Being a recovering perfectionist, I am intimately familiar with the inner tyrant. Perfectionism is my creativity’s evil step-sister and robs the joy of who I am and what I do.... if I'm not equipped with a strategy. Those are big crimes in the realm of being a creative seeker. My inner tyrant committee (cuz there are several) likes to regularly remind me of total mess-ups from my past, how I sometimes squander my time away, and what an organization Neanderthal I am (I hope I haven’t offended an Neanderthals).
I figured out how to be free from her looping oppressive ruminations and party-pooping but it’s a little different from much of the self-help gristle you’ve heard, so stay with me here unless you’re enjoying the harassment. Making a change has to be done in a realistic way or it will stick as well as throwing a basketball at a refrigerator.
I've read the self-help books that tell you to stop being mean to yourself, heard the talks, perused the inspirational quotes ... but nothing really gave me any method I could truly believe in, or that resonated with who I am. Just telling us to stop cold-turkey is wildly unrealistic but that's what they do.
I want to share what I figured out for myself because I know most of you are hard on yourselves and when we are hard on ourselves, we are hard on others too. This is my contribution to world peace. I'm sure this is not an original philosophy, it's a little of this, a little of that, and a pair of new socks.
See if this works for you:
1. Here’s the reality: As humans we often come with this feature: Looking for what’s wrong. It’s a primitive survival function but we still need it when roaming the back-streets of Detroit, eating food that’s made of crap, or sensing someone is not rallying for our best interest. It also helps at the end of a creative project when we need to be appropriately discerning … but the inner tyrant operates over-time, bonking us on the head with disapproval, judgment, and a lot of sarcastic “REALLY?s” It’s related to the Tasmanian devil in terms of creative destructiveness. It’s also fascinating and would make a great character in a movie.
2. Why fight with reality? Using your energy to stop “stinkin’ thinkin,” (oo, what an ugly term), censor your critic, or tell it to fuck off is using energy you could be using to create something else (I’ll get to “something else” in a minute). Plus when you are censoring, fucking off, and alienating - you are doing that to yourself. Your inner critic IS a part of you, SUrPrISE! Review: Self-love is needed for creativity.
We need all parts of ourselves for creating – the shadows and the light. We can still love ourselves and accept there are some parts of ourselves that we aren't fond of . Accepting that we DON’T love all parts is a lot like compassion. (I’ll explain more about that conundrum in a minute). In new age circles, I think this saying is dumb: “You can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought.” WE THINK NEGATIVE THOUGHTS. WE ARE HUMAN. I believe this phrase, “What you resist, persists.” Resist the inner critic and she persists and brings in her friends, relatives, flying-monkeys, and jet-packs.
3. Something else: Create art, writing, contentment, whimsical gardens, fantastic dinners but first create a realistic, small-step approach to acceptance and compassion. Here’s how it works REALISTICALLY:
When you catch yourself beating yourself up, pause. Say to yourself, “That’s interesting, I’m beating myself up again. Oh well, I’m human we do those things.” DON’T TRY AND STOP IT.. that’s resisting! Sometimes for me that’s enough to neutralize the tyrant.
4. Accept. You don’t need to accept that you’re a self-beater, but you’re with yourself quite often, so experiment with accepting that you do beat yourself up sometimes and you DON’T like that. We perfectionists think things need to be perfect, that we need to LIKE everything we do … we don’t. But when we ACCEPT that what we do isn’t always the way we want it, life is a lot easier. This is a way not to resist, suppress or deny our tyrant, it neutralizes it. We aren’t perfect… YAY. How boring to be perfect.
5. Interesting People in Your Club (for sensitive people like me): I used to think I needed to abandon places, groups, and events if there was someone I didn’t like there. I almost left my favorite Toastmasters club because a woman in it doesn’t like me, she will never like me, I’m not that fond of her either. We don’t need to like everyone nor do we need to even try to work things out… takes too much energy we need for the people and activities we love. The club has actually become more interesting now that I stay despite that fact that she makes it clear she doesn’t like me. It’s now full of freedom and rich layers of character.
The club inside my mind has a resident tyrant, I don’t like her either, but she can be there if she wants because now instead of being controlled by her or repressing her, I’m curious, fascinated, and not under her dictatorship. I hear her talk, tell her "Thanks for sharing" and then I engage my Muses (explained in #6). I accept that not all parts of me are likable, some are annoying but interesting, just like my Toastmasters "friend".
6. The Creative Voice But there’s another important step. This one is vital. After the awareness of the tyrant,
after the acceptance and the inclusion of this part of you, summon up your kind and creative voices. These are the voices I call Muses because they inspire creativity. Say to yourself things like:
- You may not be perfect but your damn interesting.
- It’s okay, I’m always here for you.
- So? Next!
- Or anything you might say to your best friend or a gifted creative child.
Say these things CONSTANTLY. Write them on notes, put them in pockets, schedule a future e-card, ask yourself: "How will I remember this?". The only way they will stick is through repetition and ...
8. Making it Realistic
What makes this more realistic? Expecting small steps toward these things works better than making a big change when you’ve spent years cultivating your tyrant and this is how you do that: Accept that you are someone who has a tyrant just 5%, just crack the door open to the possibility. No need to be okay with your tyrant just accept that you’re human and have one. Going for a 100% acceptance will just not work and you’ll have a tendency to give up on the practice completely.
Ask: What would it feel like to be more accepting of myself? JUST ASK.. no need for an answer in the moment. Your subconscious will start finding an answer, and the more you ask it, the more you just might find that you are just effortless gravitating toward treating yourself better.
7. Buy Yourself A Comfortable Pair of Socks
It’s a symbolic gesture, feels kind, and you deserve them. You're enough just the way you are. Is your inner critic poo pooing that last remark? So? Be enough anyway.
(C) 2018 Jill Badonsky