In this episode, I’ll be talking about negative and debilitating thoughts and how to handle them. Last week I left you with my thoughts on perfectionism and why it’s a really bad thing. I wanted you to stop trying to be perfect and start living your lives. That was your homework. I have a feeling that for those of you who tried it will have given some real results.
Are you aware of your inner voice or inner monologue – The part I’m talking about today is more aptly named the inner CRITIC – it’s that voice in your head that will troll you and put you down at every opportunity.
It’s talking to me right now, literally right this second. It’s saying. This is a waste of time. No one cares. It’s saying, what if I get this wrong? I don’t know how to launch a podcast. People are not going to be happy about me giving out advice – what makes me so special? It’s saying Film Pro Productivity is a terrible name for a podcast anyway. It’s saying lots and lots of negative things about everything that I do, everything that I plan and everything that I create. It’s more persistent than any internet troll, any annoying idiot on a forum and any film critic out there. The film critics that think they are cutting when they review other peoples work, are nothing NOTHING compared to that inner voice that’s whispering in our ears during every step of the creative process and saying this, whatever it is you are doing – just ain’t good enough. This inner critic can be totally self-destructive. If we listen to it.
I have my own opinions about the topics I raise on Film Pro Productivity but I do a good bit of research on them before I bring them to you so that I can bring you a more rounded opinion. On this topic, however – and I think this s particularly relevant to those working in creative industries such as film - there wasn’t much. I mean it’s out there but it’s thin on the ground, it’s sometimes disguised under different headings, but you have to dig.
I found good information in some online articles aimed at women as it happens, although this is definitely a problem which both sexes have to face, and I think particularly for CREATIVES. One article details a survey that Activia did where they asked women what was holding them back from reaching their dreams? 80% of the time, the answer was themselves.
There are of course positive and negative voices to our inner monologue. On one shoulder we have a devil with a pitchfork and horns but on the other we have an angelic saint wearing a halo. At least that’s what they look like in the cartoons. Each one is saying don’t listen to the other guy, whispering in our ears and influencing our lives. Of course, in truth, they are far more complex characters. I’d go for a sarcastic internet hater (the ones that lurk on forums just waiting for you to say something they can disagree with) versus a sensible guiding mentor, teacher or even a supportive parent but the visuals for them are a lot more complex.
If I split our inner monologue into three different parts though:
The INNER VOICE – is the positive voice that supports, calms and reassures us - born from our sense of right and wrong and our sense of goodwill, family and friendship. It gives us drive and is fuelled by passion. This inner voice should be considered as our guide. It’s the voice that says Let’s do this. Get up, brush your teeth, pay your bills, write that script, go to the gym, phone your mammy and don’t worry. Everything’s going to be alright. It’s the voice that calms you, allows stress to wash over you and that says well done, good job and sometimes, lets you just walk away. The much quoted Derek Sivers line - if it’s not a HELL YEH, then it’s a No, comes from that inner voice advising us that maybe this job or task or invitation is not good for you – It is looking after your wellbeing. You won’t ever get this voice mixed up with the inner critic as the inner critic will be grabbing you round the throat and whispering poison in your ear - but you might feel that you have lost touch with reality a little and there are solutions to that. I’ll do a future episode on affirmations which will go into this in a bit of detail. Consciously curated affirmations can act as a crutch for those feeling lost out there.
The second element would be what I have talked about in detail already - The INNER CRITIC –If we let this bully take control, it will feed our self-doubt, pick on our weaknesses and say we’re not good enough, not worthy enough, not charming enough, not experienced enough and if we start listening to it we are going to stop ourselves before we even start.
There’s a third part to this perhaps which I’m going to tackle in a mini-episode which I’ll release just after this and that’s Rumination. It’s like an extreme form of the inner critic but it’s not so much an inner voice, more a replaying of experiences emotions or thoughts in an endless loop that keeps you awake at night and wears away at your soul. I’ll talk about it separately as it needs a bit of time to get into, but we can tackle it and we will.
DEALING WITH THE INNER CRITIC
The way I see it, there’s a fourth part to all this. The part that listens to the negative voice. The silent partner that passively gives the critic an ear in which to catastrophize... You. Let’s give permission to that silent partner to speak up.
My favourite example of a creative overcoming their inner critic is. JK Rowling - Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers before BLOOMSBURY picked it up for an advance of just £1500 quid. It’s now sold over 450 million copies worldwide. If she’d listened to her inner critic she’d not have persevered and the world would have missed out on an absolutely cracking set of stories.
I’m certain that JK Rowling had a few moments along the way where she said to herself – What am I doing? But she persevered, shut down that negativity and drove what she believed into completion.
