You ever met a liar that’s so good they could convince you that you aren’t you?
That happened to me—well, it’s been happening. This chick is so good that she even sounds like me. She had me confused so many times. I heard her voice and knew she was me.
To be totally honest, I’m not even sure how many years—well, decades—I’ve been catfished.
But don’t worry. Lately, she’s been getting sloppy. Her phrases are becoming repetitive. She’s developing a pattern. I can almost predict what she’ll do next. I know what she’ll say, and even when she’ll show up.
I am developing a portrait of my inner critic. Like a sketch artist with a little more information, I’m filling in the details. Soon she won’t be able to fool me anymore.
I’ve heard that there are others out there, so I want you to be aware. Let me tell you a little bit about her….
She continuously diverts my attention away from inspired ideas by offering distractions, convincing me of reasons they’re not good ideas, and by bombarding me with negative what if’s. She loves to bring up past instances when I failed at whatever I’m about to attempt. And the thing that really got my attention was when I noticed her repeating the same phrases, no matter what I was attempting.
Some of her main phrases are:
- “That’s not gonna work.”
- “It’s gonna take too long.”
- “You’re behind.”
- “No one’s gonna want/pay you for that.”
- “How are you gonna pay for that?”
- “You should do that over.”
- “You should _______ instead.”
Now, chances are that you’ve been catfished, too—not by my inner critic, but by your own. And it’s tempting to be really angry.
What I’ve realized recently is that my inner critic is actually my misguided bodyguard. She showed up to serve me…. to protect me. From childhood ’til now, she has kept a record of every moment that has made me feel sad, embarrassed, or unsafe. She has noted every moment of grief, guilt, and shame. She has made it her priority to remember what I was doing each time I experienced those emotions. Then, she uses this data to protect me from experiencing those emotions again.
When she sees I’m about to do something that resembles those past moments of pain, she shows up with stories, fake tasks, and even cravings to deter me from participating. She does everything she can, and will even lie, to protect me.
I believe you might have a catfish, too, and they’ve likely done the same thing to you.
The only problem is that these catfi…, I mean, misguided body guards… haven’t evolved. Many of them arrived in childhood, so they still have childlike beliefs about why things happened. So they are attempting to protect us from things that might not even bring us pain. If you had your tonsils removed as a kid, and all you got to eat was ice cream, maybe in adulthood you hate cold treats and don’t even know why. If you and your dad were besties and then he left, you might be hesitant to allow yourself to love that deeply again. If you put your heart and soul into a school project, but your teacher tore it apart in front of the entire class, you may have decided that day to only do mediocre work, or that being in the front of the room is not safe.
Our inner body guards are well-meaning, but misguided. They refuse to let us experience those hurts again, so they take on our identity. They speak within us to warn us of “certain” danger. They repeat the lessons others taught us about how the world works, what’s unsafe, who to trust, what’s too big for us. They repeat those phrases and stories, and get in our way as we attempt to evolve. Until we become aware of them, and take control of our thoughts, they can run our whole lives and keep us from so many great things.
I challenge you to begin to notice the patterns of when your inner body guard shows up. Notice the thoughts that cross your mind when you decide you’re ready to embark on something new, something expansive, something that feels like a great next step. Pay attention to moments when your excited energy shifts. What thought crossed your mind? Become aware of what’s going on within you.
Start to write down your objections to evolving. Eventually, you will begin to notice a pattern. You’ll begin to see cycles of doing other than what you want to do. Keep noticing. Eventually, you may realize that your thoughts are actually the voice of your catfish.
Update: Thanks to the popularity of this post, get ready for my upcoming book! “You’re Being Catfished: 7 Strategies to Overcoming Your Inner Critic.” Expected release: November 2022