Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Say Goodbye to Your Inner Critic

I’ll never forget the day those slippery white pages rubbed against my fingertips as I danced across the living room floor.

I was published. In my favorite national magazine. Wait until my friends opened their mailboxes…

If I had known, I would have waited. Forever.

He came to me that day. His fingertips brushed the slippery white pages, but he definitely wasn’t dancing.

“You shouldn’t feel this way,” he said as he pointed at the article. “Pastor’s kids just shouldn’t.”

Then he walked away.

I stood there – stunned. Pastor’s kids shouldn’t feel? Not that way? They shouldn’t admit to their grief? To their pain?

I’d poured myself into that article. I’d shared about my teen struggles. I’d shared about how God met me in those struggles. I’d laid my heart out in the open…

And suddenly it was doused with a cold bucket of reality.


It’s been 7 years since that day. I made peace with my friend long ago. And even though I don’t think about his words often, I know they affected me. Because somewhere… in the depths of my heart… my friend agreed with my inner-critic.


All of us have an inner-critic. You know, that voice that says WHAT IF. What if the article doesn’t turn out? What if this is the worst idea ever? And even more frightening – what if someone misunderstands?


I probably titled this post badly. I’m not sure we ever say goodbye permanently to our inner-critics. The truth is… they are always there. But over the past 7 years I’ve learned how to give mine a sleeping pill.


1. Listen to your inner-critic for a little while. Is he being reasonable? Usually not. (Not unless he’s telling you not to write about something that’s libelous or offensive. But usually that’s your own conscience talking… not your inner-critic.)

2. Write a letter to a CLOSE friend. If you’re worried about people being critical about your story, this is the perfect way to get around it. Just put your idea on paper for the most accepting person you know. You can always edit later.

3. Know that someone – at some point – WILL criticize. It will happen. (I write a weekly newspaper column, and occasionally get a letter from someone who has misunderstood my intent.) Do your best to make peace with that person… but in the end, know that we are all created uniquely with different perspectives and different sensitivities.

So go give your inner-critic the chill pill. And when you’re done, post your story here in the comment section. Because I think you’ll find we want to be some of the most accepting people you know.


  1. Although I've never experienced a lot of criticism in my writing from other people, as a girl that's been a pastor's kid AND a missionary kid (I'm currently both right now), I'm used to being unfairly judged. I've learned to (mostly) stop my own little inner-critic, and take the time to listen to those who criticize, but also realize just because they have different opinions it doesn't mean mine is wrong :)

  2. Wow, you're speaking right to my heart, BJ. This is something I really struggle with, because I've lived my life trying desperately to be a people-pleaser, to not rock the boat, to not make things worse than they already are. I know that my story, my TRUE story, would offend some people, step on their toes a little bit, and I haven't known exactly how to deal with that. Though I would never name names, and usually everything I write is cloaked in fiction anyway, invariably there are parts of my life that just sneak in to a story. Things I've lived through, things I've come out the other side of, things that writing about helps me process the emotions of. I guess I just have to pray, "Lord, let me be faithful to you in the telling." And brace myself for whatever comes.

  3. Arianna, I can completely relate. I know it's hard sometimes, but I think you have a really balanced perspective!

    Christiana, thanks so much for sharing. I'm a people-pleaser too... which actually comes in handy because I can't miss deadlines that way! I know how it can be trying to decide about how much to share. Fiction is a great way to do that, though. Keep pressing on!