The Science of Stigma – The Inner Critic – PART 4

Research has shown (Dr Robert & Lisa Firestone 2006) that people are driven to feel hate towards themselves. Robert and Lisa’s explanation for this sense of hate is the feeling that “you are different to other people”. This could be due to mental health problems, but essentially the feeling of not fitting in with society’s ‘norms’ can make us hate ourselves. As mental health sufferers we feel alienated and then have to deal with The Stigma also. It is no wonder that we struggle to have positive thoughts about ourselves.

In Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs there is the necessity to have a sense of belonging from family, friends, colleagues etc. before you can move on to develop a sense of self esteem. The divisions in society today plays on this sense of belonging in a harmful way. Youths who commit violent crime are often trying to fit in with the gang culture. Football fans are committed to foul mouthing opposition fans which emphasises a sense of division. Income bracket, class structure, neighbourhood are all things that divide us as society and prevent us from having genuine, effective levels of self esteem.

More research investigating why we choose to support this inner critic (Kishimi & Koga 2018) describes the work of Alfred Adler, one of the giants of 20th Century Psychology alongside Freud and Jung. His work says that we can all live free from the influence of past experience, doubts as well as the expectation of others. He offers us a liberating experience allowing us the courage to change and ignore the limitations that we and others place upon us.

Adler’s work explains (Kishimi & Koga 2018), “Why do you dislike yourself? Why do you focus only on your shortcomings, and why have you decided to not start liking yourself? It’s because you are overly afraid of being disliked by other people and getting hurt in your interpersonal relationships”. By deciding to stop liking yourself you are setting a goal to stop yourself getting hurt in your relationships with other people. That way you can even have a ready made excuse for when people snub you. You’ve made it nearly impossible to get hurt in your interpersonal relationships.

How does this help us when it comes to Stigma towards people with mental health difficulties? Adler argues that we have to have the courage to change and the determination to take on that inner critic, even if it is backed up by people who stigmatise you because of your mental health condition. 

A consequence of disliking yourself is the examples of having an inferiority or superiority complex. The inferiority complex is easiest to explain but maybe harder to accept. People who dislike themselves or feel inferior can either search out and make the effort to improve their situation or make excuses for their current situation. An example may be applying for a better job, but not bothering because you lack the education. A healthy response here would be to search out ways to get back into education and study diligently. The problem is it remains much easier to adopt an inferiority complex and start complaining. You can start right there. If you want to improve your current situation, stop complaining and take action. 

A superiority complex is just as destructive. People can dislike themselves whilst boasting about past achievements. Arrogant people rarely feel good about themselves underneath their act. That is the exact reason why they feel the need to boast about their achievements. In a similar vein a superiority complex can take the form of an underachiever boasting about their misfortune. It might be their childhood, or because of their physical characteristics. Whatever it may be, they like to make themselves feel special by boasting about their misfortune. Try and support this person and you are likely to be brushed aside, with little inclination and a comment along the lines of “oh, you don’t know how I feel”. They only want to feel special and sustain the comfort extended to them through complaining and not taking action.

To overcome the sense of hate you have towards yourself you must get control of that inner critic. That voice inside your head that we have submitted to over the years that tells us we are not worthy, good enough, capable enough, beautiful enough etc. After all would you talk to a friend in the same way that you speak to yourself. Why then do you allow this inner critic to develop. By making excuses and complaining you are only feeding those inner thoughts and feelings and leave yourself little opportunity to make the realistic positive changes. By taking action you empower yourself and others to feel better, think better, believe better and ultimately be better. I wish you every ounce of success for gaining control of you inner thoughts and therefore creating the reality you desire.


Firestone, R.W, Firestone, L & Catlett J. 2002. “Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice: A Revolutionary Program to Counter Negative Thoughts and Live Free From Imagined Limitations.” New Harbinger

Kishimi, I & Koga, F. 2018. “The Courage to be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness”. Allen & Unwin

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