It’s Newbie Month here on Puttylike! During the month of April, we’re publishing articles about the thrills and challenges of exploring new things. (YAY, EXPLORING NEW THINGS! #Multipotentialite)
No no no!
That’s how I feel about it all.
I have this thing inside today that is tugging me back, immobilizing me. Whether it’s house work or work work or “fun work,” I can’t do any of it. I can’t.
My passion is so intense these days. I yearn to create a great investigative podcast, to write a powerful television pilot script that blows people away, and to design a professional new website for Puttylike. I’m working on all of these things. My passion for these new projects makes me feel more alive than I’ve felt in months. Maybe even years!
The problem is that the inspiration, momentum, and joy frequently disappear and leave me with so much dread, self-doubt, and fear, that I want to throw the towel in.
There’s this voice in my head that says things like: You don’t know how to be a journalist. You don’t know how to make a good podcast. There are actual professionals out there! Who do you think you are, Alex Blumberg? And you aren’t a designer—ha! Or a television writer. You don’t have the perseverance to be a television writer! What you’re attempting is laughable.
This voice is what some people call your inner critic. Others refer to it as Resistance.
Inner critics tend to be chattiest when you’re exploring something new, and mine is working overtime right now. I know it’s a sign that I’m pursuing things that are important to me and that I’m stretching myself and stepping out of my comfort zone and all that. But man, is that voice annoying.
I wish I could tell you that I have a silver bullet—one thing you can do to make your inner critic go away. I don’t. My inner critic is mostly just a pain in my butt that I try to maneuver around. That said, I have found a few small things that help.
1. What time of day is your inner critic loudest?
Is the internal chatter around more at certain times of day? Is your inner critic much worse when you’re tired or after a long day? Or does it tend to subside mid-day, once you’ve gotten some household responsibilities out of the way?
Maybe there are certain people you see regularly that make you feel insecure and incite some internal criticism. In that case, you might want to get your work done before you see them, or well after.
I’ve noticed that my inner critic isn’t around as much in the morning, so I try to use my mornings to work on new projects. (And then I try not put too much stock in the torrent of bad feelings and insecurities that sometimes flow through me in the afternoons and evenings.)
2. Give your inner critic a form and figure out what they want
I’m borrowing this tip from puttypeep Heather, who recently led an awesome workshop in the Puttytribe. The workshop was about writing short stories, but most of it was actually about getting out of your own way.
Heather wisely suggested that things with a form are far less intimidating. What does your inner critic look like? Do they have a gender? Are they human? Animal? Monster? Something else? How do they speak? What do they care about? What do they want?
Usually, your inner critic is trying to protect you. They just have a weird way of showing it.
I know my inner critic is trying to keep me safe. She says things like:
Just do what you’ve been doing. Stay chill, man. Watch Netflix or scroll Facebook. Or answer emails. Don’t do something you’ve never done before because then you might fail and look like a fool and that all sounds incredibly dangerous!!!
To that I reply: Thank you,
but buddy, I think you might be over-dramatizing just a little. If my project sucks, I don’t have to show it to anyone. And more importantly, if it sucks, it’s not a reflection of who I am as a person. Really. It’s going to be okay.
Who is your inner critic and how can you comfort them a little? I’m still working on this, but I’m finding the exercise very helpful.
3. Remember how much fun the work is
Okay, the work isn’t always fun. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth. (I’m thinking about writing specifically now). But there are times when you lose yourself in your work and your heart feels so full and your brain is cracking all of these puzzles and you are making something—something you never thought you could make!!!
(Come on, admit it. You know what I’m talking about.)
We often feel really joyful and in our element when we’re in a flow state, exploring a new curiosity. But then we finish up for the day and that inner critic starts jabbering, and when the next day comes, the idea of diving back into the project sounds like hell. We completely forget how much fun it was.
In other words, your inner critic is skilled at giving you “passion amnesia.” Try not to let it.
4. Take a break
Sometimes, when your inner critic is unrelenting, it’s best to just say: fuck it. You win today, inner critic. But make that choice intentionally. Instead of beating yourself up about it, go do something relaxing and easy. Make it a Mental Health Day and take care of yourself.
Cry if you need to. Feel all the feelings. Pretend you’re a mom and you’re taking care of someone else—but that someone is actually you. 🙂
Listen to another voice…
The inner critic is one force inside of me. But there’s another force inside that pushes me in the opposite direction. This voice tells me that I must pursue my new passions—that I owe it to myself to see where they go.
This voice is sometimes very faint.
But I know that if I ignore it for too long, I will begin to hate myself.
And I choose not to do that. I choose to feed the voice that tells the truth: that I’m strong and capable.
Do you have an inner critic that voices its nasty opinions when you explore something new? How do you deal with it? Share your thoughts in the comments.