As I sat down to write this post today, I was in full-blown angst mode. My inner critic was really on fire, telling me I'd better write something super important and very interesting... something that isn’t a mish-mash of something else that’s already been said before… something that, after reading it, someone might proclaim, “Genius!”
And then my inner critic crigned and begged me not to include that in this post, “Delete, delete, delete!”
I choose to look at these angsty little life moments as opportunities, which feels so much more empowering than staying stuck, uncreative, and uncomfortable in my own skin. So, after a bit of distraction and avoidance (internet, snacks, fridge cleaning— you know the drill), I chose to embrace my angst. That's when I was able to tune into why I write and why I cherish it so much: to reach a reader who can relate. Maybe this reader is feeling angsty, small, and not worthy. In that case, then, I really hope I reach her.
How to Embrace Your Inner Critic:
1. Tune in to the present.
Finding myself in the here-and-now moment through breath and quiet observation, I noticed myself sitting in my comfortable home, sheltered from the near freezing temperatures. Within arm’s reach: a cup of chai latte, emails and texts from amazing friends, great music, a crayon scribbling from my daughter, and a sense of ease and grace.
2. Know the signs.
It’s taken a lot of practice, but I’ve learned some ways of outsmarting my inner critic and all the bad feelings she brings in tow. I've learned the sound of her voice and the words she uses, the way she makes my stomach turn, and the lack of productivity that results from giving her the floor.
3. Offer thanks and then move on.
I often thank my inner critic and all the angst the causes. She has been with me so long, working hard to keep me safe and free from embarrassment, judgment, or criticism from others. So, a simple 'thank you' can disarm your little gremlin and she'll scamper off for the timebeing, allowing you to get back into that creative flow.
Being & Doing in the Face of Angst and Self-Criticism:
A big teacher for me has been Eckhart Tolle, by way of his book, A New Earth. Coming into your life’s purpose involves balancing your inner, primary purpose of Being with your outer, secondary purpose of Doing. One of the first steps of Being is recognizing the "unobserved emotions that are the body’s reaction to what the voice in the head is saying.”
Angst, fear, jealousy, anxiety— these emotions and the stories that accompany them become much lighter and more manageable when we acknowledge and become conscious of them. It requires patience, but this kind of presence and awareness is available to everyone, everywhere, anytime.
An Exercise to Bring it All Together:
If you struggle with the angst of your inner critic, try dialoguing with her on paper, out loud, or through artwork. She might have a lot to teach you, and you might be ready to give her some time off. Take a deep breath and acknowledge the stories you are telling yourself to keep you playing small... let go and see what happens next.
I'd love to hear what you do!
For more information on psychotherapy sessions in my Downtown Bethesda office, click here.