Unpacking your 'Everybody' Suitcase: A Step to Healing the Inner Critic
Everybody says I need to do it like this.
Everybody will hate me if I don't go along.
No one will like me if I create THAT.
No one will ever talk to me again if I let THAT out.
Have you ever heard thoughts like these in your head?
I certainly have. Many times. Most recently, when I first started incorporating more spiritual principles in my writing and my work, I was fielding the thoughts almost constantly, convinced that Everybody would think I'm weird and wrong and would abandon me if I continued to think too far outside the box I'd been initially educated in.
Luckily, I was fortunate enough to know not to believe all my thoughts as truth anymore, so I kept writing and working and seeking support to clear out the thoughts that wanted to keep me in a vice grip of paralysis and anxiety.
I was also able to recognize that my Everybody was really only one person. One person who meant A LOT to me, but still only one person. Furthermore, this one person was not even someone I was actually writing for. Realizing this made it that much easier to turn down the volume on the thoughts and eventually find people who represented the opposite thoughts, boosting my courage and my confidence to continue fully expressing.
My Everybody suitcase was filled with generalizations and assumptions I had made about the state of the world based on my interactions with one person or a handful of people who held meaning to me. It was my Ego's way of keeping me safe, keeping me securely in my established tribe, place, and way of being, and not rock the boat into a sea of change and growth that might result in needing a different boat entirely.
But if we don't rock the boat, it's hard to sail, let alone reach our creative potential!
So who's in your Everybody suitcase?
If it's not ACTUALLY Everybody that says what you can and can't, should and shouldn't do, who is it, exactly?
Here's an exercise to find out:
Think of one action you're wanting to take but are feeling a lot of pressure or fear around, one that's bringing up a lot of critical Everybody thoughts.
Write down the actual thoughts that are swirling in your head.
Reflect back and see when you first heard them.
Did you overhear judgments meant for another? Did someone blatantly say them to you? Did someone say them to herself and you internalized them? Was it a teacher? Parent? Sibling?
In all likelihood, it was probably an authority figure you loved dearly, or who you depended on in some way, or someone otherwise very close to you - this attachment makes the thoughts stick to us more readily and take up more real estate in our mind. It could also have been what you generalized and assumed from an institution, like a religious or academic environment, or even media, but very often these broader messages have more impact when they are redistributed by those close to us.
Keep exploring until you get as specific as possible, usually 2-3 core people.
Once you have the actual someones in your Everyone, it's time to get creative!
On a sheet of paper, draw the people - stick figures are perfectly fine. Now make them look utterly ridiculous. Maybe they turn into monsters or wear over-the-top costumes. Maybe they grow misshapen. Whatever form you need them to take so that they can become less powerful in your imagination, draw it on.
Their new forms will help you remember that their voices are caricatures and do not need to hold power over you any longer.
It is not that the core people you identify are necessarily bad in any way, just that THEIR words and beliefs do not need to be in control of YOUR life.
Through this exercise we reclaim our power over our own creative destinies. It's hard to make a noise and put our creative stamp into the world if we're terrified of what Everyone will think. So identify and reduce the voices. Burn or shred the paper if you need to. Or fold it up and mail it to Timbuktu.
Recognize that you are more than the sum of the critical voices in your head.
You are more than the Everybody would have you believe.
You are here to create. Fully, freely, deliciously, authentically, unabashedly.
And if you need a little more inspiration? Check out this great song!