How many of you have a very loud, very persistent Inner Critic voice? On a recent trip to NYC, I had to have a serious sit-down with my Inner Critic to get her to shut up.
We had literally just boarded the plane, taking our seats in the front row of business class (thanks, Farger!) when I realized my mistake. I cursed more loudly than I should have causing at least one other boarding passenger to give me side-eye, and I immediately felt my blood pressure rise. My face burned, not with embarrassment but from pure rage. HOW COULD I make such a dumb mistake? The anger kept rising, until I felt it fill my entire body from my feet to the tip top of my head, as if I’d been poured full of boiling hot magma. Not even the THC coursing through my veins, eradicating my pre-flight anxiety, could keep me calm. I was so pissed off at myself — or more accurately, my Inner Critic was really pissed off at me.
I had forgotten my coat.
Other inner voices jumped in to calm me down: Aw, Ashley, what’s the big deal? It’s a coat! You can buy another coat!
That. Is not. The Point.
You’re overreacting, it’s no big deal. You have plenty of time to buy a new coat as soon as you get into the city, and you can wear your dad’s extra jacket in the meantime.
The anger bubbled at the surface, curse words still flying out of my mouth. My dad’s eyebrows raised very high into his brow line.
“So, uh, how long are you going to be this crabby?”
“Give me an hour,” I say, sulking, as my inner voices argued over my mistake.
How did you forget the coat?! It was right there by your suitcase!
Seriously, what’s… the big deal? You forgot a coat. Okay????
Y’all, it’s not really about the coat.
It was about how much time I had WASTED researching coats. I’d asked dozens of people for recommendations, pouring over countless websites recommended by coworkers and friends. I read hundreds of reviews and comparative lists. I asked fashion-forward friends about fabric differences – would wool be too itchy? Would down make me sneeze? Are these weird puffer coats really the way to go? What length should I get? Do I want a removable hood? What about a removable liner? What color should I get? Do I want a pattern or a solid?
THERE ARE TOO MANY OPTIONS AND SO MANY TYPES OF COATS. Everyone has different opinions about all of them. It was very overwhelming. I quit the search for a few weeks, but finally made a decision and bought one of those squishable puffer coats that pack down to a convenient, stuffable size. It’s black, with a hood, and stylish (I think), could be dressed up or down, and – most importantly – is warm and comfortable. I was quite pleased with my purchase!
And then I m******f****** forgot to take the gd coat.
Perhaps my forgetfulness would have been less of a blow had I not also, upon arrival at the airport, left my phone in the backseat of my mother’s car. (She brought it right back, it was fine.) Perhaps I would have been less angry had I not been so overwhelmed by the coat-finding process and spent so much time picking one out. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
But there I was, my Inner Critic’s annoyance dominating my emotions. I would not only be colder than planned when we landed in Newark, but then I would have to go find another freaking coat. Cool.
Within thirty minutes, I had calmed down, the Hot Boiling Rage had dissipated to Extreme Annoyance, and we had a lovely flight. We got a car, got stuck in traffic, and eventually made it to our hotel by Grand Central Station.
By the time we checked in and dropped in our luggage in our rooms, it was 3:45. We had dinner plans with a coworker of mine at 6:30. And now, instead of relaxing and getting ready or sneaking in some sight seeing, I had to go on a quest.
I didn’t want to squander precious sight-seeing time or risk being late to dinner. I needed time to freshen up and look good for my Work Wife since we were meeting for the first time IRL! So I needed to complete my mission fast.
The first store I went into: no coats.
The second store I went into: Anne Taylor Loft. They had a huge sale going on and many coats to choose from. There was a safe black wool coat – classic, unnoticeable. There was plum, less sleek looking wool coat on the sale rack. It didn’t excite me, but it would do the job. I sent pix to my husband and best friend chat asking for opinions.
But then, my eyes kept going back to this fire engine red wool coat, exactly like the black one. But Very Very Red.
I couldn’t wear something that red. Could I?
I tried it on just to see. Is this something I could pull off?
I have secretly always wanted a brightly colored coat but have never had the guts to buy one. That has generally been my approach to fashion since I was a kid: that looks too cool for me. I can’t pull that off. Nah, I’ll just get the black one.
WELL NOT ANYMORE, LADIES AND GENTS.
And this is where the whole point of this story comes into play:
Forgetting my coat turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
My mistake forced me to straight-up ignore my decision fatigue and imposter syndrome. I didn’t have time to be picky or to doubt whether or not I would look cool. But my Inner Critic wasn’t convinced.
It’s too red. It’s too bright. It clashes with your hair. There’s no hood. It’s wool.
So I asked the sales guy, “Does this look okay with my hair color?”
He turned to me and smiled. “Yes, I love it! But I think it’s too big for you. Let’s try the small.”
There’s no way I’m a small, dude, I wear a 10/12. But he shook his head and insisted… and lo and behold he was correct.
“That looks nice.”
And you know what? I agreed with him. I really liked it. (Well, all of my parts really liked it, except that controlling critical voice, but by this point, I’d told her to STFU. I was on a time crunch!)
“There’s a matching beanie over there that would look super cute too.”
I didn’t even bat an eye or allow myself to think about it: I bought the beanie.
After having the cashier cut off the tags, I pulled on the coat and beanie,, and walked out of the store carrying my dad’s jacket with a satisfied smile on my face.
And I gotta say, I was definitely feelin’ myself for the rest of that trip.
Why do we doubt ourselves so much? Why do grown ass women think they can’t or shouldn’t wear a thing? Why do I deny myself things I want to try? Why do we get in our heads and allow those annoying voices to convince us away from the things we want to do? Why do we allow our inner critics to have so much say? What does it gain us? How are they protecting us?
After a lot of work over the years, I am intimately familiar with my Inner Critic’s motivations: she doesn’t want me to look like an idiot. Forgetting my coat made me look like an idiot. So did leaving my phone in my mom’s car. She was worried that a fine engine red coat would only worsen the situation.
But she was wrong. 🙂 And I love my new red ensemble!
One of my goals for 2022 is to not allow my inner critic as much say in what I wear (or any of what I do, really). If I want to wear fire engine red or hot highlighter pink or crazy leggings or mismatched socks, gd I am going to let myself do that! (Except for the mismatched socks. I just can’t abide feeling different socks on my feet.)
What do you fight with your inner critic about? What have you allowed yourself to NOT DO even though you really wanted to? How do you keep those inner voices from dominating your decision-making?