I have lived a long life and had many troubles
Most of which never happened
There’s a voice in my head that rules and which has ruled since as far back as I can remember. It’s the voice that told me stuff like:
You’re not smart.
You’re not enough.
I listened to this voice without awareness as I grew up and I believed without questioning, and whenever anyone said anything that was negative or made me feel bad – (comments like: You’re selfish; Share with your brothers; What’s wrong with you?) – my inner critic validated these judgments, confirmed how selfish I was, lowered my self-worth even more and grew in dominance.
When I considered the possibility that I wanted to be a writer, my inner critic told me what it thought of that career choice. I listened. I believed. I made excuses why writing was a bad idea. In high school I studied books by D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce and E.M. Foster, and when I read their bios, all I saw was how unhappy their lives were and I came to a conclusion: I decided that writers – ALL WRITERS – were unhappy people. I wanted to be happy. And so I buried my desire deep, very, very deep. And guess what.
I WAS NOT HAPPY.
Later, when I embraced writing and realized that this was where my passion lay, my inner critic mocked me.
What will people think of you?
What do you have to say?
Who do you think you are anyway?
Stay and be a secretary. It’s a safe bet.
That started another struggle inside me and for a long time my dreams ran parallel races with the fears my inner critic threw at me.
What if people laugh at you and criticize your books?
I was at a crossroads.
If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise
Author of The Path of Least Resistance
The truth is that refusing to take action for whatever reason – especially toward the thing that creates a fire in your soul and which at times can seem so scary you want to crawl into a tiny space and hide – leads to a hurt that is so much more encompassing and powerful than fleeing.
Running away never works, especially not in the long term. At some point a person has to stop running, even if from pure exhaustion, giving the thing from which you are trying to escape time to catch up. And then the inner critic has a heyday. First it berates you for trying to flee, laughs at you for your feeble attempt, then tries to reel you back to safety, to your comfort zone, where “everything will be all right and your fear will take care of you, don’t worry.”
No man is ever whipped, until he quits in his own mind
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Here’s the thing, and this took me years to learn. The perspective of the inner critic is founded, among other things, on misconceptions, false premises and limiting beliefs that we pick up as children, in the media, from our surroundings, and which we consciously, but mainly subconsciously, agreed to adopt as truth.
For a writer, the inner critic isn’t born with the desire to create stories. It comes at you from all sides based on the choices made, the beliefs, stories and limitations accepted whether deliberately or unconsciously. It’s all-inclusive.
So a belief as simple as I’m not enough is in fact ‘enough’ to fuel the inner critic to beat up anything remotely positive. In the worst-case scenario, it can make a person atrophy and not bother trying. In the case of a writer, it’s the I’m wasting my time mantra that pops up while writing, or the why bother song that constantly blasts you when rejections start coming in and you want to give up and quit.
I realize now I can never run away from my inner critic (or even my ego). Nor is it of any use to hate it, or get angry at it.
Now I face my inner critic head on. I acknowledge it. I tell it there’s nothing to worry about. I’ve become the one to console it, to make it feel safe by convincing it that ‘fear’ can be used as a springboard for action if approached in the right way.
This is not a ‘one time fix all’ scenario. At times it doesn’t work instantly. But I’m aware. And awareness is power.
My inner critic has become my sounding board and I bounce all the negatives right back at it, with as much love as I can muster. Always love – because anything said and delivered in anger will only bounce right on back at you.
The only failure of mind comes from worry and fear—or from disuse
The Secret of the Ages – Robert Collier
ANN MARIE MEYERS grew up in Trinidad and Tobago in the West Indies. She has a degree in languages and translates legal and technical documents from French and Spanish into English. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and daughter. Meyers is an active member of SCBWI and serves as the facilitator of a bi-monthly children’s writing group.
Although Ann Marie initially started writing for adults, when her daughter was born she kept getting ideas for stories that would appeal to kids. Her first children’s book, a middle grade fantasy entitled Up In The Air was an Amazon best seller.