My Own Worst Critic

It’s Thursday and I’m Crafting my Life! April’s theme is dealing with negativity. When you decide to leave your comfortable life behind and go in a new direction you can encounter a lot of it, from yourself and others. This week I’m talking about the oh-so-unhelpful critical voice that lives in my head.

When I first embark on a new project I feel good. I am full of energy and optimism. The future looks rosy and I imagine all the good things that are coming my way. I am high on positivity and it is awesome. This is the part I loved most about writing down my hopes and dreams. It is a great feeling.

That good feelings that come with dreaming just don’t last forever. Eventually, the high starts to wear off and that little internal voice that I hate pipes up. It’s the voice that was burned by the girls in Junior High who didn’t like the new look I was trying to pull off. It’s the voice that is afraid of looking dumb in front of other people when I fall on my face. It’s the voice of my anxiety. That voice sings a familiar refrain to me:

“You have it pretty good, why do you think that you deserve anything more?”
“Who are you to want that?”
“You aren’t good at putting yourself out there, so you just shouldn’t try.”
“What if you end up penniless and alone?”
“If you fail other people will think you’re an idiot.”
“Trying something new is just way too hard, and you can’t figure it out.”
“If you leave your comfort zone, that’s it, you can’t ever go back again.”

I’m sure that I could come up with more, but I think you get the point. The critical voice inside my head is phenomenally good at freaking me out. It causes me to question my own abilities and desires, and makes me think that it’s better to just not go there. If I had a big map of my life, this voice would write ‘Here be dragons‘ on the area where my dreams live.

I am not the only one who has this voice. In fact, I think we pretty much all do, or at least most of us do. I have read posts from other bloggers talking about this voice in their heads. The fabulous Jessica talks about the typewriter lady. The inspiring woowoo mama talks about these voices in her head extensively. And Havi‘s whole site is dedicated to overcoming these voices, which she calls ‘the stuck’.

The truth is, we are pretty much all our own worst critic. There are a number of reasons for why this is. I think mostly, though, it’s just because we live in our own heads. We are absorbed in our own lives. We really care about the outcome of our actions. If my friend decides to quit her job and pursue her dreams I might have personal qualms, or not, but on the whole I’m just a whole lot less invested. I am not going to spend 15 weeks thinking about nothing else. But that friend? She just might. Because we care, because we don’t want to get hurt, these voices pipe up.

I will be talking more about these voices in the next couple of weeks. While I still hear these voices, I am getting better at listening to them objectively. I recognize that their message is less ‘you suck‘ and more ‘I am afraid of being hurt‘. When I know that, really know it, I can be gentler with both myself and my own internal critic.

What about you? Do you have a name for the negative voice inside your head? Do you think that you would be braver if it weren’t there? How do you handle it? I would love to hear!

April’s Crafting my Life series is about dealing with negativity. On the last Thursday of the month, which just happens to be the 29th, I will include a link up. To participate, write a post on this month’s theme anytime in April, or track down a post you’ve written on the subject sometime in the past, and add yourself to the list. Then read everyone else’s ideas and thoughts and be inspired! Check out the link-ups from January, February and March to get a feel for how it works.

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    Comments

    1. I try to tell my negative thoughts that they are silly and hopefully they’ll come back with something a little more positive. I kind of have to force myself to try and find the positive and hopefully I’m left with a smile.

      I love your new layout! And the slideshow you created is so sweet, it actually made me so happy to see it brought tears to my eyes. Your kids will have so many great memories :)
      .-= Sara´s last post ..Waste Less Wednesday–In Bullk =-.

    2. Hi Amber,
      Oh yes, I know that voice well. It is a concious effort to quiet it and get outside of my head.

      By the way, I read your “All About Me” section today and think it’s wonderful how you’ve set it up to read like a resume. All the best at your upcoming speaking engagements!
      .-= Tanya´s last post .. =-.

    3. Melanie Martin says:

      Great post as always!

    4. Lovely new look :) I really want to get some tabs going on the top of my blog. The template I had picked had those as part of the design but they didn’t seem to make the transition…

      Anyway, I know all about negativity. I had horrible self esteem as a teenager and still feel quite self conscious about what I do and whether or not people will like me.

      For example, clearly CommentLuv hates me. Ever since I switched my domain it won’t pick up my latest post. Why CommentLuv, why??

    5. Yeah, I’m pretty much the low self-esteem poster child. It really helps knowing I’m not alone. I don’t even have the honeymoon period when I start something new — I pretty much go into everything thinking I’m going to come out a big fat failure. Happily, this leaves a lot of room to be pleasantly surprised. Except with volleyball. :)
      .-= Allison McCaskill´s last post ..*****************Contemplative de-cluttering =-.

