How To Silence Your Inner Critic / 7

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Somebody once asked me why we even have an inner critic.

I don’t really know, but I guess it’s an internalised expression of our tribe – there to stop us doing things that might get us rejected, cast out.

It’s like our own internal PR department, working 24/7 to ensure that nobody thinks we’re mad, bad or wrong.

Let me tell you what happened to me in Mexico.

I went to talk at a big conference, with some REALLY famous people. People like Liz Gilbert, who wrote Eat Pray Love, which was turned into a film starring Julia Roberts. Werner Herzog, the movie director. A superstar US comedian called Sarah Jones. The woman who created the TV series Orange Is The New Black, based on her own experience being in prison…

And her husband, who was portrayed in the TV series too. Really nice guy, IRL.

And – oh, a LOT of others. This was just the group I walked with towards lunch on the first day…

…whereupon something grabbed my attention.

I gave my camera phone to one of my Very Famous Friends, and walked towards the thing.

I hadn’t really thought what I was doing. Just imagined it might make a nice little clip to send to my daughter.

But in less than a minute I had made the most terrific fool of myself.

And my friend, the husband from Orange Is The New Black, had filmed it all from start to finish.

I’ll show you in a little while…

After lunch, I went back to my room. I still hadn’t worked out what I was actually going to talk about, when my turn came on the following day.

What did I have to tell 5,000 highly motivated Mexicans that Liz and Werner and the rest couldn’t tell them much better than I could?

I sat on my bed and looked at my phone.

Opened the camera roll…

When I first watched the raw, unedited footage I felt like I might die of shame. Even sitting there in my room.

Then I watched it a few more times – and discovered that I still might die of shame.

What to do?

I decided to show it my audience, the very next day – 5,000 people looking for tips on how to change the world, at La Ciudad de las Ideas, in Mexico.

A bit like the time I showed that drawing of my inner critic.

Might do me good. Might help me to throw off something…

And so that’s what I did.

On stage, before asking the producers to play the clip, I pointed out to my huge audience that sometimes speakers like me talk boldly about the need to “take risks” and “embrace failure”.

Well, I said, I don’t want anybody to think that taking risks is easy, or that failure doesn’t hurt.

It can be painful, not just at the time, but also when you look back.

And then the film started. They had no idea what they were going to see, and at the point in the film when I fell on my face, I heard 5,000 people gasp.


I started to feel just the tiniest bit better already.

Then the host of the event, Andrés Roemer, asked if I minded showing the film a second time. Sure, why not, because I’ve died already, I said.

This time the sound that hit me was 5,000 people laughing.

And that was OK too. I was starting to see the funny side of it myself.

So in the long run, failure may turn out not to be so bad. In fact, with enough distance, it may not even feel like failure.

And it might possibly be helpful to share your so-called “failures”, because if everybody hides them, then each of us, individually, gets to feel that failure only happens to us.

We all hide away in our room, flushed with shame. Nobody DOES anything.

I expect you want to see that footage now…

Well, here it is. The first bit shows the raw, uncut film. Then I did some stuff using a film editor, patched it together and stuck it on YouTube.

(Note: it took me more than a year to dare to make it public.)

1 min 57 secs

Your Homework

What’s your most embarrassing failure?

What happened? Who knows about it?

In what way could it help other people to know about it? How could it help you?

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