How To Silence Your Inner Critic / 4

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In the last lesson, I told you there’s hope for us all, because neuroscientists are finding plenty of evidence that we can rewire our brains.

In other words…

If we get stuck in our negative thinking, we can always create healthier patterns.

It’s never too late.

And the first step is to BECOME AWARE of our current thinking – instead of pretending it’s not there.

Make a note of the thoughts that make you uncomfortable. Nonsense ideas you may never previously have put down on paper.

When you start, you’ll find there’s a lot of it. And it keeps coming…

Mind you, the specifics change over time.

For instance: I used to think I was “too young” to do X, Y or Z.

Then, mysteriously, at a point I can’t precisely identify, I started thinking I was “too old”. It was “too late”.

Bet you had the same, no matter what your current age is.

A few years ago, I was running a workshop for a group of about 30 adults who had lost the free spirit of creativity they’d enjoyed as children.

I decided to show them my drawing of Uriah, and to read aloud the speech bubbles coming out of his head – to show the specific, shameful thoughts that troubled me at the time.

Sketch: showing my inner critic to a room full of strangers

I want to tell you that it made me extremely uncomfortable to hold up that picture in front of these strangers, and to read out those horrible specimens of self-criticism.

Part of my brain said: “Tell them ‘I’ll never be successful’! ‘I’m too old’! I can’t do that!”

But I did it anyway.

And as I looked around at the faces before me, I realised that they weren’t especially interested in my inner critic.

They were much more interested in uncovering their own.

And I’ll tell you something else that happened. Something entirely unexpected and magical:

My own ANXIETIES DISAPPEARED as soon as the words left my mouth. 

I’d let them free.

Not bad, eh? 

Having shared my own self-critical thoughts, I invited everybody to do what you’ve already done: to draw their own critic, give it a name, and list the negative thoughts. 

And I asked them to notice, as I ask YOU to notice, that the negative thoughts are always only a point of view.

Not facts.

Am I right? 

Often, people tell me I’m wrong.

They say that the reason they can’t do, or be, whatever they dream of is REAL.

A fact. 

In the next lesson, I’ll explain why that’s a mistake. An easy mistake, a tempting mistake – but still a mistake. 

Your Homework

Watch this. It’s a talk that builds on ideas from my training in theatrical impro.

The talk is called, Where Do Great Ideas Come From?

Short Answer: they just pop into our heads, and the only thing we can do to help is to get out of the way.

Longer Answer: watch the video below.

FYI, I gave the talk quite a while ago. One of the other speakers at that event was the late poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

What I remember about his talk was the wonderful observation that we only have 26 letters in the alphabet but every day we have the chance to say something we never said before.

Also: the performer immediately before me played the flute with his nostrils. (You don’t get to say that very often.)

Now, write down ONE thing that you learned from watching this.

When you’re ready, click here to start the next lesson: