A friend of mine, a wife and mother in her early 40s, was talking to a younger woman recently. The young woman asked, “Do you want to see a picture of yourself from the other day?” My friend’s answer was no. Absolutely not. When I asked her why, she said when she sees a photo of herself, it gives her critical inner voice an opportunity to trash her. It’s better for her to avoid it. She even gave her inner critic the name Jennifer. No offense intended to women named Jennifer. I know many lovely Jens and Jennifers, including one of my sisters. But there are millions of “Jennifers” out there. I can’t say every woman has an inner critic. There may be some women who don’t, but I think the majority do.
Does your wife have a Jennifer in her ear? If so, she might be stripping away your wife’s self-confidence, joy, and overall sense of worth. Some of the things she’s being told may even become criticisms of you. You need to know what the inner critic is telling your wife so you can affirm your wife with the truth. Here are 5 things your wife’s inner critic is telling her.
1. “You’re not enough.”
This can have many different meanings. She’s not pretty enough. She doesn’t have enough good qualities to be valuable, get the job done, or perhaps even be worthy of love and belonging. I’ve found this one to be common among women. Probably because their most central question is, “Am I lovable?” And “no” can be easier to believe than “yes” is. Let her know that she’s enough and that she is lovable.
2. “You’re a failure.”
If women ever fall short, their inner critics easily can change spin it from a failed attempt to a judgment about them as a person. It goes from “you failed” to “you’re a failure.” The critic defines them based on their failures. Now moving forward, your wife will be reminded whenever she attempts something that it won’t work out because she’s a failure. That’s just who she is, her inner critic says—a failure. She fails at work, as a wife, and as a mom. Remind her of her great qualities and that one or even multiple failures do not define her. Remind her of her true identity.
3. “You’re too much.”
One of the things my wife’s inner critic used to tell her is that she’s too emotional to get married. No man can handle it. But I love her emotion. I’ve never had a problem with it. Having three sisters, it’s really not that hard for me to navigate. That’s just one way our wives’ inner critics can tell them they’re too much. This is a clear attack on their identity and how they’re made. There are definitely people with strong personalities or people who need to reign it in from time to time. I’m one of those. But if our wives’ inner critics tell them there is something wrong with the way they’re made, it’s a lie.
4. “You blew it.”
They might have blown it, but their inner critics have a way of reminding them about it over and over. It may not even be that big of a deal, but the critical inner voice won’t relent. Guilt and shame will be heaped on her until her mess-up becomes an unforgivable offense against the world. Help her gain some perspective. She may need to apologize or make amends, but after that’s done, it should be forgotten. Help her move on.Discontent with ourselves often leads to discontent with others.
5. “You could have done better.”
Many women have high standards or expectations of how they think things should be. Unfortunately, some of these expectations are unrealistic. When it doesn’t turn out how they hoped, they often bash themselves. This can produce a feeling of constant dissatisfaction with themselves. Eventually, that dissatisfaction can project onto the people around them. Discontent with ourselves often leads to discontent with others. So, her unrealistic expectations can result in criticism toward us and the kids. Recognizing this can help you as you receive her criticism. Never dismiss her criticism—after all, it may be valid. But as you are processing it, if you feel like it’s coming from her own issues, bring it up with her. Just make sure the timing is right. Don’t do it in a tense moment.
Sound off: What are some other things our wives’ critical inner voices tell them?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your wife and ask, “What’s one area where you are too critical of yourself?”