Life unfolds within a constant struggle, when your main enemy resides within yourself. Nowhere can you hide from it. 28 years of my life have passed under the firm oppression of inner critique. Our relationship could be termed codependent — I was running away from it, yet I myself was giving birth to it. To perceive this destructive connection from an outsider’s perspective, I began to capture it through photography. Metamorphosing, I simulated situations from my life that arose under the influence of incessant self-dissatisfaction.
During my teenage years, I continually changed my hair color to become more beautiful, boost self-esteem, and placate the inner critic. Sometimes these experiments led to unexpected results. Instead of blonde, I’d end up with red hair; instead of chocolate, it turned green. But even when these experiments succeeded, it did little to help me straighten my shoulders, speak more confidently, or cease worrying about the future.
The inner critic tormented me with anxiety about the future around the clock. My parents never had to check my grades in school or ask if I had done my homework. My studies were under the strictest control — the control of the inner critic.
It would whisper to me: “If you don’t memorize the chapter in the textbook perfectly, you won’t get into university, you won’t achieve anything in your life, you’ll end up living in a cellar.” Now it seems funny — could a chapter from a history textbook for the sixth grade really help me pave the way to success? But the voice of the inner critic seemed so reasonable — it became an authority for me. I sincerely believed it and continued to cram. I studied around the clock. Of course, I was an excellent student.
There were many victories. However, they didn’t convince the inner critic to believe that I could manage without its pressure, to relax and fall silent. It always feared my failure, and at the beginning of any endeavor, it fervently persuaded me not to even try — what if it doesn’t work out? Before the school final exams it insisted that I start praying for excellent grades.
He managed to unearth a huge number of arguments confirming that I was guaranteed to fail. On the way to success, I was struggling through such a flurry of self-doubt that the cost of every victory turned out to be too high.
Due to the constant anxiety triggered by self-discontent, I spent my whole life biting my nails, and I had to cover the wounds with band-aids or hide my fingers in fists. Although perhaps those around me wouldn’t have noticed my wounds. I know that how others see me often doesn’t align with how I perceive myself. People tend to like me more than I like myself.
However, in school, I couldn’t avoid bullying.
Of course, I always wanted to date boys. However, when they were around, the inner critic would persuade me that I would say or do something wrong. I would instantly freeze and remain silent.
In order to achieve a relative tranquility in my relationship with the inner critic, I had to undergo a long therapy. It was not an easy path — for five years, I was looking for “my” psychologist. They didn’t comprehend the extent of my problem and offered advice tailored for the majority suffering from the most ordinary, adequate, self-doubts. Their advice didn’t work for me. Psychologists believed I simply wasn’t following their recommendations, so they repeated the same thing over and over again.
I found “my” specialist in September 2022. After several months of her fruitless efforts, she suspected I had an anxiety disorder and referred me to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist confirmed this diagnosis and prescribed medication. Medical therapy started working quickly. The psychologist was very pleased and admitted that she had been on the brink of despair and had almost lost hope that she could help me with anything.
The critic became calmer, but didn’t disappear entirely. During the course of creating this project, I changed my hair color twice.