Kill The Invisible Critic – Be Prolific

Do you ever find yourself wanting to write about or do something controversial, risky,or outside of the norm? If you’re like me, the answer “all the time” is in red on the screen in front of you.

If you’re still like me, when this risky idea appears, you’ll often hesitate to pull the trigger on it and it eventually subsides. And why? The Invisible Critic is to blame!

We hesitate because The Invisible Critic is watching us. It sees you when you’re sleeping, it knows when you’re awake (™ Santa).  It watches especially closely when you’re about to step outside of those neat lines the world has drawn for you to play inside of.

Invisible man

The Invisible Critic. You're not supposed to be able to see it, but I wanted to add a picture. Shoot.

Ladies and Gentleman – The Invisible Critic

So who is this gender-neutral villain anyways? The Invisible Critic is a projection we create when we believe that “others” would think something negative about us or our idea if we actually did it. What if I fail and so-and-so finds out? What if she judges me for it? What if I offend somebody?

The critic creates a resistance to our idea before there is an actual resistance to it.  This is not to be confused with our own natural internal challenges to an idea. Internal challenges are based on the merit of the idea and not external worries.

This resistance is fake. Fabricated. False. Bogus. Phoney. Invisible. (did you get chills on that last one? Me neither. Darn.)

The Invisible Critic Show

Host: Hi, I’m your host and welcome to the show. Today’s guest is yet another Invisible Critic. Hello and welcome. How did you get your name, TIC? What brings you to the area?

TIC: My name comes from the fact that I criticize people, but I don’t exist. I’m here to intimidate the audience and I’m good at my job.

Host: Wow. What exactly do you mean? How do you intimidate people?

TIC: The people give me power. They create me because they’re worried about others’ opinion of their choices. I leverage that to intimidate them into not following through with some great ideas for their life. I often sound like a parent, relative, or friend and they worry about my reaction to their idea if implemented. I’m not actually those people – I’m just a representation of them in their mind, but I can do some serious damage, man!

Host: Wow, you are fascinatingly evil.

TIC: Yep.

Host: What about something like this idea? Where a blogger creates a fictitious character to try and make something more interesting at the risk of being laughed at, ridiculed, or doomed to internet obscurity? You’d pose as a specific person or general societal opinion in my mind and try to make me doubt this wonderful idea?

TIC: Yeeeeah man, that’s it. Hey, where is your invisible critic by the way?

Host: I’m sure he’ll be here soon.

TIC: You must not have any decent ideas, haha!

Host: Nice try, but you’re not my Invisible Critic. I don’t know whose invisible critic you are, but thank you for letting me interview you and *cough* I hope your owner destroys you soon. All you guys do is hold people back from reaching their potential. You stifle their creativity and make them think they shouldn’t try new things or risk failing.

TIC: True. So?

Host: So…why should we be scared of what others think if we’re doing what we honestly think is best for our lives? This could be a guy taking up yoga or ballet, a girl wanting to play professional football, or someone dropping out of school. All of these people might have “TICs” telling them not to pursue these things because of public perception.

If real people actually have concerns about us, they can voice them to us in real life. If they decide to cowardly whisper and talk behind our backs, then we shouldn’t associate with them anyways. Invisible Critics should be eliminated. It isn’t our job to control what others think about us, but to live the best lives we know how to.

TIC: But the unemployment rate is high and this is the only job I’m qualified for!

Host: I know of a guy who once created an Invisible Critic that criticized his desire to purchase a premium wordpress theme to improve his blog. His Invisible Critic told him that he couldn’t afford it, and that it was a waste of money because his blog would probably never amount to anything worthwhile. The Invisible Critic multiplied and took on the form of all the people that he figured might think that, and it got to him.

Underneath the doubt instilled by TICs (The Invisible Critics), he still believed in himself and his blog ideas and that he could afford to invest in the blog despite his financial struggles. He realized that The Invisible Critic was not a humanoid of constructive criticism, but one that used fear to control the actions of people everywhere. He decided not to worry about TIC anymore and began to live his life the best he knew how in a way that aligned with his goals and dreams.

TIC: You know our secret weapon is fear?

Host: Oh yeah, and I’m spreading the word, so you’d better run!

TIC: That man from the story. That was you, wasn’t it?

Host: You got it, buddy.

