Too afraid to write a book because I’m not smart enough.
Chicken shit to fire a client because I need the money this month.
Scared to write an e-course because I don’t think I am seasoned enough yet.
Shaking in my booties at the thought of being someone my friends and family may not recognize.
Sometimes when I am lying in bed at night, I think of all the things that I had been afraid to do in my life.
My mind can be such a comforting best friend and a verbally abusive spouse at times. Tonight it chooses to be a verbally abusive spouse. It’s criticizing every thing I do, why I’m doing it, and all around….a fucking asshole.
And then when I try to tell it to crawl into a hole and die, it lingers and looms over me like an annoying dark cloud that just won’t leave me alone. Right. The more I ignore it, the bigger cloud it becomes. The more I refuse to acknowledge its existence and criticisms, it shows up even it times I should be celebrating.
How the hell am I going to get rid of it when most self help books I’ve read tells me to focus on the positive? Do it anyway despite the fear, right?
In many crossroads I have had, doing it anyway despite the fear has worked for me. But there has also been times where I don’t make ANY decisions because that voice inside my head has completely victimized me and I refuse to make another step.
So then I started to think about other ways of moving forward.
If this “voice” was another solid fleshed human being, that was constantly showing up at my house pissing me off, I wouldn’t be ignoring it. I would be asking questions.
I found that when my inner critic starts to show up in my life and refuse to go away, the first thing I have to do is to acknowledge that it is here. It is here to bring something up to me that we have to chat about.
It’s not happy with something I’ve been doing, and whether it is right or not, it is something that must be discussed.
My inner critic is part of my whole being, so there must be a part of me that agrees with it, whether I like to admit it or not. There is a part of me that feels what it’s saying might be true, and when I run from it, it creates more conflict internally.
Being able to have a conversation with my inner critic isn’t saying that I agree and will conform to its demands. It means that I can acknowledge its concerns, and be grateful that it is trying to protect me from hurting myself. I try to hear it out, and ask what it needs for me to be allowed to move forward.
Was there something I haven’t covered or thought about that I should be doing before jumping the gun on a decision?
Was there something I needed to complete or get better at before I start something new?
The answers from that inner critic can sometimes be the advice I need on what I have to do to feel good about an important decision.
I had this conversation with my inner critic in the year that I finally decided to quit my job. For about 3 years, I kept ignoring my urge to leave, because that inner voice told me I wasn’t good enough and I will probably starve to death if I went out on my own.
But after 3 years of listening to it and not having a conversation, I was finally ready for the chat. Here is what it sounded like in my head in one of our conversations (I’m going to call that “voice” inside my head “Critic”):
Me: Hey, voice inside my head. Why do you keep putting me down my skills and abilities? You know I’m so unhappy here at work. And how can you say I’m not good enough when I’ve been pretty successful making other people money?
Critic: Yeah I know you’ve been good with working a job, and that’s why I think you’re much more protected that way. You’ve never started a business before and you know how many businesses fail. And you’re no Marie Forleo, she’s got great hair and contacts like Richard Branson to boot.
Me: OK, I get that you’re trying to keep me safe, and I’m not saying I want to be like Marie Forleo (even though I’ve been reading her blogs weekly). I just want to be more content with my work and start figuring out what makes me “me”! I don’t really care for materialistic things and this whole picket fence life anymore. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to start this journey for myself now.
Critic: Geez you are ungrateful. There’s so many other people without jobs right now and you’re pampered as hell with your salary and business trips. What more do you want? You’re not going to be able to pay the mortgage and the bills if you keep thinking all “hippy” like this. Get real.
Me: I get what you’re saying about still being responsible to pay my bills. I’ve worked out my monthly amount to be able to live minimally. It wasn’t as much as I thought. And honestly I am really at the stage in my life where I value freedom and happiness a lot more than money. Would you be OK with letting me quit my job if I can prove to you that the mortgage and bills will be paid?
Critic: Maybe. How are you going to do that? How are you going to replace your salary?
Me: Well I’m not. I probably won’t for a little while. But what I can promise is that I won’t quit until I have a good actionable plan for myself for the next year. I’ll sell my stuff, save money by not going out, and think of where I can live that is going to be cheaper than Vancouver. We’ve always wanted to go to Asia anyway ever since our sabbatical a few years ago. I’m working on an exit strategy right now, and figuring out how I can offer some things of what I’m good at as a contractor, so that I can make my minimum amount needed to live per month and have some time to figure out what I want to do. This job is killing me.
Critic: I will have to make sure that this plan is good. And you have to save up at least 4 months of living expenses. And you have to prove to me that there’s people interested in hiring you as a contractor before you quit your job. I’m also not convinced that you are not jumping ship to something else that is going to bring you back to being unhappy. It might be worst if you’re starving in the streets!
Me: OK fair enough. It’s in the works. I’m going to sell majority of my stuff to have enough money saved up in 6 months time, pay down my bills with my salary as much as I can, and start planning my finance before I quit. I know how concerned you get about that. And yes, I agree to not jump ship just to anything, that’s why I am taking the next 6 months to explore what I really want to do, and how I can combine my skills that I currently have to do it. I don’t know what that is yet, but I won’t quit until I am confident about it. And FYI, you and I both know that if I ever reached the “starving in the streets” stage, I would just get another job! That’s not an issue.
Critic: Fine, go ahead and do all that. You’re not ready yet at this stage. But if you do all you said you’re going to do and I feel safe, then we can talk about this again.
This process might sound slightly schizophrenic, and when I first did it, it was not easy.
But the more I do this process, the more at ease I feel about moving forward with something unknown. It helps me acknowledge a part of myself that needed assurance before allowing me to do something, and that is OK. I am only myself. And I come with certain fears and beliefs.
Yes, I can just be a full risk taker at all times like other people I admire, but I am not those people. I need to have certain things done first before I make a big move.
And sometimes I am spontaneous and just do it, and it works out. There’s also times I don’t listen to it, tell it that I don’t agree with it and it doesn’t show up again. Either way is fine. I just need to check in with myself and then see what happens and adjust my methods as I go along.
It is OK to acknowledge that the next step can be scary. You don’t have to be brave all the time.
It’s healthy to dig deeper into why you’re feeling anxiety and stress, instead of pretending it’s not there so you can be positive all the time. We are human. We come with both negativity and positivity.
And of course we want to be positive all the time, but when there are feeling of negativity that come up, it is showing up for a reason, and it’s part of our journey to grow.
I’ve also learned for myself that having this conversation with that inner critic can help me outline my plan that makes me feel good. When I hear myself out in terms of what the fears are internally, I can put myself at ease by either
- Knowing what I need to do to eliminate that fear (in the case above, I knew to make myself feel good was to be aware of my break even point per month and how to save up properly before I quit) or
- Telling myself that if it reaches a “worst case scenario” (in the case above, it was starving in the streets), I would also make sure I won’t get to that stage with a specific plan (like get a job at that point and put my pursuit of passion on hold until I’m safe again).
So what has been keeping you up at night?
Perhaps you could try what I did and see if it helps you move forward or at least outline what you need to do to move forward without conflict. I’ve done this with these methods:
- Closing my eyes and tuning in to the inner critic and having a silent conversation in my head.
- Opening up a Word document on the laptop and writing it out in dialogue form like I did in the example above.
Sometimes I speak to the inner critic and hear the response out loud (this can be very powerful). But it might be a good idea to do this when someone else isn’t close by 😉
Let me know what topic you decide to have a chat with your inner critic about this week, and how it went. Comment below and I’ll love for you to share.
To living your highest purpose,
Blog Cover Photo credit: AlicePopkorn / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
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