In my writing life, my inner critic is the single greatest threat to my success.
My inner critic used to blame me for things that went wrong. It called me names like stupid and loser. It compared me to others and found me wanting. My inner critic set impossible standards of perfection. Sometimes my inner critic told me that if I’m not the best, then I’m nothing or beat me up for the smallest mistake. My inner critic often kept track of my failures and shortcomings and exaggerated my weaknesses. It threatened to withhold love and attacked me with rage when I fail. My inner critic often said, “You’re a failure. So why try?” And my inner critic was especially loud when I felt pleased with love, recognition or success.
For many years, my inner critic was successful, producing severe anxiety in me and made me feel worthless. For decades I was in complete bondage to this stupid, foolish, bumbling henchman.
But I’m happy to report, these attacks by that evil, negative voice hasn’t bothered me in years.
This is why:
1. I’ve learned to recognize the inner critic right away. I know this voice: it’s negative, accusatory and hopeless. In my head, it sounds like a specific someone in authority over me who was really good at saying toxic stuff like this.
2. I yelled right back at this voice. My therapist told me I can tell him to shut up. He will. I owed it to myself to fight back. And I also learned that if real people say this stuff to me, I have the means to leave them.
3. I concentrated on positive truths and self-affirmations. It usually takes me about four or five self-affirmations to get this inner critic to evaporate. (Yes, he evaporates. Why was I so afraid of something made of air?) I practiced collecting positives about myself as my weapon against my inner critic. I kept them posted where I saw them. Then I surrounded myself with people who loved me and encouraged me.
4. I got to work. I’ve been finding that this inner critic shows up more frequently when I’m stuck on something. With a little hard work and determination, I get over the hump and he’s got nothing to stand on. If I set my timer and write for 10 minutes, this may shut that inner critic up for a while.
5. I listed all the people who do love me and built me up. I always need reminders sometimes of who is on my side. This inner critic does not want me to succeed. If I listen to it and give it attention, it will make me miserable.
6. I recounted all my victories. My inner critic, for all his nastiness, is a really bad accountant and can’t see that there are far more successes than failures. Yours probably is too. If you have to create a list of all the ways you’re awesome and paste it to your computer screen, do it!
7. I enjoyed my moments of victory and accomplishments for what they were without focusing on the tiny mistakes. My inner critic also has bad vision. He can only see the faults and failures. It’s likely someone in your life taught you to look at the world that way, as someone in my life, taught me. I suggest you change your prescription and look for thegood and you’ll learn to really revel in your success.
8. I celebrated who I was on my journey. My path to success was filled with bumps, detours and near disasters. This is part of life! While they can be frustrating and painful, instead of sitting down on the side of the road to bawl in self-pity, I celebrated that I was still going forward!
9. I stopped comparing myself to others. My inner critic is obsessed with the success of other writers. He whispered in my ear that I should be doing this, that or the other better. This is a bunch of ca-ca. My success is mine alone. Just tell that inner critic to shut up once and for all so you can focus on being you!
10. I practiced good self-care. I’m far less likely to hear from the inner critic if I’m well-rested, I’ve eaten well and I’ve exercised. Take a moment and check yourself. Are you putting your physical well being at the top of your to-do list? This could be all you need to silence that inner critic.
If I actually listen to my inner critic, then it’s like I am putting the handcuffs on and I’m allowing him to drag me into fear. There’s no way I can be successful and listen to him at the same time. One of us has to go.
What about you? What does your inner critic say? How are you kicking fear in the teeth?