There are times, most of the time really, when we have to ignore our inner critic. That one is up to no good and no matter how much we do, it will tell us we didn’t do enough or we did it wrong. How do we know if we really did something wrong or if we’re being attacked by our inner critic? There are, in my experience, key differences. I’ll start with the negative first.
When being attacked by my inner critic, it never, ever feels good. The messages are, at least, consistent:
· I’m doing it wrong.
· I’m saying it wrong.
· I’m a failure.
· I’m no good.
· My work will alienate, anger, or offend others (or it will be ignored).
· I don’t do enough.
· My work habits are horrible.
The inner critic cannot, it absolutely cannot, give a compliment, not even a begrudging one. If I do something well that might need genuine improvement, the inner critic never acknowledges the part I did well, only what needed improvement. This would be like the parent who, upon seeing a child’s report card with all A’s and one B, would only say, “Why did you get a B and not all A’s?” (This is not a criticism of parents, but of critics, external and internal.)
The inner critic can never, ever let us feel good about anything. It is a very emotionally violent master and it can never, ever be pleased. Never.
The inner critic, and here’s the surprise, is NOT interested in our growth, development, maturation, or improvement. It is only interested in beating us down. The inner critic is also not interested in truth. What is truth?
The truth is we all have room for growth, and this is a joyous message. It means there are new things to learn, new perspectives and ideas, and new ways of doing things, not because the old ways are bad, but because growth is good. The truth is NOT that we are bad or did bad. The truth is we usually do our best at all times, knowing what we know at the time. When we don’t do our best, we know this to be the truth and we don’t need an inner critic.
When I am confronted by the truth, even when I did something badly or wrong, the feeling is different. There’s no self-loathing. There’s not even remorse (unless I hurt someone). There’s only a desire for growth and maturity. I want to do better, not to please others, but to make the world, the world at large or my immediate world, a better place.
When I am confronted by truth, I usually know what I need to do next. I usually have steps to take, some concrete form of instruction or encouragement. Truth, when I embrace it, changes me. I change in my attitudes and my actions. I do things differently and better. This change comes from a place of joy and practicality. (The inner critic is never practical, only mean.)
If the opposite of truth is the inner critic, that means that much, if not all of what the inner critic says is a lie. Like Pressfield’s resistance, it will say anything to strike a deal with our souls, to keep us down and to keep us from fulfilling our destiny. Some will say that we need to thank our inner critic, and embrace it, because it’s really just a scared little child that’s trying to protect us from failure. Perhaps this is the case, but if it’s really a child, then it’s a bully and bullies cannot be allowed to win. I have to keep going. The truth is, although I want to succeed, success is not my only goal. My goal is to write every day and to spend the rest of my life with my Muse.
The other day a friend asked me if her writing was any good. It is. But even if it weren’t I would have told her to keep writing if she wants to be a writer. Every day I face challenges to my work. I also wonder if I’m any good. I wonder if I’ll be able to reach my goals. At one level, it doesn’t matter. I have to Get Started and Keep Going…no matter what my inner critic says. And that’s the truth.