While I’m caring for my new baby, I’m sharing some favorite posts from the past few years. This is one of them – enjoy! ~ Tara
Let’s call that person Judith, for the sake of this post.
Here’s what I knew about Judith: she’s super smart, she’s well-known and well-connected, and she and I disagree about a LOT of things in the women’s empowerment conversation.
My inner critic took all that in and started feeling really worried about what she’d think of my talk. I started feeling unprepared, less than, not my normal self.
During the speech, from time to time, I’d get so distracted by thinking about her presence, that I’d fall out of flow and stand outside my words, listening to them and imagining how they might sound to her.
And of course, in my mind the answer to that was always that they sounded incoherent, irrational, mundane to her.
After I finished, I went over to one of the hosts of the event and said I’d love to meet Judith. After all, despite all my worries, I did also have a lot of respect for her, and wanted to say hello.
“Oh,” they casually said, “she couldn’t make it. Her child got sick and she needed to stay at home.”
It was the oddest moment.
All that worry, for nothing. I had been steeped in my fears about what she would think of the talk. I had imagined her presence in the room as I was speaking – and her judgments, her criticism, even her scoffing at some of what I had said.
But she was not in the room.
All that imagining was simply that: imagining.
I immediately thought: Ok life, I get the joke. I get the metaphor.
This was such a great metaphor for what I often do. Special guest or not, when I’m writing something particularly vulnerable or risky, or when I’m giving a talk to a group that intimidates me, I often find my mind imagining and projecting the most critical, skeptical, even mean view on my work. I imagine Judiths, people like Judith I’ve never met. I imagine some figure saying my worst fears: “That’s ridiculous, Tara. That’s naive. Who do you think you are?”
I know I’m not alone in this. Women have been trained into fearing that critic – that individual or collective critic raging or scoffing at what we have to say.
And the truth is, those imagined voices and judges are almost never really in the room in the way that we imagine them to be. They were more present for our great great grandmothers than they are for us.
And when they are still there for us, we can find an internal resourcefulness to handle it. We really can.
What I’ve learned is that sure, there will be a range of responses to my work, but most of the time, the external criticism I encounter is so easy-peasy compared to what I fear, so deal-with-able, so simply “it is what it is” – nothing like the big boogie-man my own fears make it out to be.
If you’re not doing something because you imagine the harsh criticism that could come your way, or if your joy and full expression is diminished because like me, you hold in your head what the skeptic would be saying about your work, ask yourself: how would I behave if I knew that voice was really, truly not in the room?
And then do that.
Join the discussion 11 Comments
I enjoyed this post a lot as it has happened to me before. And always, the inner critic is the most devastating of them all.
I admire your mission, your voice in the women’s empowerment world. One of the few I closely relate to and deeply respect. You say what is true for you clearly. And then ask me to judge from for myself if it is true. That is authentically respectful Ms Mohr.
Lucky child you have brought into this interesting world.
One of my favorite Tara columns! I think about it often if I find myself worrying about how someone specific will judge me. In hindsight it is always so laughable. The key is catching yourself mid-fret.
Thanks, Tara. ❤
THANK YOU, Tara! Life changing to read this.
Congrats on the new baby!!
Wonderful share, Tara. Sharing our truth is a gift. It’s not always easy to remember when one is standing there about to do it! Thank you for daring to share! I love your work!
Thank you Tara. I will think about this post the next time my inner critic starts up – which will inevitably be today! Very helpful, thanks again.
Tara you are amazing – how do you know exactly what to say? You speak to me deep down to my true self, thank you for this renewal.
Hi Tara, this is exactly what I’ve been thinking about today. I started workshops about communication and partnership recently and people keep asking “What gives you the power to talk about stuff you haven’t studied? Are you an expert?”. Holding myself back and not trying to defend myself and still be able to offer this workshop is quite challenging, however knowing that it’s only in my head and that it’s about my self-confidence helps me to stay on track. Thank you for your article! Kaacza
Tara, thank you so much for this email. I don’t always get a chance to read all your brillient words, but these hit home BIG TIME.
After reading what Adam and Brené wrote…I am inspired. Yes, they both made a positive contribution toward my authenticity/sincerity.
I lean in (pun intended) to Brené Brown’s definition of authenticity and believe sincerity is a tool we can use to reach higher and higher levels of our own best version of SELF.
Okay, I will now write an email for my blog and share this wisdom. That’s how it works, right?
Great read, loved it! So true, what a waste of energy! So much wasted focus and effort into judgement, of ourselves, of others, of what we think others think. In the end people are going to think whatever they want and that’s okay, no point in tormenting ourselves about it. Thanks
Love your story telling on this one! You bring it home. What’s behind the curtain? ta da! ha ha ha. -Laura
So great!!! I’m giving all the people I’m afraid of judging me the honorary name of Judith! We tell ourselves the greatest stories!