Inner Critic Lessons From Scooby Doo
BY ANNA CAMPOS, RPA
"Scooby doo taught us that the real monsters are humans…If that's not deep I don't know what is.”
A not-so-fun fact: Car washes give me deep anxiety.
The massive wrap-around brushes are reminiscent of the monsters I hid from as a child, and as they close in on the car I feel trapped. That childlike fearfulness stems from not knowing what will happen if the “bad guys” get to you. It’s a textbook case of the fear-of-the-unknown.
Internally, I become frustrated when I don’t understand a concept at work. I am fearful of rejection. Of not doing something right the first time. Of people losing faith in my ability to perform. Because I am new to the industry and whole job-with-a-401k-thing, I feel it’s my duty to dive in and learn as quickly as possible. My coworkers are helpful. My supervisor is supportive. The culture of RPA Advertising is People First for goodness’ sake! And yet this unnerving pressure to perform at an “exceeds expectations” level is coming from within myself. I am completely and utterly my own worst critic—and don’t I know it.
My parents know it too. My mother is constantly telling me I’m too hard on myself. While I show no shortage of asking questions as work, I have a hard time asking for help in my personal life. I like feeling independent, but it can sometimes be hindering rather than helpful. Ok. So how do I fix this?
I’ve been living alone for the last eight months and it has been one of the most challenging (in a good way) things I’ve done in the last year. In college, I was around people 25/8. I lived in a 70-person sorority house for two and a half years, and lived with three roommates the remainder of the time. It was hard for me to be alone and focus on mindfulness and internal growth. I did not realize how desperate I was for solitude until I had it. And it’s been an amazing self-reflection period thus far.
A sort-of-fun fact: I am a compulsive book-buyer.
Ever heard of Elizabeth Gilbert? She is the number-one New York Times best-selling author of Eat Pray Love (it was turned into a major-motion picture). She also wrote the phenomenal Big Magic, which is one of my new favorite books. I’ve included an excerpt of my most coveted quotation from it. I hope you find it as moving as I did.
“Let me list for you some of the many ways in which you might be afraid to live a more creative life: You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored. You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it. You’re afraid somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else already did it better. You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark. You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously. You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life. You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing. You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of work space, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of training or degree. You’re afraid you’re too fat. (I don’t know what this has to do with creativity, exactly, but experience has taught me that most of us are afraid we’re too fat, so let’s just put that on the anxiety list, for good measure.) You’re afraid of being exposed as a hack, or a fool, or a dilettante, or a narcissist. You’re afraid of upsetting your family with what you may reveal. You’re afraid of what your peers and coworkers will say if you express your personal truth aloud. You’re afraid of unleashing your innermost demons, and you really don’t want to encounter your innermost demons. You’re afraid your best work is behind you. You’re afraid you never had any best work to begin with. You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back. You’re afraid you’re too old to start. You’re afraid you’re too young to start. You’re afraid because something went well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again. You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why bother trying? You’re afraid of being a one-hit wonder. You’re afraid of being a no-hit wonder.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Managing that inner critic is not about locking the monsters away in the attic of your brain. If that were the case, you’d still be afraid that one night they might escape.
Managing that inner critic is about coming to terms with your fears and cutting them out of picture for good. It doesn’t happen overnight. For me, I’m still in the (very) beginning stages. When do we start to see progress? I think it comes with time—and actively pursuing improvement.