Those of you who tune into this blog on a regular basis will know about the finger puppet I acquired this fall. Inner Critic Goat, I decided, would be the physical embodiment of my inner critic — that voice in my head that often tries to thwart my efforts to get things done.
Most of us (especially, my informal research has taught me, academics) having something along the lines of an inner critic. Your inner critic is the voice that tells you all sorts of unproductive things. Your inner critic will thrive on telling you, say, that your ideas aren’t particularly original while you’re trying to write an essay. You may also hear your inner critic tell you that you probably aren’t up to task and that you might as well quit, or that everyone can tell you’re a fraud, or that you’re wasting your time because your degree won’t get your anywhere and you might as well give up now. Sound familiar? You inner critic really isn’t your friend: your inner critic is just a plain old pain in the neck.
That’s why I was quite intrigued to find a book at the public library (I was there picking up something else, but often peruse the shelves for fun) called ‘Taming Your Gremlin,” by Rick Carson. It was really the subtitle that piqued my interest though: “A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way.”
“Hello!” I thought to myself. “I know one or two people who could stand to flip through THIS little tome!” So, I checked it out. It’s certainly not a thick volume. I’ve been skimming its pages over the last few days while eating my lunch. And though I haven’t had any spectacularly mind-blowing moments, exactly, I have been reminded of a few interesting (and important) things.
Though it’s hard to completely turn off that inner voice (and you don’t necessarily have to call yours your inner critic — that’s just the term I use. In the book, the author uses the term ‘Gremlin’ to mean the same thing), learning how to control that voice is an extremely powerful thing. The most effective way to do that is to learn how to simply NOTICE the voice, rather than listening and responding to it. It’s essentially the same idea as trying to cultivate mindfulness. Rather than allow yourself to be swept along as your inner voice dissects the past and plays out a bleak future, invest your energy in recognizing the voice for what it is: thought, not truth. Bringing yourself back to the present moment (focusing your energy, for a few moments, on your breath, for example) is a good way to anchor yourself so you can see the thoughts for what they are. Then you can refocus and carry on with your task.
It sounds simple, but I think it’s an extremely important thing to remember. You are in charge of your own thoughts. By observing them, rather than reacting to them, you can give yourself a little more control… and maybe, just maybe, find the courage to push through your own self-doubt to achieve all kinds of greatness!
Ok, I’ve got to buckle down with my work for a few good hours. If I can get enough done, I’m going to treat myself by taking a break to go for a midday skate at City Park! wheeeee!