Putting Your Inner Critic On Mute

By Kim Strobel

May 7, 2018

How a ‘Failure’ Led to a Powerful Revelation

We all have an inner critic. You know, the voice that lives inside your head. The one that not only knows your insecurities, but exploits them. The one that gives very little compassion to the living, breathing human it inhabits.

I call my critic Ethel. (Yes, I named her!) Ethel can be mean and nasty. She’s super cutting and loves to lash out. She can be relentless, belittling me and telling me I’m not good enough. I have enough problems with hearing the tough stuff—even more so when it’s coming from my own subconscious!

And for the last couple of weeks, Ethel’s been a real pain in the ass!

See, I participated in a marathon a couple of weekends ago. It’s an annual challenge for myself (this was my seventh marathon), and it’s one that I look forward to and train hard for.

And … it didn’t go well.

The running conditions were perfect, and I started the day energized and ready to race. But then at mile 8, my foot cramped up, and it wouldn’t go away. I’ve been fighting plantar fasciitis for the last six months, and it was rearing its ugly head.

But I pushed on. Only to start having lower back pain. From mile 11 on, I was in agony. That’s unusual for me … I’ve only ever experienced that feeling around mile 23.

I started rationalizing. Maybe I started out too fast. Maybe I just wasn’t physically ready. Maybe I just eat too damn much sugar. Who knows?!

I tried, I really tried to keep going. But at mile 20, the pain forced me to do something I’d never done during a race.

I quit.

I called my husband to come pick me up, and then I sat on the curb and cried. Never in a million years did I think that I’d not finish a race. But that’s exactly what I did … and it was tough to take.

I knew the feelings of defeat and failure would stick with me for a few days until I figured out how to fix my problem. Until then, I’d just cuddle up with my sweet dog George and indulge in a little bit of pouting.

I allowed myself this indulgence because I had faith I would rise again. I know that failure is not a permanent condition!

And guess what? Weeks later, I’m able to think more rationally about the race. My husband asked me if the hardest part of “failures” like this is worrying what others think of me. To his surprise, I said no.

The hardest part is what I think of me.

Ethel has been working overtime the last couple of weeks to make me feel bad about myself. And I’ve had to tell her more than once to SHUT HER MOUTH.

Because you know what? I’m more powerful than Ethel!

This revelation that we are more powerful than our inner critics doesn’t come quickly or easily. I’ve done a lot of pondering in recent days in an effort to learn and grow from this experience.

And I’ve definitely learned some things:

  • My self worth is not based on what I achieve. (This is a toughie for me because I often base my self worth on what I accomplish in a day’s time!)
  • “Leaning in” doesn’t always work. During times of struggle, sometimes it helps to lean out.
  • Sometimes it’s ok to be a quitter. (It’s called knowing your limits and taking care of YOU!)
  • My failure (yes, that’s what I’m calling it, and that’s ok)—and my willingness to talk about it—might help others see themselves in a gentler light.
  • I am MORE than one damn run!

Am I happy I bowed out of the race early? Of course not! But this experience is ultimately just a blip on the radar. I pick myself up, brush myself off, learn a little in the process … and I MOVE ON.

And Ethel? Well, if she doesn’t like it, she can stuff it!

PS: Do you have an inner critic? If so, give her or him a name, and then share it in the comments below. It’ll be good for a laugh—and give you just a little bit more power over that nasty voice!

  • I have never named her, but after reading this post I have. The first image that came to mind was the evil step sisters of Cinderella. I have named my inner critic “Drizella” after the meanest of the two step sisters. I had to do some research to find her name and it was said that she was “mean spirited and cruel, and never overcomes her hatred of Cinderella”. That is an accurate description of my inner critic so the name is perfect!

  • So here I am beating myself up over a painting. I posted it and everyone is in love. I stepped out of the box with technique. I walked away and still see all the mistakes.

    • Good for you for stretching yourself and putting yourself out there. Keep on doing this even if the inner critique rears its ugly head sometimes. Show that inner critique who’s BOSS!

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