The inner critic
Who doesn’t have one? That little (or sometimes the loudest voice) in the room that rubbishes attempts and accomplishments. Mine typically is reserved for when I think I am doing okay at something and acts as the saboteur. I am always impressed by its effectiveness and efficiency. “That at least” I think as I mess up whatever I was doing “I can do well”.
It doesn’t actually stop me from doing a lot of things, I am irritatingly stubborn (and I wouldn’t be writing this otherwise) but it does critique me pretty harshly. And performing tasks in front of others – my idea of a nightmare. Nope. No thank you, if I can at all avoid it.
Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss identified seven types of inner critic. (Wow that’s a lot of critiquing). The perfectionist, the taskmaster, the inner controller, the guilt tripper, the destroyer, the underminer, and the molder.
I recognise the perfectionist well.
In your own voice
Speaking as a qualified psychiatrist (jokes) I suspect that these critics do not necessarily remain the same over a lifetime depending on how you work it and also what life shows you. *Peoples with actual bona fide mind knowledge qualifications do feel free to correct me*.
Asked recently on a writing course geared towards taking risks we were asked to think of our inner critics as an animal. I thought immediately of a seagull. A persistent nagging swooping missile who knows exactly where to aim.*
Asked to choose an animal as a protector I thought of an owl. I didn’t pick this one because I thought it wise. I chose it slightly tongue in cheek thinking it must have a bit of a dodgy stomach. (All that regurgitation malarkey and when I feel anxious, like many people I always, always feel it in my stomach.)
There is though a defensiveness I feel about my inner critic, does it do me down or keep me humble? Does it help me to be better? Sometimes I think it does and I am not sure I want it always to be quiet. Sometimes I think I might need it.
How to speak to it
According to the wonder that is Wikipedia, there are two ways of dealing with the pesky inner critic. You can fight it. “Treat it as an enemy to be ignored, dismissed and fought against, or overcome.” Or you can make friends with it making “it possible to connect with the critic and transform it over time into a helpful ally”. I guess it depends on your own special brand.
Invited to take a risk writing something in a medium we would not normally choose the course I thought I would write a love song to my own special inner critic – between the owl and the seagull.
Inevitably it is not perfect. Some of my poem actually makes me cringe actively and some of what I wrote I like BUT love songs are allowed to be bad, (or less good if I was being kind) aren’t they? And perhaps when dealing with your own perfectionist inner critic that is the point. 🙂
Do you have an inner critic? Do you make it a fiend or a friend?
The owl and the seagull
(Owl to the seagull)
Angular pristine day breaker
The wave maker
Where would I be without you
Push me on; unnerve me
Take the smoothest route –
and swerve it.
(Seagull to the owl)
Fearless risking flight taker
Velvet feathered dream shaper
In love with your dark round ringed eyes
See all, be all
Stare in ponds of reflection,
At planets, stars and skies.
(Owl to the seagull)
Sea foam pirate persistent caller
Never leaves me,
When I’ve had my humble fill
Ransomed promises and schemes me
(Seagull to owl)
Night stalker, soft lone talker
Steadies, charms and soothes me
Believe we are safe.
Disarms then deceives me.
(Owl to seagull)
Search me out over distance and reach me
Nature insists –
Drive your beak in.
With my sharpened talons I will take you
Cut, break and reshape you.
Our strength, our weakness could be switched.
Do we really know always which is which?
No sweet fruit without sting in the tale.
Some hard earned passions could be fails.
Learn to love each and learn to share.
Fifty fifty percent of air.
The writing course is called Transformation and is run by Jackie Pavlenko. It can be found over at www.pressingletters.co.uk