Support this podcast by purchasing anything at all through my affiliate links. The Harry Potter Complete Collection is not a productivity book but it's still awesome... :-)
What can we do to combat the inner critic? It’s easy to say just ignore it, but perhaps trickier in practice – what we can do once we have recognised that it is there is to implement strategies to live with it or disrupt its influence along the way. In time you will build habits that will give you back control.
First Things First - How’s about you just give yourself a break? Don’t concede to the enemy within. If you recognise what I’ve been talking about where you can handle it - this podcast will help you to recognise when the critic is in the driving seat and it’s then that you can say no to the negative voice and take over.
Building up our belief in ourselves and our self-worth is key. I get a LOT of fight directing work in the UK – It’s how I pay my bills - but it took a visit to China and after just a few minutes of watching the amazing Donnie Yen direct a fight sequence for me to realise - that wow – He works exactly the same way I do. I’d forgotten how good I was as I almost always work on my own. It’s easy to forget how good you are at what you do if you live and work in a vacuum. It’s also too easy to stop yourself before you start. One of the principles of good mental health is to get out there and experience the world. If you find your inner critic gets to be just too much – try going for a walk. Hit the gym. Meet a friend for a coffee. Just the change of environment can make the difference and help you to remember that you are in control.
You can also defeat the inner critic before it starts by planning ahead. Define what your tasks are very specific. Plan what you want to achieve and don’t want when you start on something. One article I read said that the inner critic will make incomplete and undefined tasks an “amorphous blob of un-do-ability” which is a wonderful description. That’s what your inner critic will make of unspecific tasks. Listen to my episode on prioritising and use the brain dump technique and prioritising strategies to define exactly what is important. With a written plan you can save yourself a lot of time and give your work focus. That plan might allow you to break larger tasks down into a series of smaller more edible tasks, to effectively make them a sum of their parts. Parts so small that the inner critic will find it harder to combat. Using the techniques from my episode on perfectionism will also allow you move on.
Don’t catastrophize! I used to be really bad for this. Stop yourself from dwelling on worst-case scenarios, and all the things that could possibly go wrong and look towards what is realistic. I had an unbelievable conversation with a young assistant director at the Edinburgh Film Festival this year. He’d convinced himself that no one wanted to hire him but the reality was he hadn’t actually sent out a Resume or told anyone out there that he was available for work. It’s amazing how debilitating that critic can be.
His solution was to take action, and I advised him to do so. In the words of Winston Churchill – Success is not final – Failure is not fatal – it is the courage to continue that counts.
Taking action is my solution to many of these debilitating situations, and to do that you need to develop Drive. A subject which I’ll commit an entire episode to later on. It goes hand in hand with the self-belief that I mentioned a minute ago. Constant unchecked movement will create a snowball effect and allow you to develop a habit of work that your inner critic will be unable to stop.
One other action you might take if you have reached an impasse with your inner critic is to share your thoughts with someone else. Getting out of your own head; Like I talk about in my earlier episode on Prioritising in fact, and hearing feedback from someone else that you trust will silence your inner critic quite effectively. Talking it over with a friend will give almost always give you a realistic perspective if what you’ve been doing is catastrophising - presenting a situation as considerably worse than it actually is.
The Psychologist William James said “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
The weapon therefor and the choice of how you wield it is yours - You are the master of our own destiny.
CALL TO ACTION
Use the techniques I’ve talked about today to tackle your negative inner thoughts and you will find that you will have a more productive and happy life as a result. Next time it happens. Catch yourself and question it. Use your positive inner voice to fuel your drive and put you firmly in the driving seat.
Thanks again for listening - Next episode I’ll be talking about THE PERETO PRINCIPLE and how it can be applied to our work in the creative industries.
For now, though, take control of your own destiny, silence those negative thoughts, keep on shootin’ and join me NEXT TIME on Film Pro Productivity.
The music for this podcast and that you are listening to right now is Adventures by A Himitsu.
You can view the show notes for this episode at www.filmproproductivity.com/episode6
If you’re struggling with something you think I can help with or would like to tell me how you are getting on then please get in touch via the contact page on the website. Alternately you can get me on Twitter @fight_director or follow the show @filmproprodpod
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Sources: https://joshkaufman.net/getting-things-done/, https://tinybuddha.com/blog/5-immediate-and-easy-ways-to-silence-your-inner-critic/, https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/compassion-matters/201305/4-ways-overcome-your-inner-critic
Thanks: A Himitsu, Stephen Rowan, Dave Bullis Podcast, Podcraft.
Main Photographs taken on the Giordano UK shoot by Bryan Larkin.
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