Naming Your Inner Critic

A few weeks ago I flew to Reno for my very first writers retreat. Not only was it out of my time zone, it was out of my comfort zone.

I’ve always told my children if you’re comfortable you’re not growing. Walking to my departing flight, I heard those words swirl around my mind.

Sometimes I really get annoyed when my words come back to bit me in the butt.

Once I arrived at my destination, my mind filled with scenarios on what I might expect once I got to the venue. I can be kind of awkward when meeting new people.

As I mentally prepared myself for being around other writers; seasoned writers, published writers, and experts in a field I am an infant in, my inner critic surfaced to remind me I am way out of my league in this new endeavor of becoming a writer.

Reaching for my phone, I called one of the attendees who graciously agreed to pick me up so I didn’t have to rent a car.

Truthfully, I wanted to call my husband to tell him I would be on the next flight home, but as I walked through baggage claim, an ad for a local hotel greeted me.

“Enjoy the comforts of home while staying with us.”

“Hey, KatieMae…… Remember when you told your kids; ‘If you’re comfortable…..’ my inner critic whispered.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You can shut up now!”  I thought to myself.

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” ~Brian Tracey

 

Willing to feel awkward?

I have felt awkward a lot in my life, but I don’t remember a time I ever willingly wanted to feel that way. But there I was… no turning back now.

The weekend proved to be nothing like I imagined it would be and my inner critic, well she was wrong.

I may be out of my league, but the group I was privileged to spend time with never once made me feel like I didn’t belong. They rallied around me, encouraging me, giving me great advice and offered their insights to help make this new journey successful.

While I learned a lot about the writing process and myself, there was one takeaway that has made a profound impact on me and my life.

The Inner Critic

Inner critics are found in everyone, but for creatives, they can hold us captive in ironclad shackles, dangling a key in front of us like a warden outside a prison cell.

They fill our minds with self-doubt, fear and at times paralyze us emotionally.

I have had an inner critic for as long as I can remember.

She followed me to school when I was a kid, she walked down the aisle with me when I got married, and she sat by my side in the hospital as I watched my Dad die.

For years she has evaluated how I look, what kind of person I am, and reminded me on a daily basis how I just don’t measure up.  Advice from experts tell me to ignore her or mentally walk away when she is present.

God knows I have tried.

I have left her in airports, restaurants, and even outside my front door.  But she is always right where I left her and quick to make up for lost time when we are reunited.

On this particular morning, as the writing group sat around the table, one of the ladies mentioned she named her inner critic and for whatever reason, this idea resonated so deeply within me that I knew I had to name mine as well. By naming my inner critic it allowed me to see it for what it is as well as caused it to lose some of its power.

Walking into the airport to catch my flight home, it wasn’t long before she found me.

“You’re back!  I’ve been waiting for you.  Did you miss me?”  she snickered.

“Nope.  It was nice and quiet the past two days without you lurking in my ear.”

“Awww, come on, you must have gotten lonely.  But now that we are back together, I have some things to remind you of.  I’ve been saving up!”

“That’s nice.  But first, maybe I should tell you a little secret I learned while we were apart.”

“Secret?  I love secrets, especially the ones you think are going to help you in the silly dream of becoming a writer. What’s the secret?”

“First, I am a writer. I will be a published author in the future.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Whatever.  Keep dreaming.”

“Second, I met several people this weekend who have inner critics too and one of the suggestions to get a better grip of our inner critic, was to give him or her a name. So I have come up with a name for you. I have decided to name you Stella.”

Silence.

“Did you hear me Stella? You now have a name.”

Silence once more.

“I’m glad to hear this worked.”

Studies suggest we spend hundreds of hours each year self-criticizing.  I am sure Stella, works overtime.

“You’re not good enough, smart enough or pretty enough.”

“Don’t embarrass yourself, no one will read or resonate with your writing.”

“Don’t quit your day job, your writing will go nowhere.”

“It’s too late in life, you’re far beyond the age of pursuing the impossible dream now.”

“Whatever action we take is first of all determined by our thoughts, so if we change our thoughts, we can change the way we behave.”~ Cherith Powell and Greg Forde

The inner critic is a powerful force.

It put roadblocks the size of boulders in my way leaving me on the side of the road of self-doubt. It caused me to compare myself to seasoned writers, who expressed themselves with eloquent words and massive followers.

Each time I sit down to write, it’s there. Reminding me of all the reasons why I can’t do this.

But I have a few more secrets that the Stella doesn’t understand.

I am stubborn, love a challenge and am not a quitter.

With each word I pen (or type), I slowly strike the inner critic. Every sentence I write, I chip away at the boulder of doubt. Each blog I post, a section of the boulder rolls away, giving me a clearer view of the road ahead.

I know the inner critic will always be there, but that doesn’t mean she controls me anymore.  Anytime I hear her start to roll another barricade in my way, I call her by name and remind her where her place is.
We have had a copacetic relationship ever since.

What about you?  What are some of the ways you have dealt with your inner critic?
Let me know in the comments below.

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