The Montfort Group

How To Battle Your Inner Critic

As I sat down to write my monthly blog, I began to notice thoughts in the back of my mind that invaded my inner dialog. As I put my fingers on the keys, my inner critic was in full force before I typed a single word. The battle had begun.

“Will people care about what I have to say? My experiences are too normal, I’m boring, no one will care… less than … worthless… not valuable… who cares?”

A spiral of thoughts, and emotions begin swirling within me, picking up speed and energy. Suddenly, I am telling myself how bad I am at blogs and how I’ve never done a good job. 

“What if I am criticized and I get negative feedback? Worse, what if people are thinking negative things about me behind my back?”

Before I knew it, my thoughts devolved into the worst possible scenarios of rejection and failure, and I was left with an overall sense of defeat. All this before I had written a word. 

Has anyone else ever felt this way? 

I’m curious why it’s so hard to get over the initial sense of fear that creeps up when asked to do things that require “putting ourselves out there.” The anxiety of being judged negatively can cause hesitation in many situations: social situations, job interviews, launching and promoting a business idea, speaking up and giving an opinion, trying something completely new (going to a new school, moving into a new house, having a baby, or stepping into a leadership role), or initiating a conversation about your feelings when conflict arises. 

These examples have prompted me to ask the question: what is this feeling of resistance, where does it come from, how can I get beyond it and not allow it to hold me back from fully experiencing my life? 

When faced with an internal conflict, I always turn to science first to explain what I am experiencing: a) because I’m genuinely a nerd and b) it helps me to learn from the experience of others rather than “trial and error-ing” when I don’t know the answer. After a bit of research, reflection, and a few mindfulness exercises, I realized that vulnerability is the common denominator in all the above-listed anxiety-provoking situations

Vulnerability is “having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.”

Brene Brown

When I read this quote, a lightbulb came on. This is it. I was able to identify my challenge – if I fail, others could perceive me as “weak.”  

But the truth of the matter is vulnerability is not a “weakness,” it is a measure of fearlessness and courage. The strength and resilience required to take a risk is a sign of how brave you are when you are willing to be vulnerable. In exchange, introducing the presence of vulnerability makes space for openness, creativity, and innovation. 

The bottom line is, no matter what, vulnerability is inescapable. When you try to escape your pain by ignoring it, the feeling continues to return until you face it and deal with it. When I have ignored vulnerability in the past, I’ve later realized, opening up and taking the risk to honestly share yourself with others is more comfortable than remaining silent. Consider the alternative of what could have been if you had chosen to show up. 

“You do vulnerability or vulnerability does you.” – Brene Brown 

When I think about it realistically, the times that I have fully shown up and been vulnerable are the times I have received the best feedback. My vulnerability allowed others to relate and share how my experience resonated with them. More often than not, the choice to be vulnerable, even though it felt dangerous and scary in the beginning, became a growth opportunity. I was able to discover more about who I am as an individual, increase my confidence, my self-worth, and my capacity to be vulnerable in the future. 

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”

– Marianne Williamson

The question remains, how can we encourage ourselves to do the challenging work and go to that dark, scary place of vulnerability even when we’re aware of its incredible rewards? 

For me, I have come to realize that understanding vulnerability will be a lifelong practice. I am in the process of accepting the fact that I won’t always feel secure, self-confident, and strong in every situation. I won’t always be perfect and “nail it on the head” because, in real life, mistakes are inevitable. 

As I approach situations where I feel that creepy-crawly sensation of vulnerability, I try to look inward, become mindful of my inner critic, notice what it has to say, but make a choice to not allow it to control me. I take some deep breaths, realize that my thoughts are temporary and not a permanent state of being. 

I’ll be honest with you – I am not always successful in my attempts, but when I reflect on what I term as a “failure,” I can learn something. How I can do better next time, show up more fully and be more present in the future. I don’t have to be perfect, I have to try my best and hope that my example will empower someone else to have the courage to be brave too.

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