At The Thought Co, we have this practice of writing a blog every month. I found that it was something I was very excited about because I wasn’t new to blog writing. “This should be easy”, is what I thought, however, what caught me off guard was the unanticipated anxiety and inner critic struggles that emerged when I donned on the garb of a professional.
“With great power comes great responsibility" is what they say (okay fine, it was Uncle Ben from Spiderman). But for me, along with the responsibility of writing professionally came a lot of self doubt. I would often get pulled into a cycle of feeling unsure of myself and expressing my thoughts. I'd worry if I am hurting sentiments, or if my views are even intelligent or smart enough.
The critic often threatened me with potential rejection; a threat that was so potent that I would over-censor myself to a degree where I would disconnect from what my perspectives and emotions were. This obviously didn't help with any form of clarity, and I ended up feeling more confused and scattered. The scary truth was that I couldn't recognise my voice amidst what I should or should not say.
I know I am not alone when it comes to experiencing this feeling; these moments where we feel paralysed with the commentary that flows through our inner voice. Maybe you've heard those loud voices, too – the ones that might not sound quite like your own. They may come from encounters you have with family, friends, or even people at work - and suddenly - you find it informing the running commentary in your head that starts to scrutinise literally everything you do. On good days, we can challenge it, but on the not-so-good ones, we might bend to the pressure it exerts.
Writing is a solo act; it’s just you and your thoughts. For me, it was a front row seat to what I liked to call ‘the one man show of my inner critic’. While I really wanted to run away from this activity because of the discomfort it brought, I realised that writing might also be the…cure.
We all crave clarity, right? Writing - even when it is a confused, convoluted mess - helps us gain perspective over our thoughts. Our confusion might be on paper, but we can always take a step back to edit, rewrite and ask ourselves what we really want to say. So, as chaotic as it sometimes may feel, it is also a way to help untangle the chaos.
However, showing this mess to others was scary, I was afraid that they would concur with my inner critic struggles and thus, its prophecy of potential rejection (and gut wrenching ridicule) would be fulfilled. It took me some (read: a lot of) time to accept and stand up to this critical inner voice and tell myself that being unfinished is (and will always be) okay. And contrary to my internal criticism, my colleagues were really kind and supportive.
It is still difficult to discern what my "true voice" is. I know that the pressure to craft perfectly articulated sentences from the get go doesn't help me find it. That is the standard of my inner critic (it seems to want me to reach for a Pulitzer when what I want to focus on is just writing a blog). I don't fight it any more; I recognise the space of insecurity it comes from and its attempt to be extra careful; much like an overprotective, highly anxious parent. What do I do instead?
Now I make space for the anxiety, try to trim down my expectations, and constantly remind myself that I am not the kind of writer my critic expects me to be. What I discovered was that my “true voice” is actually a process that can be rather chaotic; and writing, rewriting, and asking for feedback helps me find the order within it and also connect with what I really want to say.
My internal critic guides me to “strive for perfection”, while earlier my interpretation of this was that imperfection was intolerable,potentially threatening and must be avoided.
Now, I learn from it.