My inner critic doesn’t want me to write this post. She appeared this morning in the form of resistance to starting.
I sat down to write a new blog post at 7:30 AM. It is 1:15 PM and I am just now typing words onto the blank screen that is staring me down.
She has convinced me that I am blocked and have nothing worthwhile to say right now. So I may as well keep myself busy with other, more meaningful tasks. You know, really important things like:
- Responding to comments on Facebook posts.
- Cleaning out my email inbox and responding to personal correspondence. After all, I have a friend coming in from Seattle on Thursday and we have plans to make.
- Folding a load of laundry and starting a fresh load. Like I said, my friend is coming from Seattle and obviously she needs clean sheets to sleep on.
- Taking a few pictures of my adorable French Bulldog puppy playing with a ball that he found in the yard. Then, of course, I had to upload one to his Instagram account and give it the appropriate #hashtags. If you’re wondering, so far he’s received 13 “likes” and gained a new follower since I posted it.
Here’s the deal. This morning while writing my morning pages, I asked for clarity on what to write about in this week’s blog post. I brainstormed a few ideas. I decided to write about my fear that my inner critic would make an appearance this weekend while I’m at Tracy Verdugo’s 3-day Paint Mojo workshop.
My inner critic was busted and she knew it!
This workshop is the main reason my dear friend from Seattle is coming to visit me. It will be the third Paint Mojo workshop that I have attended. Tracy is one of my favorite artists and a delightful lady with sweet, loving energy. The workshops are fun and playful. Nothing about it is serious or competitive in nature.
Last year during the workshop my inner critic made an appearance on the last day. My painting wasn’t coming together like I had hoped and I was running out of time. I wanted to leave the workshop with a completed painting.
My inner critic had a heyday with me. She told me my painting sucked and that I was making a fool of myself. She pointed out to me how most of the others had already completed their beautiful paintings.
I went into the bathroom and had a talk with her. I told her I heard her fears and I appreciated that she was trying to prevent me from looking like a fool. I met her with love and reassured her that she was safe and that it was OK if my painting wasn’t as “good” as the other paintings. I reminded her that we were beginners and it’s OK to be beginners.
She finally calmed down and I became “unstuck” and made some more progress on my painting before the end of the day. I didn’t leave with a completed painting, but I had talked my inner critic down from the ledge. I was feeling OK with that and worked on it some more at home until I deemed it was done.
Here’s what I know about my inner critic. My first memory of her finding her voice was when I was six years old. I was competing in a state level Little Miss LaPetite beauty pageant. I’ll save the details of that for another post. Suffice it to say that she felt shamed, devastated, and harshly judged at that pageant.
I lovingly call her “Little Miss LaPetite” and she has worked hard to become a perfectionist. She believes her job is to reduce my chances of being judged negatively and from feeling that horrible shame ever again.
I have learned that I can’t bully her or “kick her to the curb” like I’ve read or been advised to do. That makes her voice get louder and more critical. She is only soothed by acknowledgment, appreciation for her input, and loving reassurance.
Her voice is almost always quieter and less critical than in days past, but she resides inside of me.
I have learned that she loves me and wants to be my friend.
She will most likely reveal herself to me at some point over this coming weekend. I will be expecting her and be ready to greet her with love and compassion.
What do you know about your inner critic? I am sure you are well acquainted with her. Most of us are.
Is she a perfectionist who can get quite loud and vocal? If so, how do you respond?
If this is your inner critic, I suggest reassuring her that it’s OK to try new things and to be a beginner. Assure her that you’re safe. Thank her for her concern for you, but let her know it’s important to you to allow yourself to do things that are less than perfect. I believe she will calm down by simply acknowledging her fears and showing her by “doing” that done is better than perfect because it creates action and forward movement.
Does she blame you for past mistakes and refuse to forgive you?
If this is the voice of your inner critic, I believe it’s important to revisit the past event to determine if there is an apology you need to make to someone or an act that you might need to atone for in some way.
Let me give you a personal example.
I recently taught an online class and my enrollment was less than I had hoped for. I was disappointed in myself and I wasn’t aware of that until a friend asked me how many enrolled for my class and I lied!
I felt terrible about it, but I couldn’t bring myself to come clean with her and apologize to her for lying. I came home and told my husband about the lie. He told me to pick up the phone and call her and clean it up. I couldn’t do it.
The next morning I had convinced myself that it was better just to keep it to myself because if I told her then she might never trust me and judge me harshly for lying to her in the first place. (Hello, Little Miss LaPetite.)
I beat myself up for a full two weeks. I felt terrible inside and my inner critic raked me over the coals for being a liar. Finally, I had enough and I couldn’t stand to be out of integrity for another minute. I reached out to my friend and apologized for lying to her.
Her response was that she wouldn’t have judged me for the number of enrollments. I told her I was judging myself so I was sure she was going to judge me, as well.
Was it easy?
But my guilt-tripper inner critic was beating me over the head because I was out of integrity and I wasn’t able to forgive myself until I came clean with her.
If this sounds familiar and your inner critic is giving you a guilt trip, perhaps it would be helpful to forgive yourself by cleaning up something you did in the past so that you can move on.
A word of warning here, if cleaning this up in order to forgive yourself would hurt another person, please don’t do that. I suggest you pray for forgiveness or write that person a letter apologizing to them, but don’t send it. You could burn it and create a ceremony as an act of self-forgiveness.
Inner critics reveal themselves in many different forms.
I believe it is important that you get to know yours. Ask her what she needs from you to feel safe. Go within and listen to her answer. What is her name? How old is she?
My experience is that it doesn’t work to ignore her or try to “kick her to the curb”.
Listen to her.
Make peace with her.