Adventures with the Inner Critic

My first blog post barely went live and I’m already writing my second! Committing to investing in a website domain for a year definitely inspires me to make the most of it.


My dog is still in my lap as I write – this time, more for me than for him. I started writing this post less than two hours after my website went live and I tell you what, the fear. is. REAL.


The idea to start a blog felt truly resonant when it occurred to me a few weeks ago. I love writing, and what better way to keep at it regularly than with a blog? I already love creating my posts, and I had such fun throughout the website design process, too (especially considering that I’ve never built my own site before). I can’t describe the feeling other than it just felt right: the way it feels to know something in your bones.


So how did I get from feeling enthusiastic and optimistic about my blog to feeling fearful and anxious?


Let me introduce you to my Inner Critic – a role that I’m sure many of you are familiar with. My Inner Critic has a loud voice, many opinions, and a core belief that it is correct all the time.


And I mean: All. The. Time.


As soon as I posted my first blog and promoted it on Facebook, my Inner Critic told me to immediately close Safari because people will start judging you and you’re just not ready to handle that yet. And somehow I believed it – I actively avoided my entire computer for hours because the thought of reading potential feedback on my post filled my chest with tension and I felt my cheeks burn.


I left it alone and instead spent some good old quality time with my Inner Critic, entertaining its endless barrage of ‘what-if’s’ – you know, the questions that race through our minds when we’re trying something outside of our comfort zone? The ones that make us second-guess each decision we’ve made relating to this event? The questions that pull on every single thread of insecurity we’ve ever had?


You know – those ‘what-if’s’?


These were some of mine:


What if I’ve been too vulnerable?


What if I’ve missed something?


What if I’m making a fool of myself?


Is it weird to maintain a personal blog with a professional résumé?


What if I’ve accidentally written something offensive?


What if my website gets hacked?


What if people don’t like it?


What if this goes nowhere?


What if I’m wasting my time?


Before I knew questions such as these were coming from my Inner Critic, I historically (mis)identified those ‘what-if’s’ as products of the “Voice of Reason,” a voice that seemed to warn me that you’re just not ready and what you’re doing is a bad idea, so you should stop and wait for a clearer signal from the Universe. Instead of standing up to that voice, I often gave into it and took a passive approach, waiting for some external sign to ‘prove’ to me that it was time to take action…a strategy which provided instant relief but longer-term regret.


A strategy based in fear.


If the fear is strong enough, I will utilize that strategy of abandoning the project or idea, and justify it with the warning above: I tell myself that I’m not ready for it yet, and that God will let me know when it’s actually time to do it. Seems like a logical and sound belief, right? Or, it does as long as I don’t question it…


But then a different voice will cut through: a subtler, softer voice that offers encouragement by painting pictures of the possibilities that could result from taking risks. It imagines where this idea could go, who it could influence, and what I might offer the world through my continued growth. This is the voice that drives me to pursue my new ideas in the first place. It offers love and inspiration – when I listen to it, I find myself in creative flow, feeling deeply fulfilled, and emotionally expansive. It guides me to step out of my comfort zone because it wants to see me grow and thrive in my life, desiring to fill me with love, support, and purpose, while simultaneously showing me what beautiful gifts I have to offer back to the world. If I resist or ignore it, I begin to feel dissatisfied, empty, and constricted.

This was the voice that guided me to start a website and blog – a platform on which I can share my story and inspire others. While I created my website, I felt a deep sense of joy, fulfillment, and expansion.


This softer voice, however, encourages risks, and can be easily blocked by the Inner Critic’s loud protests. The Inner Critic kicked right in the moment I followed through and published my site, overshadowing the positive emotions I had felt only moments before. You’re not ready! You need to wait longer! You’re disobeying God’s plan for you! People will judge you and you’ll destroy your opportunities as an artist! You’re not capable of handling the judgments of others yet! You can’t do this!


Brutal, right?


When I rely solely on the emotions that the Inner Critic stirs within me as my source of information, I find it quite easy to believe it. I felt pain, embarrassment, shame, regret, and fear as this critical voice offered statement after statement, attempting to convince me to backtrack and take down my website. Or wait a little longer until I published it (in hopes that ‘a little longer’ would turn into forever). Or just decide to not run my blog at all. And because I wouldn’t take it down, it became louder and louder, until it was screaming at me, unrelenting, its statements containing no love or logic.


If the softer voice of encouragement makes me feel good, then why is it so easy to listen to my critical voice, which makes me feel small and disempowered? I theoretically should be more apt to listen to my divine inspiration because I trust it and I have faith in myself, rather than my spiteful Inner Critic.


Resisting the Inner Critic, though, seems to only make it louder, so I have spent a great deal of time with my Inner Critic in my personal therapy over the past few years. I wanted to understand it better and uncover why it offers such cruel statements. I felt surprised to discover that even though it never offers anything remotely loving, its motivation comes from love: my Inner Critic is a protective mechanism gone haywire.


It is afraid of being judged by other people because it doesn’t want me to feel hurt or disappointed. It pushes perfectionism because it doesn’t want me to feel embarrassed or endure criticism. It wants to be completely sure that I’m not wasting my time on something because it wants me to pursue activities that will bring me success. In its own strange way, it is showing me love – but in an unhelpful and ironically self-loathing way. It knows how I’ve been hurt, disappointed, and embarrassed in the past, and it doesn’t want to see me endure those feelings again because it’s the one that holds those wounds and those memories.


But life is about experiencing the entire spectrum of emotion! I can’t avoid unpleasant and painful feelings because they will happen no matter how hard I try to avoid them. I can’t control what the outcome will be when I put my ideas into practice. Nothing I do in life is without risk, and as much as I can now appreciate what my Inner Critic is trying to do for me, I also know that I can’t live my life constantly believing that I’m not capable of it yet.


So, back to my Inner Critic’s ‘what-if’s’:


What if you’ve been too vulnerable?


I know how to take care of myself.


What if you’ve missed something?


I’ll adjust it.


What if you’re making a fool of yourself?


What’s life without a little foolishness?


What if it’s weird to maintain a personal blog with a professional résumé?


So?


What if you’ve accidentally written something offensive?


I’ll learn from it and adjust it accordingly.


What if your website gets hacked?


We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.


What if people don’t like it?


Some people won’t. I’m okay with that.


What if this goes nowhere?


Then it goes nowhere. Except I already know that it’s going to go somewhere.


What if you’re wasting your time?


Nothing is a waste of time.


So, Inner Critic, thank you for your suggestions, but I’m publishing the website anyways.


Why?


Because my encouraging voice reminds me that you love writing, and you are ready to share your story. You are capable of being vulnerable and brave, and you are strong enough to take care of yourself when you face judgment. You have something to offer this world that can inspire others – take the risk and do it. You have plenty of people who will still love and support you, no matter what happens.


Taking the risk is still scary, but I choose to feel the Inner Critic’s fear, thank it for its service, and do the damn thing anyways.


With love and gratitude,


Kate


PS: For those interested in some good reading material, I highly recommend Susan Jeffers’ self-help book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (originally published in 1987). I found it inspirational in helping me push past my fear and take more risks in doing what brings me the most joy. If you have any suggestions on books related to this topic, feel free to comment and let me know!




(Cover image photo credit: michael podger from Unsplash)

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