A man sitting on a concrete floor, writing on paper.

My Inner Critic

I don’t like writing about myself.

Seems strange, for someone who’s blogging about themselves, right? But it’s true. Maybe it goes back to vulnerability, which I mentioned yesterday was a big part of why I am making myself write this blog. However, specifically writing about myself brings up a greater host of negative feelings than an uncomfortable vulnerability.

Writing about myself makes me feel arrogant. I struggle, sometimes, to balance writing about myself in a way that doesn’t feel arrogant to me but that doesn’t come off as extremely unconfident to someone else. To be clear: often, the writing that sounds arrogant to me does not sound arrogant to other people. I am my own biggest critic — and I know that I am not the only one who feels this way about themselves.

I appreciate the inner critic, though. It helps me write in an honest way about myself. I remember when I was writing my personal statement to apply to medical school — you have to sell yourself to the admissions committee, and that was difficult for me to do without thinking myself big-headed. I had a dozen experiences to talk about, from growing up in a town without access to medical care (or groceries, education, sewage systems, and municipal water) to having been a caregiver to multiple people during my relatively short life. I always hesitated, though, asking myself: how dare I claim these experiences make me special? How dare I claim I deserve this spot more than the person next in the application file?

I came to an agreement with myself — an arrangement to appease the inner critic. I would sit down and challenge every single claim that I made about myself, forcing me to come up with evidence for and against that statement. I say I’m an empathetic person? Prove it. I’m claiming that I lacked certain opportunities growing up? Be sure to include the opportunities you were given that landed you here, and ensure you have concrete evidence that the opportunities you lacked were actually disadvantages.

I ended up writing a pretty decent personal statement, I think. Of course, in writing this sentence — I wrote a decent personal statement — I feel that inner critic welling up inside of me. So here’s the proof: in my first interview for medical school, the interviewer said it was one of the best she’s read; in other interviews, my interviewers pointed out specific parts they liked and complimented me on my writing skills; my essay got me into my top three medical schools, including the super competitive program that was my first choice.

Despite this evidence, it’s still hard for me to label my personal statement as good. I find that immensely frustrating. If I were a friend, and my friend wrote a personal statement that people said these things about, I wouldn’t let her be modest about it.

Is it modesty, or insecurity? I have no clue.

But you know what? I’m okay with that inner critic.

My inner critic keeps me honest.

Here’s the thing: I believe that once we start becoming proud of something — our skills, our level of knowledge, our morality — we become less willing to put effort into improving those skills. If I tell myself I am a good writer, I am less likely to identify areas in which I need to grow. If I tell myself I am a good person, I might use that belief as salve against guilt when I do something less good, like when I neglect to give money to someone in need.

I NEED my inner critic to challenge my beliefs about myself. I need my inner critic because it challenges me to be a better person, whether we’re talking about a skill like writing or a moral state like “goodness.”

The truth is, the world doesn’t care if I believe I am good or good at something; it only cares if each particular action I do or product I make is good.

So, thank you inner critic. You sure are frustrating, sometimes, but you make be a better person. Some might even say that you got me into medical school.

Photo on Foter.com

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