Caroline's Corner:

How to kill that inner critic

In my previous blog post, I wrote that the only way you could fail to write all those posts you had in mind was with the wrong planning. But, I knew already that I left out one tiny detail. While in theory, you’ll only need a site, ideas and inspiration to write your posts, there could be another factor you didn’t take into consideration: your inner critic.

Your inner critic or inner editor is best described as a subpersonality that judges you and your abilities as you are working hard on reaching your goals. It’s often mean and can get you downright insecure.

Constant struggle

I started writing in my early teens and became an active writer during November, better known as National Novel Writing Month — NaNoWriMo for short. In this month, it’s your goal to write a novel of at least 50,000 words. 50k is a lot, especially if your inner critic should’ve been cast in Mean Girls as Regina George’s evil stepsister. I learned about the inner critic principle during this month back in 2006. Since then I’ve known when my inner critic is talking.

I’ve struggled with my inner critic for a long time and we still don’t always get along. I found that I could have the perfect blog planning, the most brilliant ideas and an incredible amount of time, but still didn’t get started, or didn’t finish. I have 36 posts as a draft for my blog and a lot of them won’t ever see the light of day. It’s not that they are awful. Others might even think they’re good enough or funny enough and that I should just hit the publish button. My inner critic disagrees though, and that’s what’s keeping me in the past from updating my blog frequently.

Befriend your inner critic so you can silence it when it’s needed

After I learned about the inner critic, I taught myself to treat it as an enemy that should be locked up. During a NaNoWriMo event, we created an inner critic puppet and locked it up in a makeshift cage or tied it down. Whatever we did, we did it with the intention to shut it up.

I developed another strategy two years ago when I found that treating my critic as an enemy, was blocking me altogether. While it worked for almost ten years, I came to a point where I didn’t want to write anymore because of my inner critic. No matter what the people around me told me, I convinced myself that I was the worst writer ever. Now, I’ve befriended my inner critic so I can tell him to shut up — kindly.

I know this might sound strange, but I started visualizing my inner critic. Two years ago I talked to a haptonomist and she asked me why I wasn’t writing anymore. When I explained my fears and the principle of the inner critic, she asked me what it looked like and where it lived. My inner critic is big, blue and lives in a forest. It chews on and spits out whatever it finds on its path. I dubbed him my woolly monster. As I’m writing this, my inner critic, or the woolly monster, is telling me the readers might think I’m off my head. It also says I probably shouldn’t be writing this down. But if I don’t write this down, there won’t be a useful post today.

I kindly tell myself (or my woolly monster) that while I appreciate the feedback, it’s not the right time right now. It can come out after I’ve finished the draft of my blog post and am ready for editing. After that, I calmly remind it that one of my colleagues is reviewing and editing, if necessary, my writing as well. There’s no need for my inner critic to sabotage me because that’s what it can be doing.

What blogging for Yoast brought me

When I started my blog series over a month ago here on Yoast.com, I was excited to start. As I was struggling to get that first post written, Marieke told me to stop my perfectionism from ruling me. “There’s a blog team that will edit your posts if necessary,” she told me. And she was right. We have an amazing blog team and I’ve become a frequent visitor to their office the last few weeks. I meet with them to brainstorm, to explain my struggles or to ask for help. This collaboration led me to a big change for my personal blog as well: I now have my blog team.

Create a blog team

That’s right; I’ve created my a blog team. Sounds pretty professional, right? I didn’t do it on purpose by the way, but that sounds less professional. I’ve acquired people around me without them actively knowing I consider them a member of my blog team.

One of the most important members is my husband: he proofreads all my blog posts before I consider them finished. If he smiles or chuckles, I know I did a good job. And if he doesn’t like it or I face insecurities, he’s the first to provide honest feedback. The other members of my team are my close friends who have told me they love reading my posts. Sometimes I send them a draft and request feedback. Other times they send me messages telling me what they thought of my latest blog post. No matter the type of feedback I receive or request, it’s valuable to me. Not an entirely unimportant side-effect of this team: it satisfies my inner critic more and more each day.

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Caroline blogs about her experience as a blogger, from making sure you keep going to optimizing your blog.

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19 Responses to How to kill that inner critic

  1. Irene Schaap
    Irene Schaap  • 8 months ago

    Interesting that you treat your innercritic as an enemy. When I use parts therapy during a hypnotherapy session, I always assume that every part in us has good intentions. They are here for a good reason. Maybe they have a loud voice and should be persuaded to talk a little less loud. Or another part should be more present. Anyway… it’s always best to keep them as your friend. Because in fact they are your ego. So thank them for there good work and ask them to give you a little more space. And explain why that is important to you.

