It's so easy to be our own worst critic. When I was recently asked to do my first Skype interview, I immediately thought back to my teenage struggles of talking on the phone.
I felt fear build up inside me as I recalled how nervous and unsure of myself I used to feel. I remembered the fear of being laughed at or of saying the wrong thing.
Now I was going to talk on the phone for thirty minutes while being recorded?
Since those days as a teenager, I've held several jobs that required talking on the phone. I learned to manage those fears and not let them get in my way of getting things done.
But this was my first Skype interview -- the first time I had recorded something that was intended to be shared with the public. That gave my inner critic new ammunition to generate fear and self-doubt.
The entire time I was doing the interview, my inner critic was sitting there telling me that I sounded stupid. Every time I said umm or fumbled with my words, my inner critic laughed at me.
But I knew that if I let him have his way, I wouldn't be doing the interview at all. I wanted to do this interview, so I ignored him. I didn't listen to anything he had to say.
I realized afterward that my perception of how the interview went was clouded by the opinions of my inner critic.
I thought when I finally got to hear the intervew that I would sound horrible. I thought that I probably talked too fast, interrupted too often, or otherwise made it obvious that I was nervous on the phone.
And then when I got to hear the interview I discovered that all those fears were unfounded.
The interview turned out fine.
In fact, listening to it for the first time, I felt like I wasn't even listening to myself. It felt as if the person talking in the interview was doing a much better job than the person I believed myself to be.
My inner critic wanted me to believe that I wasn't even capable of doing a decent job on the phone. And I had believed him.
Our inner critic wants us to crawl into a corner and die quietly. It wants us to play it safe, follow orders, and do what everybody else is doing. It doesn't want us to do anything important with our life and only wants us to ask questions when it's too late to take action.
When we want to do something we're unskilled at, our inner critic wants us to believe we can't do it. When we have a great idea, it's our inner critic that tells us the idea is worthless or impossible or that we're stupid for even thinking of it.
In his book Linchpin (aff), Seth Godin refers to the inner critic as our "lizard brain" -- the part of us that doesn't want us to accomplish anything because accomplishing nothing guarantees a safer route.
It's the part of our brain that wants us to sit on our hands and use our imagination to live out our life.
Would you rather do something with your life or watch it pass you by like a dream?
Would you rather die quietly or die valiantly?
The less action you take, the more breathing room you're giving your inner critic.
Action guarantees a win-win situation because you're either accomplishing something or you're making a mistake that you can learn from. Inaction, on the other hand, guarantees you lose. Prove your inner critic wrong through action.
Every time you take action, you punch your lizard brain in the face.
Every time you take action, you win.
We all have greatness inside of us. We're all capable of changing the world. We all have the potential to make a difference in the lives of those who need it the most. The only missing piece is action.
It doesn't require volunteering at a homeless shelter, donating large sums of money, or becoming a minimalist and renouncing the modern world (although there's definitely nothing wrong with any of those).
Each one of us is changing the world just by existing.
But to what extent are we changing the world? Is our existence having a positive effect or a negative effect?
As I spend weeks and months living in a third world country, these are questions I find myself asking more and more each day.
What small changes can we make in our daily lives that will have a net-positive effect on the world as a whole?
To help answer that question, I've punched my lizard brain in the face once again. I've started a project for a free ebook that will contain ways you can start having a positive effect on the world today. I plan to release this book before the end of the month.
I reached out to the blogging community last night and asked for help putting this book together. My inner critic was dead silent. I was turning an idea into action so quickly that I had left him speechless.
It was my turn to laugh.
If my inner critic had his way, the idea for this ebook would have remained just that: another idea. I wouldn't have done that Skype interview with Hulbert and I certainly wouldn't be writing this post on punching my inner critic in the face.
Instead of thinking you're capable of greatness, know you're capable of greatness. Instead of thinking that you will change the world, know that you will change the world. Instead of thinking about action, take action.
Change begins with you. Action starts now. Go ahead, give your inner critic a black eye.