I’ve been amazed by the support and outreach that I received after posting Down Day here on my blog and on Facebook. Feeling propelled by the positive responses, I have had a million thoughts racing through my mind about what I want to write about next. My desk is surrounded by writing notebooks, old journals and a stack of books that guided me along my journey, any of which provide a hundred or more writing topics. I can’t turn on the T.V. or open the internet without seeing an article on mental health. All incredibly inspiring – so what’s the problem??
I realized today that I had acquiesced to a self-imposed pressure of “perfect writing” (no such thing) for the “perfect reader” (anyone who I may be able to positively effect), after going public last week with some of my innermost thoughts and struggles. Instead of writing for healing, I was frozen in perfectionist fear thoughts: “How is this story going to be interpreted?” “Who is going to judge me if I share this?” “Who am I to be writing with any authority on mental health issues??” “My writing SUCKS and I have nothing of value to say!” “DELETE YOUR BLOG, YOU BIG.FAT.DUMMY!!!”
Whoah. That escalated quickly. The Inner Critic had armored up and was using FEAR as her weapon of choice.
I think I have my topic.
The Inner Critic wants us to stay small and quiet in order to feel safe. She hyperbolizes negative thought patterns and seeks to minimize growth and healing. Fear and the IC rely on one another, just a like a couple of BFFs, and they love to treat us to episodes of “Lifestyles of the Anxiety and Panic-ridden.”
So what can we do to quiet this Inner Critic in order to live more joyful and authentic lives? We must first learn to take away her power, which thrives in fear, shame and feelings of unworthiness.
“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our FEAR of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” – Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Sometimes I need to break things down very simply in order to fully process them, so let me do that with this quote:
- The dark = traumatic experiences, things we keep hidden from others & sometimes ourselves
- does not destroy = has no power over
- the light = joy, love, happiness, shared common experience
- it defines it = through our processing, acceptance and integration of the most difficult times of our lives, we are able to fully live as we are intended; our highest purpose & most authentic selves
- It’s our FEAR of the dark = our worry over possible outcomes or side effects of dealing with the scary stuff
- that casts our joy into the shadows = we are deprived of a life of joy if we allow fear to define and control us
So, in applying this quote to my writer’s block:
- The dark = my inner critic
- does not destroy = has no power over
- the light = helping others through shared common experiences, personal healing
- it defines it = years of accumulated negative self talk and personal judgement want to keep my in my safety zone, but I no longer want to live in that constricted space
- It’s our FEAR of the dark = if I “go there,” share too much will I be rejected? what does the future hold if I continue on this path?
- that casts our joy into the shadows = swirling thoughts, distraction, the voice of the inner critic could win out over the light, if I let them
I used writer’s block somewhat lightly as an example of how we can quiet the voice of the Inner Critic, but this process works in breaking down deeper issues as well.
For too many years my joy was cast to the shadows because I was afraid of the repercussions of acknowledging my real life struggles. I honestly didn’t think I could handle the reliving and retelling of some of those traumatic experiences, so I listened to the voice of the Inner Critic who affirmed my fear and feelings of unworthiness. But suffering endured and true joy was cast aside.
The good news is that the Inner Critic is disarmed in the face of mindfulness, love and self compassion. Now, when she starts yammering away, I acknowledge her: “Oh hey there, IC. Let’s have a chat. I really don’t need you here anymore. Fear does not control me. I am not ashamed of who I am. I am driven by the light. And light overcomes your darkness.”
If you struggle with the loud, obnoxious voice of an Inner Critic, disarm her. You can learn how to take a few steps toward deescalation by listening to this short guided meditation: “A Basic Meditation to Tame Your Inner Critic.” There is such relief to be found in the silence. You deserve to rest.