Recognizing the intensity of the inner critic and initiating a conversation
Today I broke some rules. I was referred by a friend to be the featured resident for our monthly local neighborhood magazine. Today was the photo shoot.
What? The inner voices, critics, jury, the terrified self appointed would be protectors screamed in protest. Screaming messages like “What? Who do you think that you are doing this? You have nothing to really offer. And look at you…you are heavier than you need to be, look older…..a photo shoot?? Are you serious?”
I pushed through, since I believe that we need to face our fears, face our inner critics, do the deed, break the rules that were put into place to try and keep us safe, and succeeded in keeping us invisible and quiet. Keeping us out of trouble, keeping us out of life.
So push I did. The photo shoot happened. This particular photographer and I did not immediately click (pun intended). He seemed a nice enough man, but the chemistry was not there in a way that helped reduce my anxiety at all, that helped me relax into this photo shoot.
I got through it. 30 minutes or so of pure discomfort and anxiety. Self doubt proclaiming its right to be there, insecurities flooding my system, inner critics demeaning and berating me for doing this, with no lack of opinions about photos that I got a glimpse of.
Their mean comments were relentless. Look at your body, and how much weight you have gained over the years. Look at your face and how much older you look. Look at how uncomfortable you look. What are you doing, posing for these photos? Stop this nonsense now before you make a huge fool of yourself. Stop while you still have time. Who do you think that you are? What the hell are you doing?
The photographer left, and I was left with the chorus of inner opinions and judgments. I took myself for a walk, to get a bit of air for a while. A few strangers smiled at me along the way, which helped. (Please never underestimate the power of a kind smile. You never know what someone’s day has been like.)
I came home from my walk, and could see that I needed to begin yet another conversation with these harsh members of this inner jury of mine. And so we began to talk.
Talking, communicating involves listening to both sides. So I listened, and tried to understand where their comments were coming from.
They, members of this inner jury, have been with me for life. They came on board to help protect me, to take over where perhaps some parental judgments began their indoctrination. They came to save me from further pain and humiliation and punishment. They came to keep me quiet so that I would not be attacked, so that I would be safe.
I understand this. I truly do. And I appreciate their effort, their intention. And now I have something to say to them.
You did protect me, you did keep me quiet, perhaps in a time when that really was what I needed to do to keep living and keep going.
But, dear jury, you then became rigid and took your role as one that lasts a lifetime, which it is not.
To remain quiet is to keep me out of life’s mainstream. To keep me from living fully, passionately. To keep me from taking risks, which also keeps me from potential joy and delight found when taking those risks. To deaden me before I am dead. To live a life on the fringes and behind the scenes. To live and yet not live my life. To accept sad resignation as natural. To not learn all that I could be, and also possibly not be.
Failures are part of life, but they do not mean that I am a failure.
So, the photo shoot is done. And I am not backing out. I will breathe through the experience of what my reaction is when the magazine comes out. I will breathe through the internal opinions, comments, judgments. And I will keep going.
And maybe, just maybe, it will be ok. It will not be perfect. It will cause reverberations within me, will cause tension and doubt. But, it will also be proof of a risk taken, of daring to allow myself, with all of my imperfections, to be seen and heard. It will be a “No!” to the constant message to be invisible and quiet. It will be a yes to jumping into life more.
So, come along jury, for this journey. We can keep this discussion going. You have served me in my life, and it is time to step back, relax a bit, and trust that it will all be ok. You can trust me more. You can ease up. It’s going to be ok. We are going to be ok. Because this is life. And I am still alive. And it’s ok to really live while I am still alive, to fully inhabit this body and this life before it is time to go. Take my hand. We can do this.