Punching my Inner Critic in the Face: An Interview and a New Project

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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24 Comments

  1. Isn’t it great when you startle the lizard brain with a quick, inspired action? The thing that’s also worked for me is talking to it directly. Here’s the thing – it wants something positive for us even if it’s covered up by all the fear based chatter!

    Either way, love the image of the lizard being stunned into silence. Great post Raam!

    Sandi

    • Hey Sandi! I think quick action is important. The sooner we begin, the less time we have to doubt ourselves!

      That’s not to say that we should always blindly take action, but when the risk is so small and there’s no reason to wait, we shouldn’t stall (for example, there’s basically no risk in starting a free ebook project, so stalling, thinking, and postponing it would’ve done more harm than good!).

  2. The sentences that leaped out for me were your statements that say we are already changing the world simply by existing, but the question is whether it’s for the better or the worse. That is a profound question for regular contemplation….oh and action too! I also like your powerful way of reframing instead of “thinking” to “know.”

    Your ebook will be dynamite.

    • Thank you, Sandra!

      I think it’s quite powerful to realize that whether we choose to do anything about it or not, we’re already changing the world! Keeping that in mind throughout the day and simply asking ourselves if what we’re doing has a positive or negative effect should help us make more sustainable choices.

  3. Listened to the interview — it was great. (Actually, it is good to hear what people sound like; these virtual relationships forsake things like the sound of someone’s voice — so much a part of a person…).

    You are ABSOLUTELY right — we are all changing the world just by existing. The sad part is that so many are not aware enough to realize this, let alone harness that power and amplify it. Oh, the thought of what that could bring…

    But it is happening. Few would deny feeling that sense of great change. Our responsibility — those of us who are trying to harness that awesome awareness of being — is to do all we can to reach as many as well can. Maybe it’s all part of that Great Turning… 😉

    Can’t wait for the ebook. Been thinking about that avenue quite a bit myself. Be well and talk soon!

    • Thank you, Bill! I’m happy you enjoyed the interview! 🙂

      I agree that not enough of us are aware how our actions are affecting the world. In fact, even those of us who are aware don’t necessarily know to what extent our actions affect the world. I certainly don’t have all the answers or understand how all my actions translate into changes in the world, but that’s what I’m working towards understanding.

      I also don’t think everybody needs to fully understand the whole process to start making a positive difference. And that’s what I hope to help others accomplish with the new ebook!

      I really appreciate all the great work you’re doing on your blog. Thank you!

    • He’s good at hiding! Just don’t spend too much time playing a cat-and-mouse game with him. You’re the one who is in control, not him. Letting your inner critic run you in circles only helps promote his mission of wasting your time!

  4. Hi Raam,
    Great article. I think you came across very calm and composed w/Hulbert. I’m glad you knocked your inner critic out cold!

    Just yesterday I caught myself having a conversation in my head where I was saying: Who are you kidding? All you’ve ever wanted to do was write a book, but you never seem seem to start, so how will you ever finish? I wish I’d read your post earlier I would realized all my lizard needed to shut-up was to be hit over the head with a rock.

    After knocking my lizard senseless I need to say: Just do it!

    If you need any help on the ebook – let me know – a little comatose lizard has inspired me to take action today.

    • Hi Angela! Thank you so much for the comment. 🙂

      Sometimes starting is the most difficult part of taking action. Once we’ve started, there is a certain inertia that keeps us going — it becomes easier to keep going than to stop. At least that’s what I’ve discovered!

      I’m so happy this post helped and I hope you keep that lizard pinned down!

      I would love to have your contribution to the ebook. I will send you an email with details!

  5. I am writing this as I am listening to your interview. First of all, Mister, you have done videos on your blog and they have turned out great!!! Just great. I think I have told you about them.
    The interview is great so far. You sound natural, sincere, kind and approachable. I love it. Really good job. I’ll tell you more on Hulbert’s page.
    As for this project you are starting, I find it very exciting and love to participate and help you with such a worthy cause.
    Great approach on handling that nasty inner critic, thanks for the reminders!

    • Thank you, Farnoosh! Your support, energy, and love seep through the interweb’s and your comments are always uplifting and motivational. 🙂

      I can’t wait to see your contribution to the ebook!

  6. Very empowering stuff. Way to kick your inner critic’s ass. And, I’m with Farnoosh, I’d love to help with your new project if you need anything at all. Enjoying your blog, your energy and your adventures very much.

  7. So true about that nasty inner critic! I love the idea of your ebook. I think that so many people want to change the world for the better, but don’t realize the small ways they can make changes in their own behaviors to start doing it. The cumulative effect of many people making small changes is huge. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  8. Raam, Glad to finally find your blog. I’m not sure what took me so long, but here I am. I’m looking forward to learning about your e-book and more about your mission!

    My inner critic lurks, but has been staying quiet lately. I love bringing an idea into action even before I know exactly what I’m doing. There’s always time to plan, and I find that if I just move forward, things fall into place.

    Take Care,
    Courtney

    • Hi Courtney! Thank you so much for connecting!

      Our inner critic can best be controlled through immediate action. And just like turning ideas into immediate action I think it’s important to battle negativity with positive action as well! The moment we have a negative thought, we should immediately turn it around and respond with a positive action. That gives our inner critic no time to revel in self-doubt, pity, and negativity.

  9. Can’t wait for the ebook – and great that you’ve given yourself (and us!) a tight deadline. I’d love to help format but I guess you’re on top of that anyway 🙂

    My inner critic is also an asshole. As soon as I find him I’m going to total him too. (quick – there he is!)

  10. Raam, very well put. I believe the inner critic is our worst enemy. There have been so many moments in my life where I listened to the inner critic and never followed through on something that would have surely been an amazing thing to do. I look back on those times and kick myself. The past is the past, and I try to make it a point not to let the critic get the best of me in the present.

    • Hey Eli, thanks for dropping by!

      I think that last part you said is so important: The past is past. There is no point in spending time feeling bad for ourselves over missed opportunities or things would “could have done”. If we keep in mind that the past exists for no other purpose than to teach us a lesson, and if we avoid getting emotionally entangled by it, we can make the best of the present moment by using the past as a giant stepping stone to propel us forward.

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