Dispelling the Inner Critic
Everyone has an Inner Critic—that antagonistic voice in your mind that attacks, ridicules, and criticizes. For some it’s a minor annoyance, like a gnat buzzing about that can be remedied with one accurate smack. For others that voice can be a serious impediment to taking any kind of action and a destroyer of self-confidence.
My Inner Critic has an especially sharp red pencil. I’m not surprised. I’ve been a professional editor for over 45 years and it’s my job to find mistakes and correct them. My sharp pencil, however, is never so finely honed to a cutting edge as when positioned over myself. In that position, it has taken extreme delight in cutting me to shreds on occasion.
Many writers, artists, and performers suffer from Overactive Inner Critic Syndrome (OICS). You won’t find OICS listed in any traditional medical diagnosis document. I made up the name for that condition. However, I assure you, it is real.
You’ve heard of one-hit wonders in almost every creative field: writers, musicians, artists, and performers who had an outstanding solitary success and then never produced anything again.
I’m reminded of Marianne Williamson’s opening lines in her poem, Our Deepest Fear:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness That most frightens us.
But even seasoned performers suffer from this syndrome. Sometimes it arises from insecurities about maintaining a certain level of excellence. At the height of her career, Barbra Streisand stopped doing public performances. Why? It was rumored that insecurities and fear were the culprits rather than arrogance or an attitude of “I’m already a big success so who needs that?”
I recently watched a video of Barbra with James Corden on Carpool Karaoke. He made a reference to that “moment” in her life (27 years!) and asked her why. Barbra responded, “I just get scared. I don’t want to disappoint people.”
If Barbra Streisand fears failure to live up to expectations, let’s go easy on our own doubts. (I know, easier said than done.)
So what can we do to quell the razor-sharp voice of the Inner Critic?
In the Car Karaoke episode, Corden asked Streisand if she still feels the fear, and if so, what she does about it. She said she still feels frightened but before going onstage, she says to herself:
“Let go and let God.”
If you’ve got a problem with the G-word, just concentrate on the first two (Let go) and substitute your word for All That Is. If even that’s a stretch for you, substitute “let it be” for let God.
Shelley Writes is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
If you read the previous post from me, you may have been surprised to find this message in your email box today. I said the next issue would be out on October 21 due my deadline and travel obligations. Yet here I am. Why?
Well, for one thing, my flights got cancelled and due to blocks to rescheduling, I’m doing the business trip virtually. But what truly precipitated this post was my getting overwhelmed with the enormity of the book project I’m working on.
I’ve been feeling confident and overall pleased with my work and fulfilling my purpose. Yet, having been shelved for a while, my Inner Critic has been lying in wait, ready to pounce given an opening. And so it happened today.
As I was prepping for my Zoom calls this afternoon and creating an agenda for the meetings, I heard The Voice:
Who are you to think you can handle this? What if blah, blah, blah…
I don’t know about Barbra Streisand’s inner work around self-development but based on her “Let go and let God” reply, I believe she has done some deep spiritual searching. As have I. And I’m being shown very much the same response to life’s big queries and how to handle insecurity.
When I began this project, it was truly a “I know I can do this, but wow, it’s way bigger than anything I’ve done before” acknowledgement. But due to OICS, a question arose:
What if I’ve made a huge mistake?
It so happened that at the exact same time I began this project (April 2022), I also started a yearlong course in developing intuition and intuitive healing. The course opened with a four-day immersive orientation. During one of the sessions, I was led via a guided meditation to see myself on a stage.
In my vision, I was seated in a large armchair and projected on a screen behind me was the image of a large, opened book. At first I thought it was the Torah, but given my lack of religious training or knowledge, I questioned that. As I looked closer, I realized the book was the Akashic Records. The words inscribed on the open page were these:
“Everything you need to know will be revealed to you as you need it.”
I knew those words were shown to me to sate the “What if I’ve made a huge mistake?” doubt.
Remembering those words and returning to Marianne Williamson’s poem, which concludes with the following lines, gives me the courage and conviction to go forward:
It's not just in some of us; It's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, Our presence automatically liberates others.
I hope these words and shared experiences support you in your journey as much as they helped me prepare for my afternoon meetings.
Until next time…my best, Shelley
Your Inner Critic column is one of your best. It hit home. While trying to fall asleep at night, I spend half the time thinking about what could have been instead of what still can be. Clearly, regrets orchestrated by one's inner critic can be debilitating. Dispelling the Inner Critic remains a goal, even as we grow older, and, hopefully, wiser.