As I pause to write this blog, I’m in two minds. I know precisely what I don’t want it to be, which is the flip side to what I normally feel when I write a blog. My inner critic is saying ‘you don’t want to write this blog, it’ll be rubbish and nobody will read it..’ and so it goes on.
I’ve written previously about my depression, because I believe that being open about mental health issues is a good thing, and that any remaining taboo around them frankly is in need of decimating in the swiftest way possible! I think one of the impacts of this for me is that there is no real ‘cure’ as such, I have just got better at recognising the signs and deploying the constructive coping mechanisms that I have. I quite often have to switch off, as overthinking is one of my favourite things to do (if you sort that one, then please do let me know!!!)
So a couple of weeks ago I had a real dip, began to really doubt myself. I also think one of the skills I have developed is to distinguish between the ebbs and flows of every day life, where it is perfectly natural for my mood to fluctuate (often on a Saturday afternoon at about 5pm after my beloved Sheffield Wednesday have invariably lost) and what might be a bit more of something to keep an eye on.
When it is the latter, that inner critic of mine really gets going. Though I can only speak from my personal experience, I think its particularly easy for the inner critic to speak up where my impairment is concerned. When you have the mind of a 35 year old, and the body of a pensioner, often the brain is willing, but the body is not. The flip side of this is that I’ve become particularly adept at solving problems and finding solutions to this, even if its just not straying far from bed at the weekend.
The trouble with my inner critic is this: It is exhausting! When I was 21, I was lucky enough to get into Cambridge. There was a myth that was particularly prevalent there (and to be fair, in lots of other places too probably!) which we called the ‘imposter syndrome.’ Someone would come up, tap you on the shoulder, and let you know that there had been some terrible administrative mistake, and you shouldn’t be here after all.
I took my imposter syndrome with me, and have only really got to grips with it a few years ago. I had told myself for a long time that when I got my PhD, I would have all the validation I needed. Truth is, it was only after then that I had a bit of a eureka moment and found that my certificate didn’t in fact come with a gold plated key to wisdom. True validation was something that had to come from within and that I had to train myself and work on.
Which brings me back to a few days ago. My inner critic wouldn’t shut up, and I knew I had to change things a bit. My standards are infinitely high dear reader. This is no bad thing, but I needed to change my approach. I needed to be more compassionate with myself. I needed to start to re-recognise the good things. To take time to be grateful for them again rather than taking them for granted.
So I started each day with a list of the positives and ignored the inner critic. I close each day with listing the things that had gone well, that I had to be grateful for, and which I was looking forward to tomorrow. The inner critic is still there, and probably always will be, and has its place. I need to use it to drive me on to better things, rather than coming up with reasons to help me stop from even attempting them. It’s definitely a work in progress, but one that I feel better for having started 🙂 My questions for the day are now as follows:
- Morning: What have you got to be thankful for. List at least 3 things if you can
- Through the day: Notice your ‘wins’ – what have you accomplished? Write those things down and tick them off!
- At the end: Think about what you have worked on – and what has been developed. What have you achieved? List at least 3
Still the trepidation as I hover over the publish button for this post. As you read this, you know that my inner critic has taken a back seat on this one.
I offer this blog to everyone else with an inner critic that needs to be put in its place from time to time. It can be done 🙂