Excerpt from a recent conversation I had….
A: My area of work is very niche. The number of experts in my field are few and their contribution to the field is stellar, no doubt. But as a scholar, I want to be different.
M: What would it mean to be different?
A: I don’t want to preach to an echo chamber. What I mean is, publications in top journals give me credibility, but that’s not enough. That’s not what drives me… I want more people to understand my research, and how it impacts them. I want to write for a wider and somewhat lay audience. Perhaps do a series of news-paper op-eds. Distill my work into a few themes and explain why it matters in simple words. That’s what really gives me a kick! But…….. I hit a deadlock every time I start writing for a wider audience.
M: Deadlock? Why? Aren’t you the expert in this space?
A: The voice of the 10% rears its head. You know, those stalwarts I talked about. The 10% who know anything and everything about my area of work. What if they were to read this piece of writing and criticize it? So I start censoring as I write. I get stuck. Make some headway and then abandon it half way.
M: But did you not say, you are writing for lay people and not the experts?
A: Yes, you are right. I know I am writing for the 90% but I land up judging it based on the 10%.
M: What does this tell you about yourself?
A: Ugghhh. I should not be thinking of the 10%, when I am pitching to the 90% ! It’s all in my head. I am the onethat makes it difficult for myself. There is a pattern in me – I tend to assume things about situations or people. I am so afraid of criticism that I tend to start from a position of disadvantage, even before I actually know that I am at a disadvantage.
M: What belief do you need to let go in order to overcome this mindset?
A: I have to let go my fear of judgement. Actually, it is really not others who are judging me. I keep projecting myself in harsher light – I am the biggest judge of myself. This sabotages my sense of what I am capable of. I need to be a risk taker and not keep protecting myself.
M: And, what would a risk taker look like?
A: Well, I will put myself out there and speak my mind. Be OK with making mistakes. In fact, in the past I have taken gambles by venturing into new spaces, and they have paid off.There is more to who I am, than I give myself credit for. I need to acknowledge my strengths and have the courage to employ them in my writing.
AND…. Yet again I learn as a Coach – enabling others to focus on their strengths allows them to filter out the noise of the inner critic. Obsessing on the gaps strips away my own sense of resourcefulness.
How do you manage your inner critic?