In the past few years, although I’ve made efforts to become friends with my inner critic, sometimes it can still be an utter pain in the ass. For example, last week I was feeling proper poorly. I had caught a bug or a virus or something, and nothing felt right in my body and my brain wasn’t working properly. Because I was feeling rough and unready I took time off work. I reasoned I would feel much better if I spent my time reading and writing whilst keeping warm, drinking healing herbs, sitting in a patch of sunshine and not spreading germs to my colleagues at work. So I left work on Thursday, stopped off at my local library to pick up a fat armful of graphic novels, then I grabbed a bag of fruit from the shops and headed home. Luckily that week I had also picked up a back-log of 2000ads from my newsagent, so I was well set up to recover.
At first, all was fine. I read some comics and a graphic novel, drafted up some notes for my next blog post and went to sleep, aching all over and glad I had gone home.
The next day I felt worse. This is normal with colds/bugs/whatever you want to call them, so I read quietly. I tried to work on my drafts but my brain seemed to be not working, so I just read. But a strange thing happened, as I was reading these graphic novels and books, I started to get really emotional. At the time I blamed the books. It thought it was the words and the subject matter, but on reflection I realised it was my inner critic taking advantage of me when I was feeling vulnerable.
During that day, as I was reading a draft for my weekly post, the only words I could hear in my head were: ‘This is just shit’, ‘Why do I even bother?’, ‘Wouldn’t life be easier if I just didn’t write?’ and ‘I mean, what is the point!’ All on loop. This was when I knew I really wasn’t very well. Like I’ve said before, I’ve worked hard to make friends with my inner critic and these days, normally, we get on really well: my inner creative makes a wonderful mess of words and my inner critic then goes in and puts it all in order. It’s a happy, productive, working friendship. But sometimes friends can be really bloody negative. When that happens, the healthy thing to do is to give them some space (and yourself!). So, realising my inner critic was on a moan-some roll, I stepped away from my writing and reading and decided to do something completely different until I was feeling like myself again. I listened to some music and had a really long and very hot bath, then went to sleep for the longest time. The next day I did the same. On Sunday I did some painting. Pure and utter thoughtless painting. Not the artistic kind, I merely painted the walls in the spare room; obviously this takes care and attention, but it’s not something my inner critic can pipe up about. That done, I had another bath then caught up on Big Bang Theory. Happy restful, guilt-free, and mindlessness.
Now I’m feeling better, I can see there are two really good things which have come out of this. The first is being aware of myself and my reaction time. These days I can quickly realise and recognise when something is not right in my life. Rather than getting caught up listening to my inner critic and negative thoughts for weeks on end, now my crappiness only lasts for an hour or two, at the most. In fact, the other week I had worked out a big knot of stress in approximately ten minutes, on my cycle to work (proud moment). Sure, this weekend I had to switch off for a few days but after a rest, my inner critic is calm and focused again, I’m back to happy, and I’m feeling better too.
The second really good thing is that now I am really aware my baseline is well-established as happy, healthy and productive. Sure, I’ve worked really hard to get to this place and I’ve been truly lucky along the way, but now when I am feeling anxious, unsure and full of doubt, I know this is not my normal state and can take action to get myself back on track. This is a really good place to be, trusting myself and not letting my worries take control. Maybe, finally, I’m growing up, and that’s great.