You must befriend the inner critic

It’s funny reading a piece that I find insightful followed by a paragraph where the writer is lambasting themselves for not writing something insightful enough, and how I can never wrap my head around the fact that I may also write something that someone else thinks is insightful, and yet I’m just telling myself over and over “This is garbage I’m garbage why am I writing this garbage.” There is never an “OH!” moment that makes my inner critic shut up, not even witnessing someone else tangled up in the same cycle.

I don’t know if you can ever get rid of that voice. That inner critic. I think it’s there to stay. One must live one’s life in an attempt to outpace that voice. To do the work in spite of that voice. It is a never-ending battle, and I think you have to accept that battle as a permanent fixture in your life if you want to go on and do great things. There is no rest. There is no retreat. No refuge. It is a necessary component of chaos. Is it evolutionary? Biological? I think someone much smarter than me wrote something about this. That the inner critic is really a survival mechanism. Fear is a compass that points you away from paths that lead to certain doom. being ostracized from your tribe (a necessary safety net), predators, poisonous food… but we don’t need this compass anymore, not really. We can always find a new tribe, one with values that reflect our own. Modern society has made it considerably easier to live in small, isolated tribes. I only really have a tribe of about 7-8 people, and three of them live in another state. We are transported from one safe box to another safe box, often by means of another safe box on wheels. There is nothing left for this voice to protect us from, and with no clear purpose it now has no choice but turn itself against us.

Wrapped in all of this is the irony that trying to butt heads with your inner critic head-on is counterproductive. Beating it into submission only provides fuel for the flames. We must, as the Buddha did when Mara came to visit, invite our demons to tea: we must welcome the inner critic as an old friend. An ornery, crotchety friend, but a friend nonetheless. Ah, it’s you again. So nice to see you. What have you been up? How have you been? I know, I know, I’m well aware of how you feel about my work, but the work must continue. Your feelings have been duly noted. This is hard for you. It’s hard for me, too. We must befriend this demon, this inner critic. Acceptance is key exactly because this particular demon is going nowhere. There is no zen-like state where this voice disappears. Acceptance of this voice IS the quiet enlightenment.

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