As an introvert, it is common for me to have a rich inner dialogue going on with myself at any given moment. Me, myself, and I are discussing the pros and cons, wins and losses, or just enjoying each other’s company most of the time. It feels as if there are so many thoughts happening simultaneously that it can’t possibly be just me talking, there must be a whole bunch of characters in there. I am confident this is normal (not in a dissociative personality disorder sort of way) so no need to call in a welfare check for me.
More often than we realize, we have inner critics that hijack the conversation. We may not even realize it because they are just so sly about how they creep into our thoughts. We all have these inner critics, the voices that whisper inside of us to sit down, or play small. It is the voice that tells you that you are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or just plain insufficient as you are. They try to contain us in order to keep us safe. Our inner critics are there to protect us, so they have served a purpose, of course. We can always have more than one inner critic, or gremlin, but the first of mine that I met was Bridget. Would you like to meet her too?
Awkward, plays small, not good enough, who let her in anyways?
Bridget is my true gremlin, the original gangster of shit-talking me into feeling like I should be better or more of something. She is always worried about “what if” and she makes sure to avoid sudden moves at all costs. Bridget just cares so much about me that she has always tried to protect me, much like a young girl smothers a bunny that she caught because she is just trying to love her. Bridget is stout, and small and a little chubby, the girl with her feet dangling off the front of the chair when she sits all the way back. Bridget is named after Bridget Jones of the diary fame, because one of the premises of the movie was her love interest, Mark Darcy, loving her “just as she is.”
Bridget was there back when I was in high school, when it seemed really important to get perfect grades and join clubs and prep for college. She was there in college when I applied for scholarships and when I didn’t get accepted into an elite group. Bridget enjoyed coming to work with me for my whole career, and appeared when I felt like a fraud and waited to be “found out” that I wasn’t as good at my job as the important people had thought. And she sat in the front seat when I started my own business and told me her opinion that I should do more, be successful faster, and save the world in about six months or less. She is the worst type of friend; always hanging around but never all that helpful.
Letting go of our inner critics is hard, right? They were put there for a reason, a protective layer around our hears to protect us from great loss. But here is the thing. When we shut off our ability to process great loss, it shuts off our ability to process anything that large. Which means we also lose the ability to experience the greatest joy. Bridget has been with me as long as I can remember, and I had no template on how to live my life without her. Since the unknown is terrifying (especially for a planner and thinker like myself), I would always rather keep her around as a known evil before I risk utter failure in the abyss of the unknown.
But it was time to let Bridget go.
There is a difference between these two ideas: “I did something stupid” and “I am stupid.” The gremlin is the latter. It is the internalization that you are not enough of something, rather than your actions speaking for themselves. You give in to the inner critic when you hand over the value you have for yourself.
My old pal Bridget is still around, and she always will be. Currently, she is silently eating cupcakes in the back seat of the car. Sometimes she tries to climb in the front seat but I block her, say no thank you because that seat is taken, and she can kindly sit her ass down in the back. She was only allowed to come on the ride if she agreed not to be seen or heard.
Bridget and I were getting better acquainted before I realized that there were other people in the room with us. In fact, I had lived my whole life with Bridget before even noticing her. Who else have I yet to meet?
About the author:
Katie Rasoul is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. Find out more by visiting www.teamawesomecoaching.com or sign up for our mailing list for awesomeness coming straight to your inbox. Follow Team Awesome on Facebook and Twitter.