We’ve never seen him (or, her – for me it’s a him) but we’ve all heard his voice. Call him the voice of doubt, the inner critic or, heck, call him the natural thief of confidence and productivity. It all means the same thing. It’s that nagging voice that comes from within. I hear it all the time. After all, I believe that I am my harshest critic.
Self-criticizing can be very detrimental. It can stifle creativity. It can cause you to doubt your abilities and the work you’re doing to the point where it slows you down or even leaves you completely unproductive. It can cause image issues, relationship fears, and often leads to full-blown depression.
All this to say that the critic within needs to be taken seriously and managed appropriately. To avoid the downward spiral that leads to self-destructive behavior, it is my humble opinion that the critic needs to be listened to and responded to because it can’t be all-together avoided. If, instead, we can harness the criticism and re-direct it into self-improvement, we will become happier and more successful people. So, how do we do that?
First, we must accept the fact that no one is perfect. We aren’t, never will be, and expectations of perfection are both ludicrous and harmful. Goals are great but keeping them realistic is critical so that we set ourselves up for success.
Next, we need to identify the motivational source of the voice. Is this coming from a place deep inside where we know we have room for improvement in a certain area? Or, is this coming from a place of pain? A place of deception? For some, the critic within comes from a place where they have been hurt in the past.
For example, a boy that was teased as a child for being overweight can grow up to be a man who feels fat no matter how much time he spends in the gym or how many times he passes on the French fries, opting instead for the kale salad. That’s when you know the voice is a liar and needs to be kicked out of your life. Choosing the gym and the kale salad made the man a better version of himself than accepting his “fate” as a fat man and eating French fries while watching The Biggest Loser in tears would have. But, he already made that improvement so, continuing to listen to that voice would only mean inevitable self-destruction. Time to move on.
As a Christian, I also believe that the voice within me can be the Holy Spirit shining a light on dark spots in my life that need to be exposed so that I can improve. So that I can become the man I was created to be and live the life I was created to live. That’s a voice I want to listen to because it makes me a better person and, ultimately, a happier one.
As a writer, the critic within can make my work better. Again, I just need to learn to harness it and use it for good rather than let it overwhelm me and take me down the path of self-destruction. Like me while I’m on this side of heaven, my work will never be perfect. And, also like me, there’s always room for improvement. We are all works in progress. And, until my books are in print, I’m trying to improve every little detail until I have to let go.
The bottom line is that the critic within can be a good thing. Or, it can be your worst enemy. The choice is up to you. One thing that’s for sure, we all face that voice from time to time. The trick is in how we decide to handle that standoff.