In the history of time, the ability to laugh at ourselves has perhaps never been stronger than it is right now.
Humiliation and embarrassment, once things that were to be kept hidden, are proudly displayed. Memes of awkward faces, self-admissions of clumsiness, and disparaging comments directed toward the self are the norm. It’s great that society has become increasingly comfortable with its flaws and imperfection, that it even celebrates these awkward moments with humor.
But with that comes a dark side.
It’s almost a little too easy to disparage ourselves these days. The inner critic has never been louder. When we compare our creative endeavors to the thousands of inspired works that surround us, it can be overwhelming. It can make us feel like our work doesn’t matter, or that it’s not good enough. Or even worse: that our work can’t be good enough, no matter how hard we try. We’re constantly on Facebook, where people often place a “reality-distortion filter” on their posts, presenting their lives as far better and more perfect than they actually are. We wander around bookstores and read book jackets, marveling at the beautiful covers and complex storylines of recently published books. We tell ourselves we’re so far away from sharing our creative work with the public, that whatever project we’re working on is permanently flawed and doomed.
I woke up this morning thinking about respect. It’s been a rather gloomy few weeks, creatively speaking, and I’ve been quick to disparage myself and my work. It hurts my heart to even open Scrivener and look at my current draft in revision. Whatever subconscious burdens my mind worked through last night as I slept, it came to the conclusion before waking that what I lacked was not creative ideas. What I lacked was respect for my work and all I had written and revised since beginning my current manuscript last fall.
Respect? I’d never even thought about it. The idea seemed so touchy-feely. But as I sipped my coffee and silently crunched my cereal in the quiet kitchen, I thought more about it. I had disrespected my work as of late. I had disparaged all of the ideas that came to me. I had let my inner critic become louder than my creative voice. It was no wonder I’ve been feeling stuck. I wasn’t lacking ideas. I lacked respect of the ideas that trickled in every day and were quickly silenced by that most brutal of gatekeepers–the critic.
Most people would never allow someone in their home who openly disrespected them. So why do I allow my inner critic to follow me around the house, day after day, whispering negative comments in my ear as I write, as I play with my children, as I try to relax in the sanctuary of my home? If my inner critic took a physical form, I would have him arrested! I have to make the decision to open the door and push him out. He is not welcome here anymore.
This year I’d like to enter a place of respect. To know that my ideas and my drafts aren’t final, that ideas will flow in but things won’t always go as expected. I have to respect the process, to accept that everything is in progress and headed for a shinier version of itself.