A profound realization hit me yesterday. I take everything sooooo damn seriously. For much of my life, my brutal inner critic has had a vice grip on me. This has resulted in a relentless, perfectionistic inner voice. It speaks up often when I share creative content or post opinions online. It tells me I am narcissistic and attention seeking when I make myself visible in the world. With it’s loud orders in my ear, I feel the shame of being seen. Sure, there are times when I’ve let myself play shamelessly. Some of my writing reflects that. And yet, it’s been far too easy to come down hard on myself afterwards, seeking to perfect that which started as play. My inner critic has had strong opinions about my body, my beliefs, my performance, and countless other areas of my life. No wonder I needed to numb.
But I don’t hate that critic inside me. I get it. This part of me is really a badass hero in my story. This part helped me survive a childhood with a critical, legalistic father and a traumatized mother. This inner voice tried its best to save me from my shame and pain. It taught me to perform my way out of the chaos. For that, I am grateful.
And as I’ve taken my internal family systems work with myself more seriously, connecting with my wounded childhood parts, my die-hard protector parts (like this inner critic), and my firefighter parts with their genius pain-escaping tactics, I’ve felt a massive shift inside. My inner critic and I are no longer enemies. As Jesus would have wanted, I’ve learned to love my enemy inside (Schwartz, 2001). I love it but it no longer gets to drive my life (Gilbert, 2016). It can sit in the passenger seat and make suggestions. But I am learning to embody a strong Self, call it a loving parent, that not only cares about my adult responsibilities but invites me to play and dance and joke and make mistakes and be imperfect.
So, yeah, I do have some serious things in my life that need my attention. But I am learning to ask my OCD-like perfectionism to step aside and to let myself just be me along the way. It is an experiment, not a rigid set of rules. It is freeing and it is fun.