How I disarmed my inner critic with one simple phrase

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I had a performance the other day, and it was unlike any I've ever had. Maybe I sang better, maybe I didn't.

Maybe I was more expressive, maybe I wasn't.

But one thing is certain.

I was utterly present and completely connected.

I was fully in the moment, riding the waves of whatever happened, responding to the story, the music, the acoustics, and the audience with complete authenticity and openness.

The inner critic that has haunted my performing for decades?  Silent.

Every time she would try to speak up with her judgments of 'not good enough' or try to impose her unwavering desire for perfection at all times, just as quickly she would disappear.  The next phrase would begin and all would be in unity once more.

 

How did such a zen state finally happen after decades of fruitless aspiration?

With one simple phrase.

It's ok.

 

In the morning, when I would have traditionally been plagued with nerves and a plan of action to accomplish everything and make sure I was in good voice, subconsciously letting my inner critic's fears drive the day, I decided instead to give myself permission to fail.

I chose to get up and go through my normal routine, getting myself and my daughter ready for the day, and treating the day as if it were completely ordinary.

And every time I heard my critic's voice, I would say back, it's ok.

 

I also came up with an internal prayer.  Feel free to adapt it by filling in the brackets and use it next time you need to perform, present, or otherwise do something that is usually fraught with intense internal pressure and criticism.

I give myself permission to not be perfect. I give myself permission to fail. I accept that I might [come off my breath, or crack a note, or miss an entrance]. I accept that I might lose my way in the [music] or in the mental chatter. I am committed to showing up. I surrender to what will be.

 

By giving myself this permission, by accepting the so-called awful things that could be, by surrendering to the inevitable reality of a future I could not control, I released the grip of my judgmental inner critic with her unreasonable and unattainable expectations.  Instead of ignoring her or pushing her away with a bunch of positive mantras or arguing with her as I have tried in the past, I simply said 'it's ok.'

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the thing is - what we resist, persists.  By meeting what we resist, in this case the negative voice of the inner critic, with open arms and allowing it to exist, we defuse it and allow it to move out.  We take away its power and then it doesn't want to play anymore.

And as I quieted the negative inner voice, my outer voice was free to express the beauty and emotion of the music, fully connected and available to the moment.

 

 

How about you?  Where can you say 'it's ok' to your inner critic and allow yourself to be fully present and expressive? Let me know in the comments below!