How to Deal with a Mean and Chatty Inner Critic

How to Deal with a Mean and Chatty Inner Critic

Written by Emilie

Topics: Mental Health

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) 

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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.

Your Turn

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.

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Are you itching to explore a certain New Thing?

Got a new project, business idea, career/life direction, or even just an activity or hobby you’re dying to try out? This May, we’re running a month-long challenge in the Puttytribe called Yes You May.

Yes You May is a month to let yourself fail, try new things, be curious and embrace all of YOU! There will be weekly video check-in huddles with your fellow multipotentialites, on-going support in the forum, and even a show and tell at the end of the month. You don’t want to miss this!

To take part in Yes You May, sign up for the Puttytribe waitlist, and join us when we open the doors on April 30 (or if you’re already a Puttytribe member, just show up!):

Emilie Wapnick is the founder and creative director at Puttylike and The Puttytribe, where she helps multipotentialites build lives and careers around ALL their interests. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is the author of the award-winning book, How to Be Everything (HarperCollins), and her TED talk has been viewed 5 million times. Learn more about Emilie here.

11 Comments

  1. Alison says:

    If people feel they have a super chatty inner critic or that they live in their head a lot, I would look into OCD. I have been chronically ill for years, with extreme fatigue being so disabling. I recently came across some information about OCD and how its not always physical things like hand washing or flipping light switches etc. It can be mental rehashing for hours or googling for hours or daydreaming how to say the perfect thing to someone who might say something rude in the future. I am not saying every one with an inner critic has OCD… but I really want to share because mine was OCD. And treating my OCD gave me back my life. I am no longer having to choose between showering or doing a couple dishes and then being done for the day. I wake up early and can do anything all day…. if this helps even one person it was worth sharing ?

  2. Maryske says:

    I think it may be an interesting experiment to develop my inner critic into a real “character”! I wonder if it would make it easier to tell it/him/her to shut up? :-)

    • Emilie says:

      I’d be curious to hear how this goes, Maryske! I’m finding it helpful and interesting. Heather even recommended writing from the perspective of your inner critic, which sounds like a funny and potentially therapeutic exercise.

  3. Alex says:

    My friend Coach Jennie has written a book about this called Hilda: Tackle Your Inner Naysayer, Get Out of Your Own Way, and Unleash Your Badassery. Whether your inner critic is called Hilda or something else (I visualize mine as the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who), the struggle is real. Working on overcoming those inner critics takes patience and time and is hard but oh-so-rewarding.

  4. michael says:

    I don’t have anything to add – Emilie said it all!

  5. Leah says:

    Love this conversation. I recently taught a playshop called, Creatively Confront Your Inner Critic. It was a creative journey into Heather’s idea about giving your inner critic a character and asking them to “reveal” that to you artistically. Sometimes there is a clear sense of a person in your life, era, belief system, phrases, or social forms of conformity (my inner critic often carries a gavel) that gives away the inner critics origins…and makes them more human and vulnerable, too. Thanks for stirring my reflections here. Grateful!

  6. Stephanie says:

    I notice more and more that my inner critic sounds like my mother! She is a wonderful person/mother but she does criticize a lot.
    She is definitely more vocal in the evening, but I have a full time job so maybe I should get up earlier and work on my projects in the mornings.

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