Working with fear and doubt

All of us have an inner critic - that voice inside our heads that tells us we are not enough in some way and this voice brings up fear and doubt.

A client recently confessed that she feels her inner critic is so loud that it seems almost impossible to do anything and she asked: How do I get rid of this voice?

The answer is that we can’t get rid of this voice. Instead, we can increase our capacity to be aware of this voice and respond to it, versus react to it.

Seth Godin points us to Steven Pressfield who refers to this inner critical voice as “the resistance”. Seth goes on to say that this resistance is not something we can get rid of is something we want to dance with.

I love this. Every time we encounter our “resistance”, it is an invitation for us to dance.

So the question becomes this: How do I work with / dance with my inner critic?

There is a buddhist teaching that is very helpful. It says: “If you get struck by an arrow, do you then shoot another arrow into yourself?”

We can think of critical thoughts as the inevitable first arrow, an experience that happens that is out of our control - like thinking something critical: “I am not smart enough to be able to do this”.

Then our reaction to that experience of a critical thought is like a second arrow - one which we can choose to shoot or not.

Learning to dance with our inner critic is about decreasing our reactivity enough so we don’t shoot that second arrow.

Is is about recognizing the opportunity to choose how we want to respond: How do I want to relate to this critical thought? Do I want to judge myself for judging myself? Or, do I want to get curious about what is underneath this criticism?

Elizabeth Gilbert has a beautiful approach. She dances with her critical voice (she calls it “Fear”) by kindly speaking with it: "I understand that you are Fear, and that your job is to be afraid. And you do your job really well! I will never ask you to go away or to be silent, because you have a right to speak your own voice, and I know that you will never go away or be silent, anyhow. But I need you to understand that I will always choose's Creativity's ideas over yours. You may join us on this journey — and I know that you will — but you do not get to choose the direction in which we will walk, and you will not stop me and Creativity from making plans and decisions together."

This critical voice, this resistance, this fear, is a companion for all of us. How we relate to it, how we respond to it, how we dance with it - it is up to us.

In the poem The Guest House, Rumi urges us to “be grateful for whoever comes” to visit us - even our inner critic.

I like to think of welcoming my inner critic by inviting her to come in and sit for tea. She can be here, she can hang out, she just can’t lead the way.

I'll leave you with these wise words by Brene Brown: "Just because I feel afraid and vulnerable doesn't change the fact that I am courageous."