    • Caroline Geven

      I used to treat it as an enemy, it’s become my friend two years ago after speaking to a haptonomist. She taught me the importance of looking at why it’s negative and in core, explained exactly what you are telling your clients. So we agree on how you should look at your inner critic (or your ego :) )

  2. Martin Teichert
    Martin Teichert  • 8 months ago

    I Think we all know the problem. I have my own blog http://www.mrmazzo.dk and I struggle with it to. Thanks for the idea about creating a blog team :) I Will make a team too.

    • Caroline Geven

      I hadn’t realized when writing this, how true this is for everyone. It’s opened my eyes.
      Good luck with creating your blog team!

  3. Helena
    Helena  • 8 months ago

    I like your description of your inner critic. If he didn’t eat everything in his path, he might be cute. Jamie Catto writes about the inner critic in his book ‘Insanely gifted’.

    • Caroline Geven

      He is incredibly cute! I even have a plush of it at home and anyone who sees it, tells me how cute it is. It helps me remind that my woolly monster doesn’t know everything either and is driven by fear most of the times.
      Thanks for the book tip, I will most definitely check it out.

  4. Susan H.
    Susan H.  • 8 months ago

    Talk about timing with this post! Yep, I can definitely relate to having 36 draft posts pending. Relate to being perfectionnist (or afraid) to the point of not posting and then seeing in that same week or month someone else posted about the same subject, so now I feel like I would be copying what they did when I had the idea and post written before them, but my inner critic killed the action of actually posting. Aarrg! “I have to fix this, change paragraph order, should I split it in two posts, my seo isnt good enough, at what time do I have to post for it to be seen, no one will ‘like’ or share my post again, etc” are all excuses my inner critic throws at me to keep me from at least trying to write articles and posts, well, to keep me from posting them.

    Thanks for this timely article Caroline! keep up the good work.

    • Caroline Geven

      It’s down to 35 for me now! I published one draft and hope to get it down to zero somewhere this year. If I do, I’ll write another post about it.
      Your thoughts are mine exactly. I hope this will actually help you and will bring your total draft count down too! And thank you :)

  5. David Coldwell
    David Coldwell  • 8 months ago

    Thanks for the great post. It’s so true, I often seem to feel insecure about the value of my writing. It goes back to when I was at university, especially when I had to write essays in Spanish (English is my first language). I have not really thought about how to deal with it, I have just done the best work I could. Having the research from my Masters degree published has helped in someway, yet I still question myself in seek of perfection. Feedback can be a good thing, you just need to be able to view negative feedback constructively.

    • Caroline Geven

      Thanks for sharing your story! Feedback is extremely important. I somehow manage to question negative feedback I receive from friends, but take the negative feedback from my inner critic as the truth. It’s funny how that works. You can’t become better at writing if you don’t practice.

  6. Sheri
    Sheri  • 8 months ago

    I can’t believe how timely this article is for me! I was just thinking this morning about the voice in my head that’s always telling me how I miss the mark and can’t seem to do the right things or make the best choices. Thanks for the inspiration to not listen to that voice, but to the voice that cheers me on for the goals I do meet, the good I do, and the mountains I have successfully climbed!

    • Caroline Geven

      You’re very welcome and I’m glad this came when you needed it most!
      You still need to listen to your inner critic from time to time, but it doesn’t know everything. Your intuition is a much better guide than your inner critic, I’ve learned!

  7. Roger
    Roger  • 8 months ago

    I have been quarreling with my internal critic for a week and he seems to be winning the match, but with the reading of his post right now in the early hours of the day my mood has been renewed. Thank you so much for sharing such good ideas.

    • Caroline Geven

      I’m glad this post came at the right time for you. Tell your inner critic to sit down and hold it all in until you’re done. My best tip: do whatever you need to do. Then put it away for a few days, reread it with your inner critic still silent and then let your inner critic ‘go loose’ on your work. I found that it’s become much nicer if I let it rest and it actually helps my work to become better.

      Good luck!

  8. Willem IJssel de Schepper
    Willem IJssel de Schepper  • 8 months ago

    Really cool article. I just started writing and also learning to let the inner “monster” go. :)

    • Caroline Geven

      Good luck! Visualize and befriend him or her. I have a plush of my woolly monster at home and pass it daily after waking up and before going to bed. It works wonders, it helps me realize he’s a friend.

  9. Eve Jones
    Eve Jones  • 8 months ago

    Inner Criticism is sometimes backing us from creativity and hence it becomes very important for us to kill that monster.
    Thanks for sharing this with us Caroline!

    • Caroline Geven

      Yes, it can do that! I wouldn’t advise killing it, because I believe it can help you to make things better, but not when you are still in the creative process.
      During brainstorming events with teams, it’s always discouraged to say no to ideas, even if they involve impossible things, as it can block you. You don’t always need a critic to tell you that the things you want to do, are impossible. You’ll get there when you’re finished.

      • Anju
        Anju  • 8 months ago

        thanks for give this information


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