Loving my inner critic.

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Hey, just a heads-up: I’ll be leading an in-person New Year’s Desire Map workshop in NYC the first weekend of January 2018. Set goals for the new year that don't make you feel dead inside! Healer and writer Diana Stahl will be my co-captain. $100 off registration if you sign up before Christmas; more info here.


I had the thought to write a post on Thanksgiving. To share some resources about the actual roots of the holiday (like this map, which shows you which Native tribe occupied the land you live on, or this Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving), but also some resources about gratitude - like all the health and emotional benefits, how gratitude practices actually physically change your brain, or my favorite gratitude practice - and also to reflect on the difficulty of holding all the contradictions of a single holiday at once.

I didn’t write it.
I was hosting my first-ever Friendsgiving and there just kept being more grocery shopping and cooking and cleaning to do.
(Mostly we just kept running out of butter. Never underestimate how much butter is involved in Thanksgiving.)

I also thought I’d get All The Things done over the holiday weekend, because everyone else would be traveling or with family and no one would expect anything from me so I’d get tons of work done.

This also did not happen. I got maybe Two Things done instead of All The Things.

In fact, the amount of things in an average week that I think I’m going to do, versus what I actually get done, is a pretty lopsided ratio. I am a perpetual disappointment to myself.

So, let’s talk about inner critics for a second.

My inner critic is very, very good at her job - and she got to WORK this past weekend:

You know, if you actually focused for once in your life, you wouldn’t have failed to deliver yet again. Maybe you just don’t want it bad enough. Maybe you should just let that one go. You took a whole week to respond to her? She probably thinks you’re an asshole. You kind of are an asshole for taking a whole week to respond to her.

And that's not even close to her best work. You should've seen her when I was a teenager: None of these people like you. You don't actually have any real friends. You know how to bullshit people but you're not actually smart. (Have you seen the Bojack Horseman episode, "Stupid Piece of Shit"? It was kind of like that.)

My inner critic is a hustler. She never takes a day off.

My inner critic is focused, dedicated, and always ready to jump in.

Do I sound like I admire my inner critic?
Honestly, I kind of do.

Because here’s the thing:
I cannot separate myself from my inner critic.

She’s as much a part of me as the parts that I’m proud of.
She’s as much a part of me as the part that writes plays or novels or notes like this.
She’s as much a part of me as the part that loves people.
She’s as much Mariah as anything else inside me.

And here’s the other thing:

My inner critic is just trying to protect me.

Wut? Yes, really. She doesn’t want me to fail. She doesn’t want me to embarrass myself. She doesn’t want me to feel the sting of shame or rejection or other people’s criticism. Better to criticize myself first and beat everyone else to the punch. Better to quit than to fail.

Does that mean I should listen to what she has to say?
FUCK NO.

But she’s still a part of me. And as such, if I’m gonna preach about self-love, I kinda have to love her.

Bessel Van der Kolk’s mind-blowing book The Body Keeps the Score taught me that even our “worst” habits and tendencies all started with our brains just trying to take care of us.

Through that incredible book (which I recommend to literally every adult human), I also learned about Internal Family Systems, or IFS. IFS is a fancy name for the complex network of our subpersonalities, the various parts of each of us that interact with all the other parts. A Manager, maybe, who focuses on maintaining control. Or a Firefighter who shows up in emergencies, who’s willing to flood the metaphorical house in order to stop it from burning down.

These different players might sabotage us sometimes, but all of them came into existence because there was a need for them at the time.

So, my inner critic might say things that I find intrusive, but she is not an intruder.
She’s just a misguided gal trying to look out for me.

I could tell her to shut the fuck up, and I have. But it doesn’t work. Because that’s just criticism on top of criticism, and then I’m just making her bigger and stronger and louder.

Here’s what I find helpful to say instead:

“Thank you for your service. You’ve worked so hard. Would you like to take a nap?”

And in my mind’s eye, I literally guide my inner critic to a nap corner like it’s preschool, and I wrap her in a blanket so she feels safe, and I let her get all cozy and sleepy.

And I go about my business.
 

Other goodies from around the Internet:

  • I just discovered anti-capitalist money coach and queer femme witch Sophie Macklin and I am in love.

  • Also, I love Monica Lewinsky.
     
  • The Making Gay History podcast is making my life lately. Interviews with sooo many legends! Sylvia Rivera! Larry Kramer! Ellen! And folks I didn’t know but probably should have!
     
  • If you don’t have the Leslie Odom Jr. Christmas album in your life already, fix that.

Lastly:

I’m looking to take on another coaching client this calendar year. There’s one more month to lock in my lower 2017 rate, even if your series continues into 2018. If you’ve been considering coaching, I’d love to chat with you about it - no charge, and no pressure. More details about my offerings here.

Sending you so much love,
Mariah

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