Dear Inner Critic,
We need to talk.
This relationship isn’t working for me anymore. I know the polite thing to say is, “it’s not you, it’s me” and, “we can still be friends,” but honestly, neither one of those things are true. It is most definitely you. You constantly berate me, tease me, and put me down for everything I do. The way I act, the way I look, the way I write, the way I talk to others. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even have a conversation without you repeating what I said over and over in my head for hours thereafter; saying how I should have said this, how I definitely should not have said that, how awkward it was when I told the other person I had to leave. It’s beginning to drive me insane.
I get it – you’re just trying to protect me. You remember those times when I was young, when excluding “different” kids was the norm. You saw how painful it was for the outcasts and vowed to shield me from that pain. But, despite your best efforts, it didn’t work. It was never going to work. Everybody gets teased, everybody gets excluded, and everybody gets laughed at from time to time. And, like a diligent student, you filed away every one of these incidents for future protection. So, the next time a boy showed interest in me, you exasperatingly reminded me, “But remember that time that someone left fake love letters in your locker? Boys only pretend to like you as a joke!”
Fast forward twenty years, and you’re still hanging around like a bad song stuck in my head. Even as an adult, you are trying to protect me from straying too far from the pack in fear of me being ostracized from the group. The thing is, the more you keep me “in check”, the more insecure I become while the more insecure I become, the more I ostracize myself from that same group.
I recognize that most of this is my fault. I have never stood up to you before. I have tried to ignore you in hopes that you would take a hint and hit the road. And while you did take a hint, it was the wrong hint. You assumed that no news was good news; that if I didn’t have any complaints, everything was just fine as-is. Over the years, I may have weakly whispered my objections a time or two, but I have never come right out and told you how I felt with any conviction.
But now, it’s finally time to trade those whispers for screams. I have to tell you something, and you’re really not going to like it, but it has to be said nonetheless.
Inner critic, you are a big ol’ bitch. You’re an asshole. You’re a prick. You’re rude beyond measure. And I don’t want to be friends with you anymore.
I hate how every time I put myself out there, you rein me back in. Every time an article of mine comes out, you attach meaning to the number of likes or the number of views like it’s a litmus test for how good of a writer or person I am. I hate how every time I open up Instagram or Facebook, you remind me how I don’t measure up, how different my life is from “everybody else.”
Well guess what, asshole? I don’t want to be just like everybody else. I don’t want to spend my time questioning myself and staying the straight and narrow because I’m too afraid of what everybody else might think. I don’t want to hide my creativity and my voice just because it’s different from that of others. And I don’t want to hurry to get married, buy a house, get a 9 to 5 job, and have children just because it’s “expected” of a woman my age. Instead, I want to live the life I was put on Earth to live. I want to spread my message about mental health to others that may be living in the same personal hell I just escaped from, even if other writers do it “better” (or so you say). I want to travel the world and see beautiful places without worrying about what my body looks like in the photographs. I want to live my life so fully and so unapologetically that it scares you back to the evil place you came from. And I want to shine my light so brightly that others feel like they have permission to do the same.
So watch out, inner critic. You may win the occasional battle, but you sure as hell ain’t winning the war.
With a big hearty middle finger,