That inner critic? ... is going to get a room. And maybe a name.
The inner critic. I'm sure MANY of you are familiar with it. The voice that keeps calling out to you "you need to learn more, get better, you're not quite there yet". And yes, the ubiquitous phrase "be kind to yourself" is very familiar, but it's also a very beautiful phrase that is easily said and not necessarily easy to really truthfully live. As a matter of fact, at one point I was struggling with how difficult it was to be kind to myself and do helpful things that it got very meta. (Go easy on yourself when you're not able to go easy on yourself for more than a few seconds? Right.).
Before I decided to become a full time actor and voice actor, I've had a wonderful and exciting career in tech, specifically as producer in video game development with a few stops outside of that field... that was after having studied law in Berlin.
But there was always that one nagging voice in my head that kept coming back: what if you're not good enough because of the fact you didn't do X, you haven't spent enough years doing Y and are you even allowed to have thoughts, opinions or say anything? My career path was unlike most people's, which comes with a lot of insights, perspectives and knowledge from various fields - but being unlike others has a tendency to make us feel less-than.
Imposter syndrome is a reality. We don't often openly talk about it, but we hope for that brave person on social media who posts something insightful and helpful, so we can "like", maybe comment, but at least feel seen and feel not-alone. More than likely we won't admit it openly, because then we might risk being seen as less hirable, less deserving - or maybe simply as less. A vicious cycle.
A few years ago something interesting happened. I switched careers to something I was pretty much completely new at. All of a sudden, it was OKAY to be a beginner, it was EXPECTED that you didn't know a thing about this thing you were trying out, you could just HAVE FUN exploring it. And for a good while my inner critic was absolutely silent. It was blissful to just do the thing, have fun with it, learn and not have any expectations on being perfect. Seriously - you should give it a try. A group class for beginners. Maybe a dance class, and you apologetically warn each other about possibly stepping on each others' feet before laughing it off. Or try some drawing and not care about the results :) Or do programming and all you want to do is get the tool to say "Hello World".
Unfortunately, chances are that after a while that critic starts coming back. First with setting expectations of yourself, then doubts as to whether you are where you should be, and then full-on criticism of yourself is back.
Funnily enough, the feedback I consistently get from teachers and coaches is related to that very thing - and yet my way of solving it is to work harder to find solutions and to be better.
Being kind to yourself, part II
So if we can't get the inner critic to just go away and be quiet, nor can we run away from it, we'll have to acknowledge it. It's part of who we are. So instead, it could help to start doing some work on distinguishing between helpful self-reflection and self-awareness and the unreasonable inner critic you can't ever make happy. Give it a name. A place. A room. They're probably not going to pay rent, but making them more tangible also helps categorizing what they say, compartmentalizing it and moving on from it.
There are a couple of different tactics that I have heard and read about at this point
- give it a name, maybe even a spot in your surroundings that is theirs
- talk to them
- keep an inner critic journal to get a sense of themes.
- self reflection to help identify the inner critic
and there are a couple of others, such as coaching, workshops, reading etc.
I've done some of those already, but it's time to play with some of the others. Self-reflection, for sure. Journaling to help identify themes, giving it a room to live in (and thus boundaries), as well as a name.
The other thing I'm going to work on is to share my thoughts more often, my learnings, findings, journey. See you around.