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The inner critic at work, an invitation to ground myself in reality

Last week I’ve found an editor that I would like to hire to edit my manuscript and in preparation I decided to go through it once again. Yesterday I sat outside regretting that decision as I mentally prepared myself to get back to reading my manuscript and deleting or rewriting large chunks of it.

In my enthusiasm to get my book ready for editing I had switched hats internally, I had moved from writer to editor unleashing my internal critic in full force. Unprepared as I was for the annihilation of all I had written I wanted to burst out in tears most of the afternoon as I bravely persevered in reading and editing my story. By the time I felt I’d earned the right to stop torturing myself I was in a state of internal panic with a brick made of utter failure lying in the pit of my stomach.

This morning I woke up feeling down and decided to sit with what was going on internally and identified my inner critic at work in an unsupervised manner. Like most of us I have a tendency to run away from difficult feelings, but over the years I’ve learned that the bogeyman is only a bogeyman when you try to escape it. The moment you turn around and face him it turns out to be a ghost created by traumas from your past or a truth you are unwilling to face to avoid its consequences.

In this case the bogeyman turned out to be the ghost of all the criticism that I have received and internalised in the course of my life, telling me that I can’t achieve anything and no one wants to hear what I have to say. In immigrating to a new country, starting my own online coaching business and moving in with my boyfriend, I have been dealing with a consistent fear of stepping out of my comfort zone and silencing my inner critic with courageous action and positive affirmations. Yesterday he found a way to command my attention and insisted on being heard and today I sat him down for tea.

It turned out to be a very insightful conversation, my inner critic is not out to reduce me to tears, but tries to protect me from failure by warning me when he feels I’m in over my head and ill-equipped to deal with the work in front of me. In my misunderstanding of his intentions I chose to ignore what he wanted to say by silencing him with my assurance of a positive outcome. Most of the time I can move on without being too fazed by his appearance, but when I subconsciously know he is right I have no real defence against his increasingly aggressive feedback.

Understanding his true intentions, I told him I need him to be less aggressive if he wants me to take on his advice. He told me that he would like to be heard and consulted so he doesn’t feel the need to be aggressive. I had to admit that he had a point, by me rejecting him and turning him into an adversary I’ve denied myself his valuable feedback in being prepared and becoming more confident of the steps I need to take.

It takes courage to sit with our bogeymen, but from personal experience I can guarantee that it will be an empowering experience. It will make us more aware of who we are and what drives us, giving us the opportunity to pause and reflect on where we are going and why. In my conversation I‘ve come to realise that I need to let the editor do the editing, and wait for his feedback on where and how to edit my work. My inner critic reminded me that I’m still learning how to write books and to look at my work through the lens of it being perfect was an unrealistic expectation. Getting my manuscript ready for publication is going to take time and a lot of work, me and my inner critic look forward to the journey.

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