The ‘inner critic’. I’d heard about it a lot, and read about it in articles on the internet, as well as in books like Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art. For a long time I have been aware of my lack of self-belief and my self-doubt, and just thought that this must be how it is for all of us.
As it turns out, my inner critic casts a stronger shadow than I was aware of. My therapist, who I’ve now had 8 sessions with (at time of writing), is an integrative psychotherapist who likes to use art and creativity in her practice. Her room is warm, bright and accommodating, and scattered around the place are all sorts of weird and wonderful objects, from cuddly animals through to pine cones, lego figures and different coloured feathers and shells.
In one of my first sessions with her, I was asked to pick out an object that best represented this critical voice of mine. I chose this cute little monkey with a kinda sad/awkward/uncertain expression on its face.
At the start of each session, there he is in that same spot on the sofa, looking my way. Sometimes, I forget he’s there.
She then asks me questions like “What does this (the critical voice) sound like?” I’ll be honest, it doesn’t even appear to have a distinct voice, as such. It seems to be just ‘my’ voice, and that’s even if you can even describe it was a voice. It’s just in my head, merged with my thoughts.
Apparently, over time, such negative chatter can become more entrenched, and I expect that this is what must have happened. That’s my guess, anyhow.
Now this voice means well, it worries about me and it cares about me, but it doesn’t always act in my best interests. It can be stifling, overwhelming, overbearing, causing me to question e-ver-y-thing.
Am I doing the right thing here? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Will this just be another thing I start and don’t complete? Am I capable of this? Do I deserve to be happy? That last one is especially potent, and I find it can slowly creep up on me as this intrusive, paranoid though that emerges and sees me question whether I am a good, decent human being who deserves happiness, a life that I enjoy, and things to just “work out”. This can sometimes happen after I’ve had a good day or something good in my life has happened, as if it’s attempting to counteract and sabotage this – and a sense of “Is this good experience I’m having too good to be true?” can arise?
For example, the whole ‘work’ situation feels like it’s weighed on me for a significant portion of my adult life; when I was choosing a course for university, when I then picked another…only to dropout. And then re-apply, and drop-out again. And then falling into a job, and then 5 years later going back to study, and then trying my own thing, and then taking a year out, and now attempting to get into book publishing after a lot of considered thought and reflection.
Starting over, again. It feels like this pattern of constant worry/anxiety, jumping into something – and then failing or it otherwise not working out. Rinse, repeat. My 5-year sales career (can you even call it that?) was the closest I’ve had to any consistency when it comes to work, even though I knew from the outset that that wouldn’t be “it”.
On some level, I am afraid that I won’t ever find something I am truly content in. That I’ll continue to be pained by this constant state of fear, and doubt, and yearning for more.
I am already aware that I am a people-pleaser, and that I care about how others perceive. That said – I have come in leaps and bounds in this area of my life of late #proudofme. I’ve left social media several times due to it becoming all-consuming, overwhelming, and even feeling paranoid that people I know are watching my every move and seeing me fail out in the open. That I left my job and have since crashed and burned. That I’m almost 29, living at home, and feel like an irresponsible adult who sometimes can’t look after himself properly and has a lot of growing up to do.
There it is again, loud and clear. That critical voice. It’s amazing how, a lot of the time, I don’t even realise that he’s there, the b*stard. Unaware of what he’s even saying and the impact he’s having on me. Like I said before, it doesn’t feel like a voice, rather just my thoughts.
By getting to know him better, by facing him head-on, and talking and writing about him, I hope to recognise him even more and – in the process – reduce the hold he has over me. I acknowledge that he is there, but realise how much him to take at face value.
After all, I am not my critical voice, just like I am not my thoughts. He does not control me. Not if I don’t let him. And, with time, my own voice will be heard above his. And that will be the very opposite of critical. It will be loving, and kind, and compassionate, and resolute.
✏ Written: Wednesday, 7th March 2018 @ 1.24pm
What about you? 🤷🏽♂️
Do you have a critical voice, or an ‘inner critic’? Does it sound like a voice, or something else? What impact does he/she/it have on you? It’s always so lovely to hear your perspectives 💙