TIC: *runs away*

I tried to get his autograph, but sometimes Invisible Critics will run away as fast as they appear. I hope that one meets his maker. Could it be yours? If so, I think you should have a little chat with it and let it know who is boss of your life and who is NOT. Don’t let worry and fear of what the world thinks prevent you from making the right decisions and pursuing your dreams. Unconventional methods to success are abundant, so don’t be afraid to explore them!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to purchase that premium wordpress theme for my blog. I also quit my job on the first day despite being unemployed since I graduated with a Finance degree in July 2010. Without a job, I don’t have money for rent this month and I’m moving back in with my parents. Tomorrow, I’ll be doing yoga because it helps my back and general health. There is only one problem, I can’t seem to find My Invisible Critic anymore. It would have so much to say about these choices. Oh that’s right, we went our separate ways and I’m happier now. 😀

Write that controversial blog post, quit your job and move to Africa, take steps to start that business that you’ve always wanted to, or do whatever it is that you honestly think is best (or a smart risk). It is a great idea to seek and consider wise counsel from people that you trust, but don’t let your Invisible Critic scare you out of a good idea or decision before you really consider it. Keep in mind that conventional wisdom isn’t always the right choice for every person in every situation.

Be your own person.  Take ownership of your life.

Restart Your Life Every 30 Days

You’re in 3rd place.

Jacque is well ahead of you.  Sandy is within reach but gaining momentum.  You are not going to win this one.  But then it happens!  Jacque trips on a gumdrop and lands face down on a licorice space.  Meanwhile, you take rainbow road for a massive shortcut and the lead!

You were planning on going for purple because that would be the most squares forward.  However, you noticed rainbow road a couple of squares behind it and changed your strategy.  Jacque tripped on a gumdrop because he failed to reevaluate his environment.  Jacque was focused on getting on the square furthest away, but this yellow square was a licorice space (lose a turn) unlike the other yellow spaces.

Candy Land

Yes, I dared to use Candy Land as an example. 😛

Life = Static?  I Think Not!

Life is a dynamic….thing.  Today’s ideas are out of date tonight.  Next week’s plans are interrupted by 76 minute changes (I counted) in one’s environment.  Think about how many changes could occur over the period of months or years.  Do you regularly account for these changes?

When I play basketball and a defender moves in front of me – I react.  When a bee stings me – my body reacts.  When I hear beautiful music – my soul reacts.  When I see a beautiful woman of interest – the butterflies in my stomach take off.  This is typical human behavior (I am normal?!).

There is one area where humans are much less likely to react – and it is the most important one – life direction.  The reason is simple – a lack of critical, deep thinking.  This is the focus of my website because it is essential to personal development.    You won’t change something that you don’t think about.

So you’re set on going to college?

  • What about the fact that you made that decision at the age of 13 and you’re 18 now?
  • Has everything relating to that decision remained static for 5 years?
  • Have you considered that tuition costs have been skyrocketing?
  • Is your mindset exactly the same as it was back then?

No, so why rely on a 5-year-old decision?  That’s just passive living.  Passive living is the worst, by the way.

Crack Your Life’s Back

People plan for regular corrections or “alignments” in many aspects of life – company meetings, chiropractic back adjustments, family meetings, monthly budgets, training in sports to get back into shape, and countless more examples.  Great news!  This means that we already have the skills necessary to do this with the most important and far-reaching one of them all!

Restart your life every 30 days (or every month). First, you should think about what your purpose and short term goals are that relate to your long term goals.  Here are mine as an example:

As of today, my purpose/long term goal is to live actively and pursue financial independence by making money myself.  That is my long-term goal as far as “career” is concerned.  The short term goals that relate to it are

  1. Creating significant value for my readers
  2. Learning to write better
  3. Developing relationships with other bloggers to learn and connect with the blogging community
  4. Increasing my blog’s traffic
  5. Thinking of ways to monetize this blog

On May 1st I am going to rethink this.  I might come to the same conclusion.  Most likely, there will be some minor changes that better suit where I am on May 1st. I have added the event “reevaluate life” to my calendar for the 1st of every month.  This will ensure that my short term goals will constantly be realigned with my longer term goals based on my environment and current situation.

