Handling The Bully

Sometimes the voice of the inner bully is deafening. It screams so loud that I can’t hear myself think, let alone receive the creative inspiration I need when I’m writing. On those days I take my inner artist by the hand, walk her to our writing desk, and stand behind her as she gets started.

I have your back, I tell her.
Don’t worry.
Just write.

I’m getting pretty good at handling the critics that live in my head. Sometimes I simply let them have their say. I sit on the floor in my office while they drone on and on about how I’m a good writer, but not great, and I do my nails until they get tired. Other times I go to my computer, open my journal, and type everything they say until they notice that I’m merely taking notes, not taking it in, and they quiet down.

The best tactic of all is when I call a fellow artist and spill the beans about what’s going on. I tell her what my inner critic is saying so I can hear her tell me that she has the same voices squawking in her head, too. We laugh and cry, coach and console each other, and then we both get back to work.

For years I tried to silence the inner critics by fighting them tooth and nail. But with every battle they just got stronger, meaner, and more skillful at getting in the way.

So I gave up the fight. I surrendered to the reality that anything worth doing is going to rouse critics (both inner and outer, by the way), and since I’m only interested in doing worthy things, I’d have to learn how to live with them.

And now I do. When the artist in me is being suffocated by the voices of doom, I gently whisper in her ear…
Trust yourself.
Keep going.
The groove you’re looking for is just around the corner.

Fortunately, she listens. Because in the end, that’s all we really need – a loving friend to host our fear until it feels seen and heard and ready to dissolve. And it will. The power of creativity is too strong to be held hostage.

A committee of critics will always be on the attendee list of any significant creative event. Just make sure you invite way more friends.

Cheryl Richardson is a NYT bestselling author of many books, including her most recent Waking Up In Winter: In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife. Treat yourself and join Cheryl for a daylong workshop about practicing extreme self-care at midlife at Circles of Wisdom in Methuen, MA, Sunday Feb 24. www.circlesofwisdom.com.

See also:
Automatic Brain: The Magic Of The Unconscious Mind
Self-Esteem Might Boost Our Egos, But Self-Compassion Opens Our Hearts