Oh, That Inner Critic

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” -Stephen King

At Lone Star with Jean

We all have it, that inner voice that tells us we’re not good enough, smart enough, creative enough, beautiful enough, or [fill in the blank] enough. The trick is not to let your inner critic stop you from doing what you know in your heart will make you supremely happy, or what you can contribute to the world.

If you’re struggling to quiet you inner critic, you’re not alone. But, how do you get past the fear of failure or ridicule? That’s not an easy question to answer; my method might not work for you. However, I’ll share some things I’ve learned about shutting up that annoying little voice, and I’ll suggest some books that can help you find your own method.

The first thing I had to realize when I began my writing career nearly six years ago, was that I wasn’t alone. We all feel inadequate, and unworthy. I’d been working on feeling good about myself for years, and I felt confident in many areas of my life. But, when I knew writing was what I’d always wanted to do, that sneaky self-confidence busting little voice shouted that I wouldn’t ever be able to make a success of it.

Fortunately, I’d learned that the first thing I had to do was to acknowledge my fears before I could even put pen to paper. I was fortunate in that, I’d been a theatre artist and knew that just doing the work can be rewarding, no matter what. Most of the time we want to look and be cool, so facing our fears and even admitting that we have them, takes lots of courage. I can tell you from experience, that once you admit that you may fail, starting the task is so much easier.

Once you’ve acknowledged that your project is risky, but you’re going ahead with it anyway, your little fear voice will raise it’s ugly head with a vengeance. When that happens, I follow advice someone else once gave me and say, “Thanks for sharing, but I know the risks and I’m doing it anyway.” Be warned, you may have to say this several times a day before your little voice begins to fade. What you’re doing is reprogramming yourself to accept failure, while moving forward with your project. Everyone fails. We can’t avoid it. But, if we know that when we fail, that’s not the end, we’re paving the way for an eventual great creation.

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned is that practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes me resilient and more creative. I’m not a perfect writer. But, I’m better than I was six years ago. In six more years, I’ll be even better. So, to that end, I write every day in one way or another. When I write, even if it’s just responding to my online students, I use good writing practices. I work at making what I’m writing clearly understandable. I also take workshops and read blogs, books, and articles on writing from time to time, so I can continue to improve. And, I’ve made connections with other writers in my area. I attend a writer’s group, and a book club group. In each of these, I’ve found kindred spirits who help me stay focused on what matters most. I can share my successes and failures with them and know that they won’t condemn me. In those groups I can be vulnerable and not be criticized for not being perfect.

Here are some book suggestions that may help you tame your inner critic. Some are books about creativity and some just about living a more fulfilling life.

The Gifts of Imperfection, and Daring Greatly, by Dr. Brené Brown.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, by Laurie, Helgoe, PhD
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield

Each one of us is unique and have things to share that will change someone’s life. My hope is that you’ll stop letting your inner critic keep you from living the life you most desire, because we need your creativity.

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