This is only one of my goals – but it is the one that is commanding my attention right now.  Maybe in a month I’ll become rich and lonely.  Then my reevaluation would involve a change in primary focus from career to personal life.  It isn’t that I regularly shun one or the other, but I need to decide how much time and effort are given to each area of life that matters to me.  Reevaluation allows me to choose according to my current situation.

Lord Licorice

Won't change your mind? Then say hello to Lord Licorice!

If you want, you can reevaluate every week.  As you get used to reevaluating your life, you’ll naturally begin to do it on the fly!  This is ideal.

Don’t be a kite in the wind – be a plane slicing through the wind, deciding its own destiny. The best way to do this is to think about your life direction actively.  Seeing as things can change in an instant, holding on to a decision you made 8 years ago seems most unwise.  It is ok to change your mind.

Changing your mind is sometimes seen as a negative thing – IT IS NOT!  Changing your mind shows initiative and an active mind.  Are we so foolish that we believe our first choice will always turn out nicely in an environment of constantly shifting variables?  If you aren’t willing to be flexible in this world, you’ll be shredded and torn apart by the moving parts.

Live Like A Shipwrecked Sailor

Day 47

Last night I was drinking rum and playing Hold ‘Em with the crew.  On the turn I smiled inside, as that Jack of clubs had just given me a flush.  John was already all-in, and I lured Sayid into an all-in bet of 4 bottles of rum.  Jack was still in with more goods for me to claim.  They had 3 of a kind at best – Jack maybe had a straight.  Either way, I knew the spoils were mine.  The river came as a 3 of hearts and I baited Jack into all-in status with the rest.  In the pot was a total of 19 bottles of rum, 3 loaves of sourdough, 4 weeks of deck cleaning, and a nice seaman’s knife.

As I flipped my cards in celebration, the entire room shook as if a spear-headed whale rammed into the ship at 50 knots.  Water gushed in.  The hull was pierced by the shoals – captain never saw it comin’.

I scrambled to find useful items – the knife on the table, a mirror, and obviously as much rum as I could carry…and I dove into the ice-cold rough waters.  I dove before she went down and to the opposite side of the pierced section so as to avoid the shoals myself.  The sea tossed me around like a ragdoll as I struggled to keep my head up for occasional breaths.  I luckily managed to swim to a nearby beach and collapsed on the shoreline, gripping the sand in rage and relief.

Here I am the next morning. Stranded.  This island isn’t even on maps.  I know the chances of survival in this scenario are grim.  I was the only one to make it ashore.  I think the others were too drunk to even swim, or mercilessly dashed against the rocks as they wrestled with the sea.  As for me, the only thing I can hope to do is survive long enough to be found – and so I will.

~ Sawyer

Let’s reflect for a minute on Sawyer’s mindset right now – “survive.”  His life just got a whole lot simpler and yet more difficult, not by choice.  His perspective has changed in some very key ways (and a shift in perspective means life change).

  1. Sawyer is serious about surviving.  It is not just something he’d like to do, it is his mission.  At dusk on day 3 of island life, he chased a boar through the woods and his face was gashed by an outreaching thorn branch – he used the adrenaline to run faster.
  2. Sawyer has clarity and focus about what he wants and this simplifies his actions.  He never thought he’d drink his own urine, but when it didn’t rain for a while and his bottles were out, he had to do it to survive.  He does what it takes and he will not be stopped.
  3. With a clear end-goal in sight, Sawyer is very creative in ways he can reach that goal.  He figured out how to make effective traps out of natural resources to catch the animals on the island, used his mirror as a fire-starter, and made a spear to fish with.  He built fortresses made out of sticks/leaves/branches, sharpened his knife with rocks, and created a useful twine out of plants.

What if you approached your goals and dreams like Sawyer approached survival?  Sawyer is motivated by the strong will to live, as should we.  Our physical lives aren’t in much danger, but our lives in every other sense absolutely are.  If you’ve gone a couple/few years without coming closer to your dreams, then consider them to be in critical condition.

When you get serious about your dreams, you’ll start doing crazy things in order to pursue them.  You’ll fail here and there, be rejected and discouraged at times, and have to work your tail off.  It will not be easy, but as your face bleeds from the branches and the poison ivy itches miserably, you are thrilled to eat boar meat that night (sorry vegetarians).

