My Inner Critic

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Everywhere I go, my inner critic, Cyril, travels with me, looking over my shoulder and telling me what I’m doing wrong. No action on my part is too small for Cyril to have a negative opinion about. When I grab a shirt from my closet in the morning: “You’re picking that shirt again? Didn’t you just wear that yesterday? You want people to think you only have one shirt?” When I pour a second cup of coffee: “Do you really need that? It’ll just get you all wound up and you haven’t even done anything productive yet.”

My inner critic has been with me since I was a little kid, criticizing the way I swung a bat or threw a ball, the way I swam or rode a bike, even the way I played in the sand: “You call that a sand castle? If you want to see a real sand castle, just take a walk down the beach a hundred feet. That kid is building the Tower of London with a Dixie cup that leaks water, and you can’t even build a wall that doesn’t collapse when you stick a seashell on top.”

The funny thing about Cyril is that he doesn’t care which choice I happen to make; he will criticize me anyway: “Why do you want to go to the Fourth of July party at Dick and Jane’s? You go there every summer. Why not check out the big fireworks show downtown this year?”

“OK, I will.”

“Oh, and then Jane will be so hurt. Why do you want to make her feel bad?”

“You’re right; I’ll go to their party. I love it and all my best friends will be there.”

“You’re so predictable; you always do the exact same thing. How are you ever going to break out of your rut?”

“You’re right. I’m tired of seeing those people every weekend. I’m going to the big fireworks show downtown with my boss.”

“Just because you got that promotion? That’s the kind of guy you are. As soon as you’re a success, you forget your friends.”

“I know, I’ll invite everyone to come downtown with me to the big fireworks show!”

“So you’re willing to spoil Dick and Jane’s party that they’ve been planning for weeks and invite all their guests to another party? You really are a lousy friend.”

When I’m driving, Cyril is relentless: “C’mon, pass this guy. You’ll be stuck behind him all the way to Cincinnati.” And when I start to pass: “Slow down; if you go more than seven miles over the speed limit, the cops will be sure to catch you. Why are you in such a hurry? Why can’t you just relax and enjoy the drive for a change, instead of getting fixated on passing every driver on the road?”

Cyril never lets me enjoy dinner: “You’re going to put butter on that bread? With your cholesterol count? You might as well be eating rat poison. And why won’t you try the Brussels sprouts? You’re such a wimp. I hope you’re not planning on having a second helping of the mashed potatoes. Have you weighed yourself lately? You’re going to order another glass of wine? Who’s driving home tonight? Do you know how much a DUI ticket will cost you? Hope you have a good lawyer.”

Whenever I want to spend money on something, Cyril wants to pinch pennies: “Why are you buying the name brand tomato sauce? The store brand is just as good and it’s 25 cents cheaper.” But when I do try to save money: “My god, don’t you ever get anything unless it’s on sale? You’re such a miser, you can’t even buy a can of tuna unless you have a coupon for it.”

Cyril shushes me when I’m making noise and yells at me when I won’t speak up. He tells me to get more exercise when I’m lying on the couch reading a book and lambasts me for wasting my mind when I’m out playing golf.

Even perfection isn’t good enough for my inner critic. When I was in school and got 100 percent on a test: “Yeah, sure, you did well on that easy stuff, but do you really think you can do it again? Anyway, this is a state school. You’d never get 100 percent at Harvard.”

But over the years, I’ve finally figured out a way to shut Cyril up. I tell him, “You are a lousy critic. You obviously must have flunked your final critic’s exam, or why would you be stuck giving bad reviews to the bananas I pick for my cereal every morning? I can’t take anything you say seriously anymore. I’ve got better things to do than to kowtow to a bitter old critic. I think it’s time you retired. Or maybe you could get a job working for a dog and telling him what fire hydrant not to pee on. I think that’s more your speed.”

And then I get on with my day, and stop worrying about what my inner critic thinks.

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