naming and taming your inner critic

Reader, I’d like you to meet Spiteful Gillian.

She doesn’t even have a nose.

Spiteful Gillian, I’d like you to meet… . Spiteful Gillian? Spitefull Gillian! Hey, I’m trying to introduce you to someone. Geez, you NEVER listen to me.

Well anyway, Reader, this is Spiteful Gillian. She’s my inner critic. She’s big. She’s loud. She speaks in red, in ALL CAPS. She’s always asking me, “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE TO SEND YOUR WORK TO THAT JOURNAL? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE TO APPLY FOR THAT CONFERENCE? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE TO THINK ABOUT APPLYING FOR AN MFA? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE TO THINK YOU’LL WRITE A BOOK SOMEDAY?”

Sometimes she also says: “YOU’LL NEVER AMOUNT TO ANYTHING.” Or, “YOU’RE JUST NOT THAT GOOD.” Or, “IT’S TOO LATE FOR YOU. YOU’RE MIDDLE-AGED. HAHAHA! HEAR ME? MIDDLE-AGED!” To which I sometimes muster a whispered response, “barely middle-aged.”

She’s big, she’s loud, she stands there with here hands on her hips, tapping her foot. She leans forward slightly so as to get in my face. I despise her.

On my good days, I remind her that she’s only a stick figure. I tell her, “Talk all you want. I’m not listening,” or, “I know you’re right, but I’m doing this anyway,” or, “Well, so what, you don’t even have a nose!”

She’s so annoying.

Over time, I’ve learned a few things about Spiteful Gillian. One is that she likes to crop up just when I’m doing something new — writing in a new form, submitting to a journal I’ve not submitted to before. Another is that when I’m fairly successful tuning her out in my waking hours, she shows up in my dreams as Louise Gluck, who friends me on Facebook and then writes on my wall about what a rotten poet I am.

I’ve also learned that naming her helps to tame her. And so does this little process (which I learned from the excellent Molly Fisk, and which I’m sure I’ve written about before):

First, I tell her what’s true:” You’re right, Spiteful Gillian, I’m no Louise Gluck.”

Then I tell her what’s not true: “However, Spiteful Gillian, I have my own voice and my own poems to write.”

Then I tell her what’s also true: “And anyway, Spiteful Gillian, I don’t even want to be Louise Gluck. She’s even older than I am! So take that, Little Miss ‘Middle-Aged.’ Geez!”

I’ve also learned that drawing her has helped tame her: Look at her, she’s completely ridix! Look, I mean, she only has three fingers! And she has really bad hair! Yes, drawing Spiteful Gillian helped me to see how unrealistic and ridiculous she really is.

I realize I’m probably going to be living with Spiteful Gillian for the rest of my life. But by naming her, by letting her in and talking with her, by drawing her and hanging her up by my writing desk, I have learned to tame her over the years.

I’ve learned she might never stop trying to stop me from living my life, but that she can’t stop me. I’ve learned to keep on keeping on despite her ridiculous, noseless self.

How have you learned to tame your inner critic? What’s his/her name? What does he/she tell you? I hope you’ll share in comments. I think if we all got our inner critics together in the same room, they’d be so busy being annoying to one another that we could sneak out, close the door and lock it, then throw away the key.

Bye, bye, Spiteful Gillian.

16 thoughts on “naming and taming your inner critic

  1. Glad to see your drawings of people are just as pitiful as mine.

    You should TOTALLY apply for an MFA. Gillian and I have been saying to each other, “Geez, why doesn’t she just do it already?”

  2. I love this! I mean she doesn’t even have a nose!!! Also the slash marks that indicate her foot is tapping. Genius.

    Have you considered drawing a piece of duct tape to use to cover her mouth?

    Mine doesn’t have a name but is distinctly masculine and echos several real people who were particularly brutal in their comments about my work in the past. Usually, I can drive them away by playing a little instrumental music to distract them.

    • Ohhhhhhhh, I love the duct tape idea. Funny how those brutal comments from real life surface again in the voice of the inner critic. Get you some duct tape, too!

  3. Molly, I’m going to name and identify my inner critic right away and let my friends know about your way of taming theirs. Such a fantastic idea. Cylia

    • Thanks Cylia, and yes, spread the word on this method — although, as I wrote in the post, I learned it from someone else. I’ve shared this method with my kids so they’ll have one up on their inner critic.

  4. “She doesn’t even have a nose.” Hahahahahahah! Now you’ve got me thinking, I’ll have to draw and name my inner critic now. I’ll be back and let you know her name as soon as I figure it out…

      • I’m still working on discerning and drawing, and like the reader below, I think I have more than one! But, the loudest so far is Perfect Polly. She’s always trying to press me into her mold. She has a perfect nose – you know, the cute as a button kind of nose…

      • Oh, no, the cute as a button kind of a nose is even worse than no nose! I’m glad you’re figuring Perfect Polly out so that you can break the mold. Best wishes!

  5. How wonderfully warped! I had never thought of naming my inner critic (though I suspect I’ve got a couple of them…) I would love to abandon them to the wolves of others’ inner critics There is one, though, that tends to be critical in a helpful way. I think I’ll name him Carson, after the butler on Downton Abbey. The less helpful ones I could name Naysaying Nancy and Meddlesome Marjorie…

    This could prove to be both therapeutic and a writer’s exercise… Thank you.

    • Uh-oh, C-S, you have THREE!? But, I’m on board with Carson. I think I’m going to try to cultivate a Carson for myself, but maybe I’ll call her Mrs. Hughes. 🙂

  6. Pingback: today I hate all my poems | the stanza

  7. Pingback: wordless wednesday (on thursday): Spiteful Gillian 2.0 | the stanza

  8. Pingback: S.O.S. week 7 update: still learning the ropes | the stanza

  9. Pingback: FRIDAY CONFESSIONAL « NAKED.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s