The Inner Critic

Photo by Markus Winkler on

Many of us are our own worst critics. We must learn to work through this resistance. We must focus on the work, not our internal voices.

A Harsh Critic Whose Always Around

Perfectionism. Self-doubt. Negativity. Depression. Hostile environments. Work we don’t enjoy.

There are lots of ways we can end up critiquing too harshly our work and our contributions. The harsh inner critic can be devastating to our confidence and our output because that critic never goes away. It can be exhausting to battle and inner critic on a daily basis in every task.

Steven Pressfield in his books on art and creativity describes the Resistance. Pressfield’s concept is all those activities we engage in that get in the way of our work. Battling these barriers is a key part of any work.

Some people are blessed with the confidence to never have a second thought around the quality of their work. For others, this doubt can be terrifying and a major barrier to progress. Importantly, it can be devastating to productivity as the excess research, the unwillingness to share work out loud and to ask for help can make achieving anything much harder.

Share and Reflect

A recent article in Inc magazine highlighted the advice of Harvard Professor Susan David in situations like these. Prof David encourages people to get perspective on their work and to reflect on the underlying causes that might be able to be changed.

If you struggle with even that distance and reflection, I would recommend sharing your work with a trusted group of friends or colleagues. Often you discover that the flaws you see aren’t as bad as you think or are fixable. When we are overly harsh, you need the feedback of others to bring some perspective and to make constructive suggestions of how to move forward.

Do The Work Anyway

Never let the people who say it can’t be done interrupt those actually doing it

Popular aphorism

The key point in all this advice is that you don’t have anything to build on unless you do the work. We all have to press through the sense that nothing is better than a bad effort. The opposite is true as Jodi Picoult, author, reminds us:

You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

Jodi Picoult

Often our fears of the difficulty of the work and its quality are overblown. When we actually start, it is easier and better than we think. If not, at least it is a start and we can build from a start. That building can be our further work or inviting others in to help. Whichever path we choose we can’t get there until we start.

Sometimes the challenge or the addition work to be done is not obvious until we have a starting point. Starting can make clear that research is required or different work needs to be undertaking in preparation.

Take the time to quiet the inner critic. Bury their voice in the effort of the work. No work is perfect. After all we are only human. The power of being human is the ability to seek some perspective on what you have now achieved, whether alone or with others. That insight will shape what you do next.

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