Years ago, one of the leaders of the company I was working for harshly criticized me and left me feeling incompetent and stupid. I shared my feelings with the owner of the company. Instead of empathizing or assuring me I was not an idiot, she said “When people say things about you it has very little to do with you. It has more to do with them. The sooner you realize that, the easier life will be.”
It blew me away.
I didn’t need to take to heart everything people said about me. I didn’t even need to push back against it. It simply didn’t apply. It wasn’t my business. It was an interior monologue that had had slipped out through the speaker’s mouth.
Spoiler alert: I just sent the email.
I need to email Barry back.
A few months ago, I met Barry at an enneagram workshop. We got to talking about how cool it would be to have a discussion group just for Sixes, because as he said, we certainly need it. We exchanged emails for a while, then met for coffee and laid out some plans. I offered to come up with some content that we could start with. He agreed to create a description and some group expectations we could share. I send him my ideas to look over.
And then things stopped.
Not, to be clear, because he didn’t do his part. He sent me an email with his ideas and feedback on mine. It’s still sitting there in my inbox. As is his follow-up email.
Since sending my email to him I have been second guessing myself in ways that are far too familiar. Did I overstep my bounds? Was the material I came up with good enough? Am I being to assertive? Not assertive enough?
When I was a kid, about 10 or so, my mom was seeing a doctor in downtown Minneapolis. At the time we lived about 150 miles away and only had one car, so going to an appointment meant a four hour bus ride there and back. If I was caught up on my school work and wasn’t going to miss anything big, I could go along. I loved it. It meant plenty of time escape into my rather rich fantasy world. I would search the faces of fellow passengers for signs of evil plotting or scan the floor of the bus for clues to unsolved crimes. I would mull over the books I planned to write someday. I would mentally compose poems about the agony of being a 6th grader in small down America. If all that failed, I would read one of the books I had brought along (always have an emergency book). I was in heaven. Continue reading
There is a feeling I get sometimes. It’s a sense that although things are fine now, they are about to go wrong. I remember hearing once that really good typists know they are about to make a mistake several keystrokes before they actually do. They say the same things about jugglers (substituting “flaming blowing balls” for “keystrokes”). A former colleague compared it to riding a runaway horse. Right now you are on top and kind of steering. You know it will probably change and you will end up under the horse. But right now – man what a ride!
It’s not so much about “things being fine” or “things going wrong,” as it is about control. Am I in control or out of control of what’s happening and what’s coming next and what’s after that and after that?
At last night’s enneagram workshop we talked about the Inner Critic. While some there seemed to wrestle with the concept, it is one that, as a writer, I was familiar with. The Inner Editor, I call it. I first was able to put a name to it thanks to Chris Baty one of the founders of NaNoWriMo and author of the NaNoWriMo primer No Plot? No Problem! That book not only helped me name the Inner Editor, but made me realize I could control it. I could tell it to go away for a while. I could ignore it when it was not being helpful. I could tame it.
Even those of you who are neither writers nor enneagram aficionados probably have a sense of what I am talking about. The voice that tells you what you are doing it wrong. The nagging, harping voice. The voice that comes out at 3 am and wakes you up just to tear you down. The voice that makes you second and third and fourth guess yourself. The voice that shames you for just being you.
We all have an Inner Critic. Continue reading