Banish Your Inner Critic

Just the other night I had the pleasure of attending Cascade SF, an event here in SF for creatives to network, and get one on one speed mentoring from leaders in the industry. A really awesome talk is always included at the end, with some pretty engaging themes. This time the theme was “Banish Your Inner Critic” by Denise Jacobs, an author, speaker, and creative evangelist. Jacobs has given talks at events like TedX and SXSW, so it was awesome to see her talk in such an intimate space like Cascade! If you happen to live or travel often in SF, do yourself a favor and attend a Cascade event.

Denise Jacob’s theme resonated so much with me. I’m definitely a self identified perfectionist, and I grew up with the conditioning that whatever I’m achieving is never good enough. (Cause: Asian mom) While this mentality brings out the high achiever in us, sometimes we really need a break from ourselves! Not only that, it may actually hurt our creativity. How many times have you felt a sea of dread wash over you just before you begin a project, as a result of the unrealistic expectation of yourself?

I thought I’d share some valuable advice that Denise pointed out, as I know so many creatives who struggle with their inner critic!

Denise started off her talk about getting her first big break with getting a book deal. Along with the elated excitement came the relentless voices inside her head, telling her that she wasn’t qualified enough, that someone else could do it better- that everyone would find out she was a fake!

Does that sound familiar?

After bawling (actual word used) for two days straight, Denise told us she set some crazy expectations for herself- she was going to finish her book in just four months. She worked herself crazy, and eventually burned out. She became depressed and suffered anxiety. Even worse, she couldn’t find her creative expression.

The end.

But no, wait! Realizing that fear really means “false evidence appearing real” OR “fuck everything and run!” Working off of fear gets you nowhere. This is what Jacobs learned about banishing her inner critic.

Listen for internal talk

It’s all about the language you use inside your head. Thoughts like “I’m so busy!” deepens the stress. Thinking words like “I should have done more by now” creates a mentality that you don’t have control over the situation. Try thinking “I’m going to do this much by this deadline” sets a goal, and gives the power right back to you!

Say NO to comparing yourself.

All we see when we compare ourselves is the tip of the iceberg of that person. Behind the exterior is all the icky struggle, sweat, blood, adversity, and who knows what else. The same goes for you. In this culture of social media, it’s easy to only see the very tip of the iceberg- a very crafted persona. This is your new mantra: “I will not compare myself to strangers on the internet!”

Imposter syndrome is very real.

People with imposter syndrome are actually the qualified, competent ones. Let that roll around in your head a bit. Denise gave us a great example- Jerry Seinfeld quoted, “I don’t have what these people want to see- they want to see a funny guy! That’s not me.” Jerry Seinfeld feels this way, yet he’s a legendary comedian! Remember your achievements. Have reminders of personal success at your fingertips, and be proud!

Everything must be flawless!…So I’ll do it tomorrow.

Sound like you? Perfectionism and procrastination is like a feedback loop. They feed off each other! Perfectionists focus on the finished product, rather than the process. A great experiment between two groups of pottery students articulate the fault of perfectionism so perfectly. The experiment divided pottery students into two groups- one group was given the task to create a single perfect pot.  The other group was tasked with creating as many pots as they could! While the first group suffered anxiety from the expectation and came out with nothing, the second group, through all the practice, came out with beautiful pottery.

You have nothing to prove to anybody.

Decouple your performance from who you are! And remember, fear is not real. Embrace failure, because that’s how you learn. Everything comes from humble beginnings.

Check out and look out for her new book, “Banish Your Inner Critic” coming out soon!

For more insight on what Denise shared with us at Cascade, you can view her slide presentation here.

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