a valuable purpose (perhaps to cope with a tough situation) for a relationship between the inner critic and the inner child, but that purpose is not applicable now. By unblending from these parts, you detach and reduce their power. Instead, you can learn from them and use their fears or concerns to move yourself forward in a positive way.

The key component of IFS is identifying the SelfEarly and Weiss state, “IFS recognizes that underneath all our parts, every human being has a true Self that is wise, deep, strong, and loving. This is who we truly are when we aren’t being highjacked by painful and defensive voices. The Self is the key to healing and integrating our disparate parts through its compassion, curiosity, and connectedness.” (Self-Therapy for Your Inner Critic, p.48)

The Self is you at your all-time best. It is you when you allow your true desires and wishes to come forth, and when you work toward creating the positive future you desire. The true self brings strength, compassion, and curiosity to the job search. The true self seeks out new opportunities and looks for ways to present itself at its best through its resume, social media profile, etc. The true self is confident moving forward and views the job search as a creative, learning experience that allows them find an opportunity to earn a living while engaging in interesting activities.

Once you have unpacked your inner critics, identified their purpose and reduced their power, it is possible to identify the inner champions which support you. The inner champion will help you set boundaries with the critic, provide support and guidance, and help you take action to move forward with your plans. Your inner champion helps you deal with the seven inner critics by:

  • Supporting your right NOT to be Perfect. Humans make mistakes. You will do the best you can in a job search, and seek assistance when you want to improve.
  • Helping you discriminate between real and perceived danger, thus reducing the power of the Underminer. You will take the risk of attending a networking reception, or applying for a new job, knowing that you can make choices at every step of the process and there is little danger.
  • Helping you get things done but in a more relaxed and less-pressured state of mind that the Taskmaster might put you in. You can set goals to move forward on your job search and seek ways to make it more fun—whether it’s daydreaming about that great new opportunity or finding creative ways to demonstrate your skills to an employer.
  • Helping you get in touch with cravings or desires that might not be in your best interest and learn to regulate your eating or other activities, thus removing the penalizing mindset of the Inner Controller. You can control the amount of time you spend surfing the net or playing online games; you can set a timer and use games as a reward for completing a task in the job search. You can seek out healthier ways to relax in a stressful environment.
  • Reminding you that you did the best you could do in a situation or that you generally act with integrity and that the Guilt Tripper doesn’t really reflect the truth. You don’t need to cover yourself with guilt or shame about something that happened during an interview or something that you have left undone. You start again.
  • Reminding you that there are many ways to live one’s life and that one Mold isn’t necessarily the best one. We can choose the different molds we want to inhabit. You can choose a different career path than one that was chosen for you—or you can create a new life that is based on your values, not someone else’s.

So how is all this hitting you? Are you finding yourself of different minds? Please note that I have only barely scratched the surface of information related to IFS. If you find it intriguing and it raises your curiosity, there are plenty of resources to learn more. The publications and websites I have linked to in this blog are a great place to get started.

©2014 Katharine S. Brooks. All rights reserved. Find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo Credits: Flickr Creative Commons Sara Lando