Ursula the Sea Witch has two eels named Flotsam and Jetsam. Gaston has the cleverly named Le Fou. Aladdin‘s Jafar has that parrot, Iago, who I really wanted to punch in the mouth and Scar, from The Lion King had three goofy hyenas.
My point? All villains have henchmen.
This isn’t a post about how to create great sidekicks for your villains, that may or may not be cute as a button and who may or may not break out into song at a moment’s notice. The henchman I’m referring to is far darker and far destructive than anything Disney could create. It could even be Hitchcockian or Wes Craven-ish.
I’m talking about my personal inner critic, who I think is the official henchman to my fear.
Like Disney’s evil sidekicks, my personal inner critic comes to do the dirty work of fear. He whispers his lies into my ear, hoping that I’ll believe him. He’s as quiet as the Evil Queen’s raven in Snow White, as subtle as the Siamese Cats in The Aristocats and has the same tone of voice, at times, as Cinderella’s step-sisters. But that’s where the G-rated comparisons stop. (And I call him he because it fits better today, but he’s not restricted to gender.)
In my writing life, this inner critic is the single greatest threat to my success. A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about how fear had had me in it’s grip. I think that the very loud voice of the inner critic is the ugly henchman of this fear. If I actually listen to this henchman, then it’s like I am putting the handcuffs on and I’m allowing him to drag me into fear.
This is only some of the things that this evil henchman, fear’s sidekick, does to me as I pursue my dreams:
My inner critic blames me for things that go wrong.
My inner critic calls me names like stupid and loser.
My inner critic compares me to others and finds me wanting.
My inner critic sets impossible standards of perfection.
My inner critic tells me that if I’m not the best, then I’m nothing.
My inner critic beats me up for the smallest mistake.
My inner critic keeps track of my failures and shortcomings.
My inner critic exaggerates my weaknesses.
My inner critic threatens to withhold love.
My inner critic attacks me with rage when I fail.
My inner critic says, “You’re a failure. So why try?”
My inner critic is especially loud when I feel pleasure, when I feel love, recognition or success.
And if my inner critic is successful, then he has produced severe anxiety in me and made me feel worthless. It’s at this point, I’m in complete bondage to this stupid, foolish, bumbling henchman and I am dragged away to be imprisoned by fear.
The problem is, I forget just how much power I actually have. A few weeks ago, I described how I was going to kick fear in the teeth, but it’s kind of hard to do when you’ve already let that inner critic have too much ground.
I’m not an expert, but I think these are very good steps:
1. Recognize the inner critic/fear’s henchman right away. Too bad he’s not cute like the Disney ones.
2. Yell right back at him. My therapist told me I can tell him to shut up. He will.
3. Concentrate on positive truths and self-affirmations. It usually takes me about four or five self-affirmations to get this inner critic to evaporate. (Yes, he evaporates. Why was I so afraid of something made of air?)
4. Get to work. I’ve been finding that this evil henchman shows up more frequently when I’m stuck on something. With a little hard work and determination, I get over the hump and he’s got nothing to stand on.
5. List all the people who do love me and build me up.
6. Recount all my victories. My inner critic, for all his nastiness, is a really bad accountant and can’t see that there are far more successes than failures.
7. Enjoy my moments of victory and accomplishment for what they are without focusing on the tiny mistakes.
8. Celebrate who I am on my journey and stop comparing myself to others.
9. Practice good self-care. I’m far less likely to hear from the evil critic henchman if I’m well rested, I’ve eaten well and I’ve exercised.
Now, to be honest, this over-simplifies the complex reasons why I have such a harsh inner critic to begin with. But I find that putting a funny metaphor to this problem, realizing what it is and taking proactive steps to keep it at bay, I have a lot less trouble with my inner critic and his stupid master, fear.
What about you? What does your inner critic say? How are you kicking fear in the teeth?