Just like the boar example, pursuing your dreams is more difficult than not doing it.  But as you inch closer to reaching them, the battle scars become treasured souvenirs of your journey to live.  Also of note, the higher difficulty of dream-seeking is counter-balanced by your desire to reach your dreams.  This website is a part of my dreams, and I regularly work 12+ hour days on it.  It’s fun work.

If you’re not living your dreams right now, you have to realize that they are and will remain in serious danger and critical condition.  The only way to ensure you achieve them is to pursue them with the vigor that a shipwrecked sailor has to survive on an uninhabited island.  Others will resist and question your decisions along the way because pursuing dreams almost always involves risk-taking.  Be prepared to face and overcome that by having the right mindset in advance.

If you’re inspired by this, but aren’t sure what to do next, start a deep thinking session to come up with a basic idea for getting from A (here and now) to X (Dreamlandia).  Don’t make it too rigid though, because you’d be missing out on the crucial #3 point above – openness to creative solutions.  Sawyer didn’t have one method of getting food, he had several.  This is a smart and natural way to diversify risk.

driftwood beach

Day 7,423

My beard is really long.  I’ve nearly died 146 times if you count the poison ivy incident (I know I do).  I’m not sure how I made it 20 years on this island – I just had one goal and that was to live.  I wonder what it will be like to go back to civilization.  I’ve been talking with a boar’s head (Mike) and a coconut (Princess Coco) to keep up my conversation skills and retain knowledge of English.  I figure once I get back that even peoples’ nastiest expressions can’t be worse than this boar’s ugly mug.

Journal, my time here is up.  I was able to SOS a nearby ship and they managed to maneuver around the shoals.  Hmm…I bet I could start a TV show on living in the wild.  I have more experience than most.  One thing the island has taught me is that life is a gift – not something to be taken for granted. And as such it should be lived with the greatest intensity, passion, and vigor possible.  The very things I needed to survive this place.

~ Saywer

Note: fictional names were chosen in honor of LOST

Tough Decisions, Big Risks

I have just made a tough decision – the toughest of my life.

In July 2010, I graduated with a B.S.B.A. in Finance.  November 2010, I decided to move to Virginia without a job, at first living with friends and family and finally moving into an apartment with a friend on a 5 month sublease.  Still, no job.  My friend got two jobs so I went ahead and moved in with plans to get one of my own.

Amazingly, passage of time makes it more difficult to pay rent without income.Read More

Beware Self-Absorption: Why You MUST Like Yourself

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” ~Maya Angelou

Note: Even if you do like yourself (that’s great!), this can serve as a valuable reinforcing tool or educational piece.

An interesting pseudo-paradox occurs when you don’t like yourself – you become completely obsessed with yourself.  Seems rather backwards, doesn’t it?  I don’t like myself, so therefore I’m going to focus on myself?  It’s true.  You might think it more sensible to focus on something else that you value more…and this happens too, at the same time.

I’m sorry if this has the sour taste of contradiction – that a self-loathing person could become self-absorbed and others-focused at the same time.  It will make more sense later.  The point right now is that not liking yourself has some pretty nasty consequences.

If You Do Not Like Yourself…

1. You Will Not Invest In Yourself

Investing is more than just a financial term – it applies to all of life.  Here are a handful of examples of investing in yourself:

  • Investing in others
  • Actively pursuing your dreams and personal growth
  • Thinking about your life critically
  • Productively spending your time
  • Reading valuable books
  • Exercising and eating well
  • Managing your finances
  • Setting goals

Examples of not investing in yourself – abusing drugs/alcohol, entertaining yourself all day (TV, Video games, etc.), carelessness with your health, wasting time habitually, using others,  accepting the life you’re given as is, and being passive overall.

2. You Perceive Yourself As Inferior

If you don’t like yourself, it is because you believe other people are better in some way.  There can be many reasons for this way of thinking – physical appearance, performance in school/other, a big mistake, a bad environment growing up, half-hearted living that leads to repeated failure, or any specific quality that you choose to focus on.

3. You Can Only Hope To Have Hope Someday

There is no hope in the mind of those who dislike themselves.  Hope is squashed under the heavy weight of pessimism and doubt of ever becoming a person of value.  Life has no flavor if you don’t like the character you’re playing as.

