The Unwelcome Voice

So, if I start telling you about a small “voice inside my head”, you won’t freak out, will you? Because, while it’s a problem, it’s not THAT kind of problem.

I promise.

I call this voice “The Critic”. Some of you are nodding your heads now. You know this nasty little swine, don’t you? I make no apology for that nasty description, it is accurate and deserved. I realized in high school that there was this part of my personality that specialized in finding every possible mistake or bad outcome. The Critic crows about each one. Every time a mistake is made, it’s “See, messed it up again”. He (and he is definitely a he in my head) is a special challenge when I’m learning something new, like my dabblings in watercolor painting. It is the nature of the learning process to make mistakes. In my wanders through social media of late, I came across the thought that you learn more from mistakes than successes. There’s a lot of truth there.

But it’s hard when you become your own worst enemy. The Critic and I are in a long-term wrestling match at the moment. The pandemic was an opportunity to try new things. I wrote a couple years ago about the struggle I had with that. The emotional toll made a lot of us want to retreat. That nasty little voice of failure took full advantage.

Here’s the good news – I’ve got him in retreat at the moment. There are more things happening, more shots at creating something of late than there has been for quite some time. I’ve remembered that the best weapon in this struggle is to accept that coming up short of the target is part of the process. The ability to shout back at him, “Yeah, it’s not perfect. But it’s better than before and better than what happens when I don’t try!” That may sound lame, but getting comfortable with less than perfection (Someday I have to talk about perfection, and why it’s a devious, and damaging concept) has been a vital part of my process. A process of learning about myself, learning about the creative opportunities in my life, and learning about how to succeed. Succeeding even when part of me insists that I can’t/won’t.

I don’t know if anyone else has created a little character out of those negative thoughts in your head. It’s easier for me to deal with concrete images, so he becomes a surly little turd in big boots who stomps around inside my head trying to disrupt things. That I can deal with.

Do you struggle with something similar? What I’ve come to understand is that fear is the foundation for these thoughts. “I’m not good enough” Good enough for what? “I’ll never get better” Not if you don’t try. “I’ll never be as good as…” It’s not a competition.

As long as doing your creative thing(s) makes your life better, then ignore your Critic. As long as you enjoy doing it, ignore your Critic. That little turd is not working in your best interest.

Don’t give him/her/it any more time.


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