Silencing the Inner Critic


I’m going to be vulnerable today.

Moving to Seattle has been tough for me. In most ways it is absolutely wonderful. I am living with my two favorite guys again (that would be Jesse & Patronus), I’m living in the most amazing city, and I advocate for couples therapy under the auspices of Dr. John Gottman, a man whose work I’ve admired and practiced since I first learned about it. I’m starting a private practice, with the hope and intention to begin helping people here and across the country. In most ways, I am living the dream and I am doing things that are amazing and admirable.

Except in my own head.

In my head, I’m angry with myself. I’m angry that I followed my dreams and I’m reading articles like this one, about how much of a failure my profession is and how much I will likely struggle to make a suitable living doing what I truly love (while also feeling this wretched closeness with the author, because I have already faced many of these issues), without having to also do other thing like coaching, consulting, part-time work or other things that feel disheartening with a master’s degree, plenty of intelligence, skills, and soul in the mix. I love counseling. I believe in what I do. I just wish our society could provide the infrastructure my profession needs to thrive. I’m not adverse to branding myself for niches I specialize in, but I am against telling people I can solve all their problems in four meetings when ultimately it’s not under my control – it’s under the client’s control. You change your life, I just serve as a guide and kick-ass insight provider. That’s my job.

When I was in 5th grade (stay with me on this one, I’m making a point), I was voted “Most Likely to Go into and Art Related Career”. Honestly, I was an awesome artist as a kid *brushes shoulders off*. Those skills weren’t nurtured educationally past elementary school (darn you, budget cuts), but I always stuck with it. My skills aren’t technical, but I still paint occasionally, I do crafty things like scrapbook and papier-mâché, and I draw. When I was depressed, I called my mom despondently. After about 30 minutes of pity partying, my mom gently asked, “Are you creating art?” I replied, “Um, no. I haven’t thought about it.” She said, “Please try something artistic. You’ve always loved it and I know it will help.”

You know what? It did. Since that time, when the chips are down inside my head, I retreat to art. The problem with most things I enjoy that aren’t nurtured by money and education, like art and writing for fun, I don’t do them unless I feel I am absolutely excellent. When I paint, I judge myself. When I draw, I think, “This isn’t good enough. Who would want to buy this/hang this in their home/ thank me for this gift?” So I just beat myself away from the things I love and the things that calm my mind and I push myself into more things that I’m good at, but don’t provide me the solace these hobbies do. Then I judge myself there and it becomes the sneaky hate spiral all over again.

So the point is, I’m doing art again. For the first time the other day after going through two drafts of something and thinking, “Eff this noise!” I stopped the thought. I rolled it around. I heard how mean it sounded, how irrational I was being, and how sad I felt at this realization. I can’t even color without the pressure of it being some monumental work. It’s crushing me. I have neglected my compassionate manager of my mind and re-elected the harsh critic. This won’t do if I want to get through these tough times of following my dreams and trying to be the exception to the norm. I can do this.

Author: Jennifer Bingaman Mazur

I like writing about what I think about what I think. I also like writing about what other people think and what I think about that. Yes? Yes.

7 thoughts on “Silencing the Inner Critic”

  1. I love that pattern you’ve drawn! It looks similar to the patterns in Zentangle — touted as the “yoga of drawing.” Are you familiar with it?

    When I get down on myself I know that it’s time to start singing again, or start a new knitting project. It’s great how creating art can be such a release.

  2. I love you. And that art. And the way you write and how easily relatable this subject is. I’m so glad you’re making art, living your dream and documenting it this way so that we can read it when we’re old, successful bitches and laugh. 🙂

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