4. You Passively Define Your Value As A Person

Those who like themselves know they have value as a human being on a basic level, and more value based on their unique qualities.  If you don’t like yourself, your only idea of self-worth is what the world tells you.  Problem is, the world usually doesn’t always argue with you if you send the message that you’re worthless.  🙁

Self-absorbed – “Excessively self-involved”  (thefreedictionary.com)

Self-absorption comes in with that last point.  In the beginning I mentioned that self-loathing people focus on something else they value more than themselves – that something is others’ opinion of them.  They will look to others to provide them with the vital sense of self-worth.  Self-worth compels us to invest in ourselves; we need to know that we’re worth investing in.  You wouldn’t invest $5,000 in a pile of garbage, would you?

If you don’t believe you have value, you’ll seek to get validation somewhere else, and that is where your focus will be.  This leads you to focus on what everyone else thinks of you as it is your only source of critical self-worth.  As such, you’ll be so desperately self-absorbed in your self-worth crisis that you will instinctively try to manipulate people into giving you validation as a means of self-preservation (fishing for compliments, boasting excessively, etc.). People do not like being manipulated and used, even if you think your sense of self-worth is on the line.  This is how you end up focusing on yourself through others.  Pseudo-paradox explained.

The “Validate Me” Mindset

The problem with letting others define your value is this – if Jim tells you that you’re ugly, and you don’t like yourself to begin with, Jim has just dealt you a devastating blow.  You’ll not only believe Jim, but you’ll take it a step further by attaching your value to your physical appearance.  This is because you’re looking for something – anything and anyone – that can tell you how valuable or not you are.

This is flawed thinking.

You become self-absorbed when you’re focused on something (your value in this case) directly and only related to yourself.  You look to others to provide this information to you, hoping that it is positive.  But even when it is positive, you’re not convinced.  You look for more confirmation – as an addict looks for cocaine – fishing for compliments and recognition to keep you afloat.  The negative feedback you receive carries a lot more weight than the positive – because you’d already like yourself if you believed the positive feedback.  One negative remark overpowers a thousand compliments.

Breaking Free

The first step in getting out of a bad situation is understanding it.  If you read this and relate to it, then a change would do you a lot of good.  If you don’t like yourself, words may not be enough to change you.  Understanding that your value is not defined by any one quality or by others is enough to set you free.  However, you have to “get it” and believe it.  If you can’t, I’d recommend trying to change your mindset by leading with action.

Force yourself to invest in yourself.  Make yourself try new things, develop various skills, and meet new people.  Find out what it is about other people that you find valuable and then come up with a plan to BE that.  Don’t over think it, just go out there and do it.  When your confidence begins to build as you get closer to respecting yourself, it will snowball positively.

Taking action first is one of two ways that people can change – it causes a change in perception through experience.  The other way is a paradigm shift in one’s perception of reality by enhanced understanding (such as change from reading this post or a good book).

The worst thing you can do is hide behind something – an image, a tough persona, an addiction that helps you forget.   Address your problem head on, willing to fail.  Talk to friends/family/church about it.  Quality people love to help others.  Seeking professional help is a great idea – they’ve dealt with this issue before.

When You Like Yourself…

Life is exciting.  You have struggles and problems, but you believe you can overcome them instead of accepting them as permanent life roadblocks.  You focus on the merits and qualities of others because you already know you (and everyone else in the world) have value.  Instead of looking for validation, you’ll look to make a positive difference in others’ lives, and it is satisfying when you do.

The glass is half full, tomorrow is a chance to learn or try something new, and the world is one big open planet with no restrictions.  With the internet, all information is available at your fingertips and excuses are no longer valid.  Once you find out that your mindset is your biggest obstacle in life, things get very exciting very fast.  If you believe that you’re worthless, you will become worthless and the cycle begins.

On the other hand, if you believe you’re capable of climbing Mount Everest despite being blind, then you’ll probably do it.

I find depth extremely valuable, and I’m trying to live in congruence with that with this website.  Unsurprisingly, I have liked myself and invested in myself much more since starting it!  By doing this, I’m also pursuing my dreams.  No matter how much you like yourself now, find out what it is that holds great value in your mind and strive to live up to that; succeed and you will naturally like and invest in yourself and others more.  It may take some soul searching to find it, but when you do…it is AWESOME!