Voices of Self-Sabotage

[This is a repeat post because I'm out of town. I think the message is one we need to be reminded of.]

You’ve often heard the phrase “you are your own worst enemy.” Does this apply to you when trying to create a writing life you love? It certainly applies to me!

How does this enemy within keep you from moving ahead with your writing dreams? By telling you lies. Some are bold-faced lies. Some are wrapped in soft wool. Some lies ridicule you, while others sound downright comforting. What do all these voices in your head have in common?

They’re instruments of self-sabotage. They convince you to give up.

Who’s Talking Now?

There are many voices inside your head. You must listen and decide who’s doing the talking at any particular moment. Some voices are easy to recognize; some are so subtle you’ll be shocked. First, you have the…

Voice of the Inner Critic

It whispers words like “What makes you think you have anything interesting to say?” “You’re no good.” “That junk will never sell.” “You’re actually going to show that story to somebody?” The Inner Critic beats you down with criticism. Sometimes this voice bears a remarkable similarity to that of your mother, your spouse, or your junior high English teacher.

As Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way at Work, creativity requires a sense of inner safety, something like a fortress. “In order to have one, you must disarm the snipers, traitors and enemies that may have infiltrated your psyche.”

I spent years fighting my Inner Critic’s voice with positive affirmations and gritted teeth. “Oh, yes, I can!” was my motto. In time, my Inner Critic was quieted, only speaking out when I got an unexpected rejection or bad review. Yet I still wasn’t creating the writing life I dreamed of. Something was holding me back. It took me a long time to realize I still had voices in my head, because the tone and words had changed.

Do any of the following voices live inside your head and keep you from fully pursuing your writing dreams? Listen and see.

Voice of Responsibility

This voice sounds so adult, so sensible. It tells you to grow up, to get your head out of the clouds and your feet back on the ground. “You’re neglecting your children (or your job),” says this voice. “Look at your messy kitchen (or yard or garage).” “You have no business hiring someone else to mow the lawn so you can write!” “You’d better walk the poor dog first.”

Guilt is piled on by this voice, and you crumble under its weight. You put your writing dream on the back burner until a time when you’re less burdened by responsibility.

Voice of Intimidation

This voice is snide and cryptic. It slaps your hand when you try to crawl out of the box that is your life and declare yourself a writer. “Who do you think you are?” this voice asks. “You’ll make a fool of yourself!”

Doubt and low self-worth take these statements as the truth, and that of course only serves to further lower your self-esteem. Cowering, you crawl back in the box and close the lid on your dreams.

(The rest of theĀ article on self-sabotage (which also includes the voices of fear, compassion, and procrastination) is here. It’s from the “Creating the Writing Life You Love” section of my Writer’s First Aid: Getting Organized, Getting Inspired, and Sticking to It.

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