“When it comes to your inner critic, my advice is to not take advice from someone who doesn’t like you. That’s like returning to the perpetrator for healing after you’ve been abused.”—Patrick Califia, writer
When the popular singer/songwriter and heart-throb, Shawn Mendes, steps on stage in front of sold-out arenas, his critical ego often takes over to help him perform. But it inevitably causes him to slip up, that is, until he lets it go and brings the house down. In the documentary In Wonder, Mendes described how lightning fast his Critic shows up and gets in his way:
“You first get on the stage, and ego comes rushing in. And it goes, ‘Don’t mess up because you’re the man. Everyone’s saying you’re the man, so don’t mess up.’ So, then you get to the mic and your first note’s flat. Always. And then thirty seconds in, you go, ‘Ah, yeah I’m just a guy, and I love music.’ And your whole-body releases. And I just let go, and I look around and I’m just like, ‘Just do this. Drop the ego. Time to surrender.”
The first step is to observe the Critic like you would a blemish on your hand, listening to it with a curious, dispassionate ear as a part of you.
The second step is to talk to the Critic using a non-first-person pronoun such as your name or as “you.” University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross conducted research into the value of first-name self-talk as a way to disable anxiety before and after a stressful event when people often ruminate about their performance. Kross gave 89 participants five minutes to prepare a speech. Half were told to use first person pronouns (”I”) to refer to themselves while the other half were told to use their names. The pronoun group had greater anxiety with such comments as, “There’s no way I can prepare a speech in five minutes,” while the name group had less anxiety and expressed confidence using self-talk such as, “Bryan, you can do this.” The name group was also rated higher in performance by independent evaluators and were less likely to ruminate after the speech. Other studies also show that first-name self-talk is more likely to empower you and increase the likelihood that, compared to someone using first-person pronoun self-talk, you see a challenge instead of a threat.