A few days ago, I decided to set my alarm for 3am so I could go out to photograph the (annual) meteor swarm. I started enthusiastically setting up my gear in the garden. And then this voice in my head started sounding. “Do you really think that you are going outside in the middle of the night? The weather is overcast, you won’t see a single star! You will be eaten alive by mosquitos. This won’t work, when the alarm goes off, you will just turn over and go back to sleep.”
The voice of the Inner Critic, keeping me small. I know this voice well, he’s been with me for years. However, I have learned to deal with him. It makes no sense to get angry with him or to ignore him. The Inner Critic was there for us as children, protecting us from pain, disappointment, and other emotions we weren’t ready for yet. By staying small, we stayed protected. Now, we no longer need to be protected. The Inner Critic now keeps us away from our greatness.
Bill Plotkin calls this voice The Loyal Soldier. During Workd War II, some Japanese pilots were shot down. They survived on deserted islands in the Pacific. They were found 30 years later and brought home. However, they didn’t realize that the war was over and wanted to continue to fight for their country. The Japanese people welcomed them with love and honor, making them feel that they truly belonged. Gradually, they became accustomed to the idea that the war was over and made themselves useful in modern society. American soldiers, returning home from the Vietnam and Gulf Wars weren’t always so lucky. Because they weren’t welcomed as heroes, they remained traumatized.
Our Loyal Soldier, who often takes on the form of the Inner Critic, has fought to keep us safe. It is important that we recognize how he has protected us and to thank him for this. We need to embrace him with love and gratitude. And then, if the wars of childhood are truly over, we can start convincing him that he no longer needs to protect us by keeping us small.
Do you recognize the voice of your Loyal Soldier? How do you deal with your Inner Critic?