Many of us are born into, and grow up in, environments that provide insecure support at best. While rewarded for behaviors that meet arbitrary social standards, we are ignored or punished for the times our authentic self-expression doesn't 'fit in' with normative expectations. For example, boys are rewarded for acting 'like boys,' and 'girls like girls,' but transgressing gender expectations often leads to shaming, exclusion and worse.
And so we develop performative behaviors to attain support and acceptance from an ungenerous, withholding world: we do as others do to receive acceptance. We drive ourselves to fit in with relentless self-criticism and perfectionism.
Such techniques transform the mind into place where thoughts of grandiosity and punishment are the rewards for normal successes and mistakes.
Unfortunately, many have to hit bottom, reaching periods of despair, addiction, panic, insomnia and other unwholesome states, before seeking another way of guiding ourselves through this world.
Happiness does not mean smooth passage.
Part of the journey towards exploring authentic self-expression means, once again, risking exclusion and acceptance from others: it can feel at first like annihilation. So be it. As adults we can, with diligence, find support if we persevere.
Essential to this process is getting some distance from with those unrelenting inner critics, who disparage our shortcomings and all-too-human mistakes. Banishing the voices rarely works, but through practice we can learn to greet these visitors without mistaking them to be "my thoughts." We can find a comfortable refuge in the body, while the yammering continues above us, in the head. The voices are simply the tape recordings which cannot be successfully argued with; they're basically internalizations of all the external evaluations we were subjected to earlier in life. And while these voices sermonize in the background, we develop an understanding, compassionate awareness, unconditional in reminding us that we too deserve happiness and inner peace.