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Recently, I was invited to participate in a video interview with the editor of my book.
It would be an opportunity to talk about the writing process and my experience of becoming an author. I was excited about the chance to meet with her and celebrate our partnership in birthing my book. However, as the time grew closer, I began to feel anxious. I could hear a voice in my head that led me to doubt whether I could say yes to doing this interview.
This voice was rude and harsh, telling me that I didn’t know enough about technology to participate in a live video. I heard it say, “If you go ahead with this, you will look foolish and inept.” I felt ugly as I looked in the mirror and shamed myself for “looking my age.” I caught myself wishing I looked more fit and trim. Maybe I could lose 10 pounds before the talk?
I heard echoes of my piano teacher who scolded me, when I was a young girl, for not practicing enough. I slipped into a place of discouragement where there was no room for learning or giving it a try. The voice was determined to point out how useless I was.
Whose Voice is this?
I call this voice my inner critic. I have come to realize that its main priority is to keep me safe. The more I venture out of the safety of my current existence and into living the life I am meant to live, the louder my inner critic gets. It laughs derisively at my plans and I feel a pain in my heart that stops my creativity and forward movement. In this case, I was tempted to cancel that call with my editor. Why would she even want to interview someone like me?
What happened next?
I knew deep down that I wanted to be part of this interview. It became clear to me how persistent this voice is. I needed to remind myself of my own teachings! I have written about the inner critic in my book, and so, I went back to those words and read them over. Here is what I learned.
Over the years I have tried many techniques to abolish this voice. I have tried ignoring it or shoving it away by distracting myself with numbing behaviours, such as overeating, drinking, excessive working out, or even housework. I have yelled at my inner critic and tried to scare it away. This never worked for too long, and I ended up feeling frustrated and angry at myself as well.
This is what I now know. My inner critic loves it when I am in a state of reactivity. My fear increases and I want to run away. Sometimes I get paralyzed and attempt to become invisible. The fight response shows up when I take out my anger on those around me, or myself.
I have found some other ways to show up when my inner critic gets loud.
Steps to Living with my Inner Critic
1. I slow down and pay attention to this voice. I breathe in deeply and calm myself.
2. I may do some journaling, or walk in nature. I notice what my body needs at this moment.
3. I name the voice for what it is. I tell myself that this voice is not the real me. I am the observer of the voice, not the voice itself.
4. I thank the critic for wanting to keep me safe, and I tell it that I am going to be okay. I have other resources available to support me as I try something new.
5. I celebrate that when I hear the inner critic’s voice, this means that I am on the edge of breaking through to a powerful new experience. I see myself as courageous and able to move forward, trusting that all will work out.
As a result of my willingness to face my inner critic, I was able to go ahead with the video interview. I received help with the technical details and asked for support in advance for the content of the conversation. The interview went well and I am excited to announce that I had fun! It wasn’t perfect. I had another talk with my inner critic as I watched myself and was tempted to focus on what could have been better. I released my self-judgment and am celebrating the passion and joy that I shared during this conversation.
It may be that you have experienced the scolding of an inner voice that keeps you from moving forward. I believe that all of us struggle at times with fear and anxiety when we want to try something new.
I wonder what tools you will discover to find a way to work with your inner critic, rather than be controlled by its defeatist ideas?
I would love to hear what your experience is like as we learn together to move forward in living a vibrant and joyful life.