You wake up one day feeling tired.
You should get to work if you want your business to take off.
You shuffle to the kitchen and have some breakfast, trying to delay the moment to sit in front of your computer as long as possible. You just don’t feel like it.
You think what you do is mediocre.
You’ll never be as successful as you need to be in order to make a living of your business because you’re just not that good.
Even though you’ve been living off your business for some time you still don’t believe it and think that any day now everyone will realise that you’re a fraud.
Relax, what you’re feeling is a severe attack of self-criticism.
We all carry within us a merciless critic who shows up from time to time to ruin our day.
Your inner critic is that voice in your head which prevents you from finishing those projects you most want to do because it makes you doubt yourself.
I’ve suffered myself quite a few severe attacks of self-criticism so I decided to read a lot about it and took a course where I was given some techniques to handle this shitty feeling.
If you suffer these waves of self-criticism too and they are preventing you from enjoying your venture, or simply, your life in general, stay and read.
I will share with you the best techniques I learned to handle it.
This is not cheap psychology, it’s a survival guide 😊
Here we go.
Who is your worst critic?
Yourself. Without a doubt.
Or rather that inner critic that you have inside you and who appears every time you are entering unknown territory.
Think about it.
Every time you’ve decided to step out of your comfort zone and embark on a new adventure, whether professional or personal, there’s that little squeaky voice that tells you:
– But, where are you going poor fool? Can’t you see that you won’t be able to do it?
– You are so bad at it, you can’t draw no matter how hard you try!
– Do you call that a song? It sounds just like the beginning of the Champions League tune!
– What a shitty dialogue you’ve come up with. It sounds more fake than your brother’s girlfriend’s laughter when she laughs at his jokes.
– Who are you trying to fool with that post on Instagram? You have no fricking idea of what you are doing with your business and you think you can give advice to others, um?
That voice will tell you these and a thousand other niceties every time you set out to do something that challenges you.
No, you are not crazy.
And neither are you a weak person who always doubts herself.
The reality is that you are being brave by getting into the unknown and that’s why that perfidious voice shows up to make you have doubts about your abilities.
Do you know who that voice is?
That voice is made up of all those voices that once convinced you that you weren’t good enough.
Your father, when you told him you wanted to be a writer: “But my angel, that’s very difficult, study law instead so you can get a well-paid job”.
Your mother when you told her you wanted to work in London one summer: “Oh darling, but it’s so scary, London is a huge city full of crazy people”.
Your maths teacher when he said, “Go sit down Ms. de Francisco. If you go on like this, you’ll never pass the exams”.
It’s not that your parents didn’t want the best for you, they were simply projecting their own fears onto you.
They didn’t want you to step into the unknown because that would worry them (you won’t find a job, something bad will happen to you in London) and selfishly parents just want to feel peaceful.
And your math teacher… Well, there are teachers who should take an intensive course in child psychology, really…
Anyway, all that doesn’t matter anymore.
We cannot change the past or blame others for our insecurities.
Those people had no bad intentions when they said those things, and besides, they have enough dealing with their own insecurities.
The point is that your inner critic will always be within you, because she is a part of your passage through this life.
And truth be told, she actually wants to protect you.
She doesn’t want you to be disappointed again or make a fool of yourself in front of everyone, so she tries to protect you by stopping you from doing what doesn’t feel comfortable or safe.
But if you’re determined to do that thing that makes you feel alive, you need to control that voice.
Don’t fight with your inner critic, defend your point instead
The worst thing you can do is to fight with your inner critic and try to shut him up.
It won’t do any good because he will attack harder.
There is another way.
And I learnt this in a writing course I took some time ago.
We writers have to deal with our inner critic every day.
Writing is a very lonely profession and it’s very easy to doubt oneself.
You don’t see the results immediately and your creation is exposed to others’ opinions.
That’s why in this course there was a large section dedicated to this topic. Inner critics are those responsible for many good projects not seeing the light of day.
In this course, I learnt a technique that I’ve been using ever since and that always works for me.
And it’s the following.
Imagine that your inner critic is a person who looks a lot like you.
Maybe she has different hair.
Give her a name. Mine is Maria.
Draw her (no matter how good or bad you are at drawing, look at mine for god’s sake!) and write the horrible things she sometimes says to you.
Maria says these things to me:
“You’ll never be as good as such and such”
“You’ve always been a lazy bum and to succeed in this you need to work hard”
“Why do you want to be a writer? There are thousands of things you could do instead that don’t cost that much effort”
“How are you going to write in English if you’re not native?”
After having written these sentences I stop and think that Maria is just a scared little girl who is afraid of suffering and that’s why she warns me not to step out of my comfort zone.
But I do want to get out, so I talk to her with my sweetest voice so to reassure her that we’re going to be fine.
“Maria don’t be scared, I won’t get into a funk if I fail, but I want to keep going because writing is what I really want to do in life”
“I may never write like Elena Ferrante but I want to keep on writing because I enjoy it.”
“I’m not lazy, the proof is that I’ve always worked hard when I want something. I’ve got a degree in a difficult subject, I speak 5 languages and I’ve managed to run my own business.”
“I’m not native English but I can write really well in English, native people tell me so. Besides, the more I write the better I become, and since I read lots I’m learning everyday new vocabulary.”
And then Maria calms down, she says ‘OK’ and lets me keep working.
It’s good that your inner critic exists
Having an inner critic helps you improving yourself.
If you manage to silence him when you’re creating something and let him speak up when you’re evaluating what you have done, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing.
For example, when I’m editing a text Maria helps me to see sentences that aren’t clear or metaphors that sound too cliché.
Your inner critic can help you improve a business idea by seeing its flaws so that you can correct them and come up with a better plan.
What you have to learn is to differentiate when he’s helping you to become better and when he’s stopping you from going ahead with a project that excites you.
This is the secret.If you get along with your inner critic you can both form an invincible team. Click To Tweet
Don’t despair when you doubt yourself.
It’s normal and it happens to everyone. Even to those celebrities who seem very sure of themselves. Everyone has their own ruthless inner critic.
Make peace with her and hold her hand.
And when she is scared of failure, whisper in her ear:
“I know, it scares me too, but it’s okay. We want to do this together, if we don’t try we will never be complete. Don’t be scared, we’ll be just fine.”