    6. Of course I can identify with this post. I’m not sure there would be many who couldn’t. I wrote earlier this week about how I am paralyzed by expecatations, those I have of myself and those I perceive others have of me. We are our own worst critics as you say, and I’m with you, it’s because we are so invested, and we lose perspective. I am not good at this, I have a hard time believing I ever will be. My own thoughts can just be so mean. But the more I read about it from others, the better I feel, because I realize how pervasive these thoughts are, and for some reason gives me a break, makes me feel normal.
      .-= Christine LaRocque´s last post ..Expectations =-.

    7. Amber
      1. love (love, love, love, love) the new website layout = wow! adorable, professional, looks good on mozilla
      2. get out of my head – these same thoughts were rattling round my feverish mind at around 2am this morning during my usual bout of insomnia which i now recognise is part and parcel of every single new venture i undertake, my midlife crisis, hormonal fluctuations (oh dear lord not peri-menopause pleeeez!) and if left unchecked will talk me out of consolidating on my first and second steps into unknown territory. It has a name – depression. I’ll try almost anything to silence it (but obviously not volleyball as per the recommendation in the comment above) but since it’s usually most prominent when I’m feeling unsupported, uncertain or vulnerable it’s a difficult position to move onwards from. I’d like to think that without it I could have done anything. In reality, and trying to look on the positive side, it means that I do think things through and prepare before taking on something new. My trick is to try and limit the amount of “thinking it through” so it doesn’t turn into a “talking the old bat down from a ledge” in my mind.
      .-= pomomama aka ebbandflo´s last post ..Friday forte: the old edition =-.

    8. Wow! You’ve got your finger on the Blogosphere’s pulse today, lady. There are a bunch of posts about this, or the fear we have of being less than, or how the “Big Guys” don’t feel these feelings – only they DO. Like the look change, too. And love that you’re still Keepin’ it Real.
      .-= Trece´s last post ..Will this count for Eternity? =-.

    9. “inspiring”…you are way too kind! thank you for the linkage.

      love your new blog look – could i possibly inspire you to do this for me?

      (telling the voices that it isn’t a waste of my time to ask you that….)
      .-= robin´s last post ..and then =-.

    10. Hey, am I crazy, or did you site totally change? I love it BTW!

      Oy. The Voice. That voice is ever-so-slowly putting me into a mental institution. I’ve always blamed this on my upbringing and feeling like I didn’t deserve anything – yet wanting things so badly. It’s a constant struggle. I don’t know if I have a whole post in me about it, but we’ll see.
      .-= TheFeministBreeder´s last post ..April is Cesarean Awareness Month =-.

    11. (Great new look.)
      And I know what you mean.
      There are tonnes of critical little voices in my head — when I am trying something new especially. And I know they have won when I hear, “just say NO. You know where your strengths are, and this isn’t one of them”. It sounds so reasonable, but it’s as lame an excuse as any!
      .-= *pol´s last post ..Happy Birthday my boy! =-.

    12. As you know I will be sitting on a panel with you at Northern Voice. I was thrilled, excited and accepted, of course. Then I started to wonder – why me? I have been blogging for 6 months. I blog twice a week. Essentially, I in NO WAY deserve to be on that panel. They screwed up. People will complain to the organizers that they paid good money to see EXPERTS: People with experience; people who know what they’re doing!

      Then I just shut off the tap. They asked me. I’m going. Let the chips fall where they may.

      Love the new look!

    13. I really like the new look!

      Your theme this month might be a toughie for me. I’ll have to start pondering now.

      I’ve never really considered the voice inside my head as being overly negative. I view it as being the practical one. I have the “I can do ANYTHING!” voice and the “Maybe you better think about this” voice. I suppose the second voice is the one that I hear the most. Maybe I should try to shut it up. Now to figure out how.
      .-= Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves´s last post ..Sidewalk Chalk: Wednesday of Few Words =-.

    14. Have you read the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott?

      Please do it.

      I like to think up elaborate and graphic ways to smite those voices.

    15. I like your new blog look!

      I used to be my own worst critic in the worst way, but then I got so swamped and busy that I had to learn to be “good enough” and move on . . . at work, at least. At home, I’m still trying.
      .-= Lady M´s last post ..Flat Shoes and Bag Lunches =-.

    16. I don’t have negative voices inside my head. No need for them: I was brought up in a culture that breaths negativity.
      .-= Francesca´s last post ..Borders =-.

    17. Ah, the voices. Sometimes they are much too loud. I listen too much.

      P.S. Love the new look. Good job!
      .-= Capital Mom´s last post ..The cookie =-.

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