Do you have that voice in your head that criticizes you when you do something? The one that wants you to be perfect in everything? The one that triggers a sense of blame?

Alfred Adler, the Austrian psychiatrist and therapist, held that, “To be a human being means to possess a feeling of inferiority which constantly presses towards its own conquest.” His Individual Psychology was based on this belief. He has stated that “… a child enters the world. It is helpless, small, and needs attention. What effect does this have on the child? What influences how the child adapts to its environment?” This sense of inferiority creates what might be called the inner critic, the voice that creates negative emotions as we go through life.

Of course, there are many other sources that are external and that judge our behavior. Early on, we have our parents, family, friends, teachers, coaches, you name it, and later on, colleagues and bosses. With all that, the inner critic can get bolder. Do you feel affected if someone online disagrees with what you wrote? Why do most of us seek “likes” that Facebook makes boatloads of money from?

Our need to overcome the inferiority feeling is exacerbated in a relationship. Especially as time goes forward, and the partnership grows, as we relax and let all aspects of our personality emerge, there will naturally be parts of us and parts of them that are problematic. So how do we reconcile with all that?

I also wonder why there is no counterbalancing “inner supporter” given that nature seems to be based on some kind of balance, a homeostasis. My guess is that negative information has survival value, that the mind and self seek to alert us to what might be threatening and that is why the critic prevails. However, that same mind and self have the capability to encourage and build the inner supporter. We can take a look at all the love and positive feedback we get from lovers, family, friends, and others and challenge the mind to accept and savor them. We can counter the inner critic’s toxin with the antidote of the inner supporter. There are many resources in books, podcasts, and other media, not to mention trusting other people’s feedback to form a realistic sense of self, confidence, and strength.

It takes work to build a strong sense of self that also forms the basis for a healthy relationship where each person accepts the other with all the strengths and, yes, the frailties we all have. The effort is definitely worth the end result – and we all deserve that reward as a human being.

Author Profile

Janan Broadbent, PhD
Janan Broadbent, PhD
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.

Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577