Why your critics aren’t the ones who count

My daughter shared a YouTube video last week and when I watched it I knew it was the right time for me to be doing so. It’s all about dealing with the inner critical voice, by Brene Brown. And the message is specifically aimed at those who create.


As I watched it while eating breakfast I started to make notes on the back of an envelope. I hope they make sense to me now as I type them up. They are the take-away notes from the speaker for me, at this time as I feel vulnerable and a bit scared about my book, Are We There Yet? being published later this year. My book is my story, my inner journey of faith and healing and as such it is very personal and at times laying myself bare. Dare I do this? And if I do dare, why? It isn’t to draw attention to myself – “hey! Look at me! Aren’t I great?” No, it is to point to Jesus and say “hey! Look at Him! Isn’t He great?”

And I am sharing this now in the hope that if you are a creative person that you will find it helpful

CRITICS DON’T COUNT – Theodore Roosevelt:

I believe my book contributes to a worthy cause.

Brene uses the image of an arena and the gladiators putting on their armour before entering. We know that if we are going into the arena with our creativity then we will probably feel fear, self doubt, comparison, anxiety and uncertainty. One way of dealing with it is to put on our armour against the critics and the fears. However, armour is heavy and suffocating. It actually shuts us off from the very thing that we have to offer – our vulnerability.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, trust, empathy, creativity and innovation.

VULNERABILITY is showing up and being seen

When we go into the arena we know the critics will be there and so we need to be aware of what they will say.

There are 4 seats that will always be taken. Three will always be taken by – Shame, Scarcity and Comparison.

Shame will say – ‘who do you think you are, show off?’ or ‘you are not good enough’

Scarcity will say ‘what are you doing that is original?’ ‘Does it matter, what are you contributing?’ ‘There’s plenty of others who are better qualified than you’

Comparison will always point out that others are better than you.

The fourth seat will be taken by that person from your past that you were never enough for: parent, teacher, ex co-worker.

Brene suggests that we acknowledge the critics and say to them “I see you, I hear you, and I’m going to do it. I’m not interred in your feedback. If you are not in the arena getting your arse kicked I’m not interested in what you have to say.”

She also points out that we need to be clear about our values and stick to them. One of her values is courage and so to be true to herself she has to be brave and do what she knows she has to do. One of my values is also courage, and in my case courage to be a witness to what God has done in my life. It is one of my primary values.

The other important thing is to have at least one other person in your life who can pick you up when you fail. That person is the one who loves you enough to be honest enough to say, yes that sucked! It was as bad as you thought! They pick you up, dust you down and get you ready to go back into the arena. They love you not despite your imperfections and vulnerabilities but because of them. They should have GREAT seats reserved for them in the arena. I am pleased that I have such a person in my life.

There should also be a seat reserved for yourself. Most of us are our own biggest critics. There is an ideal of who we imagine we are supposed to be. Often we ‘orphan off’ or shut off the parts of ourselves that don’t match up to that idea. However if we do that then we are often just left with the critical inner voice. The seat for ourselves contains our past, where we came from, our families, the years we drifted or are not proud of. In other words, we acknowledge the whole of ourselves. Our past is part of who we are now.

Yes, it is scary to be vulnerable and allow people to see what I create – especially when it comes to my art. I show it to encourage others who, like me, are still learning and not very good. It IS scary to think that my book will be read by people who know me – it doesn’t bother me that strangers will read it. I don’t care what they think of me. But I do care about what those who know me think of me. And according to Brene it is good to care about others’ opinions. “When we stop caring about what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. When we become defined by what people think, we lose our willingness to be vulnerable.”

My book, I have been told, by someone who IS qualified to criticise it (a leading psychotherapist) is unique, compelling bibliotherapy and should be published and indeed be on the reading list for those training to be psychotherapists. She has a seat in the arena! I need to hold on to her opinion.

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