Master Your Inner Critic
I met a leader in California who said he didn’t have a loud inner critic. I think he was smoking weed.
We talk to ourselves all the time. It’s normal. Sometimes you’re harsh on yourself. You say nasty things you wouldn’t say to anyone else. But your negative inner voice is useful on occasion.
Gail Godwin wrote, “The Watcher at the Gate,” an essay about the restraining voice who lived inside her. She wrote him a letter and asked, “‘What is it you’re so afraid I will do?’ Then I held my pen for him, and he replied instantly and with a candor that has kept me from truly despising him.”
“‘Fail,’ he wrote back.”
#1. Notice the lies your inner critic uses:
- “You’re getting fired,” after receiving corrective feedback.
- “You idiot,” when you say something stupid. ‘Idiot’ is my inner critic’s favorite word.
- “You’re a loser,” when customers choose another person for the job.
- “Nobody likes you.” Your inner bully loves exaggeration.
When things go smoothly your inner bully sneers, “Don’t blow it.” But he goes nuts when you stumble.
Noticing is the beginning of freedom.
Tip: Your negative voice isn’t you. Mine is my mom’s voice.
#2. Remember Tool #48 in “Writing Tools”:
“Limit self-criticism in early drafts. Turn it loose during revision.”
You look like a drunk octopus when you’re a novice. Let yourself be a novice.
You can’t learn if you can’t look stupid.
#3. Give your inner critic a job:
When you’re competent ask your self-judge, “How could I be better?” Or “How am I holding myself back?”
When preparing for a project ask, “What might go wrong?” And “How likely is that?”
#4. Set 2 rules:
- Low competence – light criticism.
- High competence – focused detailed criticism.
The words you say to yourself shape your future.
When is your inner critic useful?
How are you putting a gag in your negative inner voice?