It took me years of pondering to sign up for a yoga teacher training. I'd loved informally teaching friends and kids at camp, and yet every time I started to think seriously about making it official, my inner critic would jump up and start hurling insults!
"You can't stand on your head, and if you can't do the impressive arm balances, you have no business being a yoga teacher!"
"There are too many yoga teachers in this area already. What you offer isn't needed."
"You don't look like a yoga teacher. Who's going to take you seriously?"
"The training is going to be too hard and you're just going to compare yourself to others the whole time. You'll never measure up!"
For every reason to step into my dream of teaching yoga, my inner critic had a LOUD counter argument. She knew all of my tender points and jabbed every single one of them anytime I started to get excited.
That's the thing about the inner critic. It gets amped up the moment you catch a glimpse of the world beyond your comfort zone, and will do anything possible to keep you from stepping out the door.
There's a purpose to your inner critic's tantrums, though, and it's a marginally well-meaning one. Our inner critics tend to bully us with the short-sighted intention of keeping us safe. The critic's #1 motive is to shield you from any kind of emotional or physical risk, whether it wants to save you from embarrassing yourself in front of your coworkers by giving a presentation, prevent you from the disappointment of being the worst in your new pottery class, or shield you from the stress of making friends in a new city.
Even though your inner critic thinks it's protecting you, the area where it truly excels is sabotage. If you play by your inner critic's rules and avoid anything new or exciting, you may be safe, but will you feel fulfilled? Will you step into the new career? Will you sign up for the improv acting class or start writing your novel?
There's usually a cost to staying stuck where your inner critic wants you.
My inner critic was predictably opposed to my becoming a teacher. She worried that the training might be too hard. It could be really challenging if my potential yoga students hated me. I would be opening myself up to criticism from others, and it could trigger the body image struggles I was just starting to overcome.
But then it hit me!
My inner critic's voice was loud because she knew how much teaching mattered to me. She was even bullying me for many of the exact reasons that I felt called to teach. She was upset that I didn't do impressive poses and I wasn't as thin as the yoga teachers I knew, yet when I truly listened to what was important to me, that was actually great news! I could focus even more on the inner practice of yoga. I could be more relatable and accessible to students who otherwise felt intimidated by yoga.
It's ok if stepping outside of your comfort zone revs up your inner critic! In fact, if it starts shouting at you and calling you every name in the book, take it as a cause for celebration! You are taking courageous ownership of your own life and happiness.
The next time your inner critic is so angry it's practically spitting, try telling it, "I know you're scared and you want to keep me safe. Thanks for your concern! But you know what? You actually aren't needed here. I've got this one covered."*
Your critic's fury may just mean you are on your most authentic track.
What action are you glad you took, big or small, despite your inner critic's warnings?