Facing my inner critic

Do you ever find yourself asking "why am I so hard on myself?" Your inner critic may be at play.

Gabbi De Boer
6th December 2022
Image Credits: Unsplash
Not being good enough. Everything I do is awful. Why can’t this part of my life look as perfect as theirs? I wish I was talented. 
Do these words sound familiar? 

Self-criticism is something many of us find comfort in. The feeling that, somehow, we aren’t destined to achieve or amount to anything at all. It’s lonely and often inescapable. But really, it’s a way to manage expectations of ourselves. If we truly believe that nothing we do is of value, then so what if we produce something that’s imperfect? It was never going to be good anyway. 

That’s how I viewed it. That if I took the pressure off, it didn’t matter. I kind of coasted through life not expecting much so that when something good came, it was a nice surprise. It was like a gift I’d given myself - I hadn’t necessarily wanted it but it was nice to have. It was better than wanting something badly and having to deal with disappointment instead. I hated feeling anything negative in any way so I would do anything I could to avoid that. In this case, I would be so heavily critical of myself that I’d already gone through those feelings of rejection at my own hand and if anybody said it to me, I saw it coming. 

Self-criticism is something many of us find comfort in

As I grew older, I realised that this wasn’t leading me anywhere except a deep feeling of insecurity and inadequacy, and looking for approval from anywhere and anyone because I just couldn’t see it in myself. When faced with questions like, “what are you good at?” or “what do you enjoy?”, I couldn’t find an answer because I’d never invested myself in anything. I knew I would be bad so there wasn’t any point in even attempting. But looking back, why would I sacrifice a few moments of disappointment for a lifetime of feeling like I’m not good enough, when I could just invest in my mistakes to grow? 

When that realisation hit me, it’s safe to say I wanted to change. I was sick of not having a hobby or interest that was truly mine. But I knew that meant getting comfortable with my insecurities and facing my inner critic. Thinking in black and white terms, that I was either good or bad at something, was no longer an option. Although from time to time I fall back into old habits, it’s much easier to recognise now. In all honesty, I don’t think I’d have been able to overcome these thoughts if it wasn't for therapy and the support network I’ve built over the last few years. Their words of wisdom have helped me more than they know.

One way I’ve challenged my inner critic was also to throw myself wholly into things I’m interested in. Writing, reading, archery, and even starting pole have been big achievements for me over the last few years. I stopped worrying if my writing was awful, or whether the books I was reading were academic enough. It no longer matters if I’m not always hitting red or higher in archery, or how elegantly I could climb a pole at my first session. All that mattered was how proud I’d be in the future, and how I could look back at my imperfect beginnings and see how much I’d changed. Reward for working hard became much more fulfilling than recognition by chance, and I’m so proud of myself for how far I’ve come.

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