Guilt. Ineptitude. Stupidity. Immorality. Shame. Imposture.
These aren’t really all that different when you think about it, right? Just the variety of tactics that the one and the same inner critic uses to help us destroy ourselves. Scratch that: “critic” is too nice of a word. “Monster” or “demon” is more like it.
Who knows why we develop this inner monster? Maybe it begins in childhood. An offhand comment. A chemical imbalance. A tragedy. And so the inner critic awakens; born or made, I do not know.
I swear sometimes that this monster is a separate entity from me, as though I were possessed by a demon that’s trying to kill me. Right now, I think I have battled down the principal monster pretty well, or at least chained it. Some of its chorus members are still standing, though, and the monster speaks through them. Every time I want to make some sort of advancement in my life, they pipe up. Even while I’m typing this, they’ve informed me that I should probably just quit everything before I waste more time. Or when I try and devise a way to get the hell out of my job, they tell me I am too stupid and don’t even have life skills, let alone job skills. Can’t even ride a damn bus without them bothering me.
When I was in college, I had big plans to earn a PhD and become a professor. I thought I was the shit. Won every award and medal in the book. Hell, I won first place in a writing contest I didn’t even enter. At first, I believed in myself and in my abilities, and that if I worked hard, I could do it. Unfortunately, these turned into the belief that everything I touched was gold. This false belief set me up for my fall. I was admitted to a graduate school on a scholarship. And then I allowed one person to get in my head and undo all of that and make me believe that I could barely read, let alone earn a degree.
My rapid implosion came when I was humiliated by a certain professor during a presentation, which awakened the memory of an experience in grade school, when a teacher repeatedly insulted me (personal insults no less) in front of my class. Fast-forward to graduate school, and the experience of being humiliated in front of another class was enough for the monster to step in and take over, since clearly I couldn’t handle things myself. I ended up transferring to another graduate school where I completed the degree, but the damage was already done.
I did manage to drag my ass to the MA finish line. In reality, I didn’t do as badly as I thought. I found my transcript one day and my grades were all A’s with one B+ exception, but I remember it as barely passing by the skin of my teeth. I suffered major impostor syndrome and I could not focus on my studies or pay attention in class, because I imagined everyone else in the room was wondering why the hell I was in there too. I couldn’t see reality for what it was.
There was no middle ground for me between believing I could do no wrong, and believing I could do no right.
And now I’m in debt and have worked almost nine years in retail making barely above minimum wage. Boy did I get knocked off my pedestal. Please learn from me and don’t let that happen to you.
I’ve been told before that it’s my fault. My attitude. Too emotional. Oversensitive. Conceited. Delusional. Snap out of it. Stupid millennial. Grow up. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Yes, I know it’s all my fault. Yes, I should have grown up and changed my attitude. Yes, Yes, Yes, I suck. I own my mistakes, even if I can’t fix them right now.
I don’t know the reason why, but it seems like some people have the will to overcome challenges, and some of us don’t. I’ll accept that it was my fault and I take the blame for it. I shouldn’t have made excuses and let other people decide for me how I’m going to feel. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like my decision; it’s like the monster and the other party negotiate on how I’m going to make it. It’s like you’re arguing with so many negative voices in your head that they drown you out to the point where you don’t even know which is your real one.
Let me leave you with a little illustration of what the monster can convince you about yourself. A neighbor asked me if I could cat-sit for a couple of weeks. I said Sure! Then later I realized that I couldn’t do it because I don’t know how to take care of cats.
I had a cat for seventeen years.
Do you ever feel like something in you is trying to take you down?