Go Big or Go Small, but Do It: Conquer the Inner Critic

Once upon a time, there lived a little white daisy. Her slender stem had unfurled in the crevice between two rocks and there she spent her days. When it was windy, she bowed her head to the breeze. When it was sunny, she turned her face up to the sun. One morning, as the new day gathered its strength and touched a cloud here, a tree there, with its fingertips of light, the small white daisy looked over at where her tribe lay scattered in clusters along the grassy verge. She watched as each small white head lifted its face to the rays of the sun, and unfurled silky petals to its warm caress.  

Our little white daisy was overcome with hopelessness. What’s the use? she thought. Why should I bother? So many others are blooming. No one will notice if I just remain closed up today. That daisy over there is much better at shining than I am. See how lovely and tall she stands. How silky and brilliant her petals are. What difference will it make if I choose not to bloom? No one will know or care. 

For real

Now, although this little tale is silly – because thankfully, daisies don’t seem to suffer from self doubt – this nasty inner voice is not silly. It’s all too real. I know it too well. We all do. 

This inner critic makes snide remarks when we take a risk. It cuts us down when we aspire to greater things. It criticizes us when we try to be artists, scoffs when we give expression to our creative urges. 

So much has been written about this critical inner voice. There are piles of books about how other creatives have grappled with this voice, reams of articles about overcoming it, tips to beat it, habits we can cultivate to quieten its noise. 

Yet still, its sibilant whisper sounds in my ear. 

From daisies to dragons

So what would happen if we looked at it through the narrative of myth? What if we reframed ourselves as the heroine of our story, a story whose ultimate theme is the battle between good and evil. What if this nasty little voice was on the side of the dark, on the side of serpents and snakes? Constantly aiming to snuff out our light, to fill us with dark doubt? 

Now imagine this… A writer shows up at the page and pushes her pen past this voice. An artist lets herself into her dusty studio and draws open the curtains to bring in the light so that she can paint. Someone stops and listens to their urge to create, to make some thing. We heed the creative call, nod and acquiesce. What if each of these small conquests is a victory in the eternal struggle of light against dark? 

Imagine if each small, brave act of existence helps to tip the scales? What if we find ways in our daily lives to complete sentences like: I wish… I dream of…I’d like to try…Maybe I could? What if each completed manifestation of a creative urge – a poem, a sketch, a story, a painted rock, a chapter, a sewn cushion cover, a flower arrangement – creates a spark of light? What if each little chink of light does its bit to crowd out the darkness that waits, the darkness that gathers in the dusty corners where we store our unfinished manuscripts, our ripped up paintings, our rolled up sketches. 

Because when we let this doubting voice gain strength; when we hide ourselves; when we turn away from an inner yearning and shake our heads, tell ourselves impatiently to grow up; then this critical, negative voice wins. 

I’m not suggesting that we then err on the side of blind faith in our supreme talent and harbour visions of stepping onto the floodlit stage of ‘Idols’, to global acclaim. That’s not the point.

Our relationship with life

Doing battle with this snake voice isn’t about the world or how we are viewed by others. The point is it’s about our relationship with ourselves and with the life force that flows in our blood. The point is that these creative sparks, these shy urges, link us to ourselves, and to life. 

Let’s look once again at the simple white daisy. She unfurls her petals in the growing heat of the morning and lifts her face to the sun, because she must. It’s a biological imperative that runs in the green sap rising along her stem. She blooms shamelessly and fearlessly every morning because that’s just what she does. It’s her reason for being. 

So if there’s a shitty little serpent voice in your head wearing you down and getting on your case – go big. Be a hero in the ultimate battle for the light. Conquer the dark dragons and let your creative flame burn bright. 

Or go really small. Be a simple white daisy and turn your face up to the light. Bloom. Write. Sketch. Bake. Craft. Dream. 

Just because. 

Just because you must.