Art: The Internal Critic Lies

The Internal Critic Lies – Don’t let fear have the last word
The Internal Critic Lies – Don’t let fear have the last word

13th March 2016, Prismacolor pencils on A3 cartridge paper

Alana Bosgra is an artist and one of her blog posts about the internal critic inspired this drawing. She had to do an exercise for uni where she wrote what her internal critic said to her. Then she examined the thoughts to see if there was any truth in them.

Lani’s fears included that she was incompetent, selfish, didn’t make sense, would never change, and that if people knew what she was really like, they’d reject her. My internal critic tells me I’m unlovable, I’m a bad person, I always do the wrong thing, I’m selfish, arrogant and proud, and I’m the worst person alive.

Lani could see her thoughts were false. For example, she did things for others and thought about their needs, so she wasn’t selfish all the time. But there was one thought she couldn’t shake: incompetence. She said it was a fear almost imprinted on her soul as truth. This truth sounded like: ‘Alana, it doesn’t matter how many times you are shown a task, you will always be incompetent to do it.’

I can see how my thoughts are false too. I know God loves me and that there are people who love me. I do good and selfless things sometimes, and I’m a human who is given grace and forgiveness when I get things wrong. But the one belief that feels unshakable is that I’m unlovable. The truth sounds like: ‘JD, no matter what you do, no-one will ever truly love you because you’re unlovable.’

For Lani, her fear of incompetence meant that sometimes she’d rather quit her job than be fearful of her performance at work. My fear of being unlovable means I’d sometimes rather stay away from people than be fearful of being judged or rejected.

Lani knows her fear is absurd but it doesn’t change the core belief she has about herself. This comforts me because it means I’m not the only one who has a nonsense fear I believe. I know the fear is a lie, but I still can’t shake it. I can feel guilty and want to hide it because I think people won’t understand and they’ll think I’m stupid for believing it.

But I don’t think Lani is stupid. I understand her and admire her honesty. She gives me the courage to be honest about my fears. Because maybe someone will understand and it will give them comfort and courage too. I want them to know: you’re not alone, you’re not weird, and you don’t have to keep your fears quiet.

I love how Lani ends her post. She says fears are not the full stop and she won’t let them own her. Yes, we have fears, but they don’t have to stop us. Something I’m learning is that I don’t have to wait for my fears to go away; I just have to act anyway. Feel the terror, then keep going. Be scared, but don’t hide.

Lani’s post reminds me of another post I read by the writer Allison Fallon about limiting beliefs. My three biggest limiting beliefs are:

  1. I’m a bad person
  2. I’m always doing the wrong thing
  3. I’m unlovable.

No wonder I turned to perfectionism, performance, and people pleasing to give me my worth and identity.

Allison mentions that being aware of our limiting beliefs is half the battle to overcoming them. For the longest time I never knew I had limiting beliefs. It was only when things started going wrong in my life that I started to identify unhelpful thought and behaviour patterns. Mostly I hid, avoided situations, and never tried anything new. My limiting beliefs definitely held me back.

I think the other half of the battle is to put the opposite beliefs into practice. That’s what I’m trying to work on now as I try to change my thought and behaviour patterns. So now that I’m aware of my limiting beliefs, I’m trying to replace them with liberating ones:

  • I accept myself just as I am and not some ideal future self I dream of.
  • I’m allowed to fail.
  • I love myself and I love others.
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