by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist
In my writing life, my inner critic is the single greatest threat to my success.
My inner critic blames me for things that go wrong.
My inner critic calls me names like stupid and loser.
My inner critic compares me to others and finds me wanting.
My inner critic sets impossible standards of perfection.
My inner critic tells me that if I’m not the best, then I’m nothing.
My inner critic beats me up for the smallest mistake.
My inner critic keeps track of my failures and shortcomings.
My inner critic exaggerates my weaknesses.
My inner critic threatens to withhold love.
My inner critic attacks me with rage when I fail.
My inner critic says, “You’re a failure. So why try?”
My inner critic is especially loud when I feel pleasure, when I feel love, recognition or success.
And if my inner critic is successful, then he has produced severe anxiety in me and made me feel worthless. It’s at this point, I’m in complete bondage to this stupid, foolish, bumbling henchman and I am dragged away to be imprisoned by fear.
The problem is, I forget just how much power I actually have. A few weeks ago, I described how I was going to kick fear in the teeth, but it’s kind of hard to do when you’ve already let that inner critic have too much ground.
I’m not an expert, but I think these are very good steps:
1. Recognize the inner critic right away. You know his voice: it’s negative, accusatory and hopeless. In your head, it sounds either just like you or like someone in authority over you who was really good at saying toxic stuff like this.
2. Yell right back at him. My therapist told me I can tell him to shut up. He will. You owe it to yourself to fight back. And you can mentally. And if you’re in a place where real people are saying stuff like this to you, leave them.
“Learn to catch yourself and stop yourself immediately when you are engaging in negative self-talk.”
― Bryant McGill,
3. Concentrate 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?) Get in the practice of collecting positives about yourself as your weapon against your inner critic. Keep them posted where you can see them. Surround yourself with people who love you and encourage you. Inner critics love vacuums — so don’t allow yourself to have one. Fill your life with good and evil can’t come in.
4. Get 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. Set your timer. Write for 10 minutes. This may shut that inner critic up for a while.
5. List all the people who do love you and build you up. We need reminders sometimes of who is on our side. This inner critic does not want you to succeed. Listening to it and giving it attention will make you miserable.
“Negative self talk costs more than even the richest person can afford. So be nice to yourself whenever possible … and know that it is always possible.”
― Doug Pedersen,
6. Recount all your 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. Enjoy your moments of victory and accomplishment for what they are without focusing on the tiny mistakes. Your inner critic also has very 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. I suggest you change your prescription and look for good and you’ll learn to really revel in your success.
8. Celebrate who you are on your journey. Our paths to success are 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, we should celebrate that we’re still going forward! Stop every once in a while and say to yourself, “WOW! Look how far you’ve come!”
“As believers, we must speak only words of prosperity, health, and power.”
― Lynn R. Davis,
9. Stop comparing yourself to others. Your inner critic may be obsessed with the success of other writers. He may whisper in your ear that you should be doing this better, or you should be published by now, or you should have more reviews because of other people’s successes! This is a bunch of ca-ca. Your success is yours alone. Just tell that inner critic to shut up once and for all so you can focus on being you!
10. Practice 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.