How to Follow Your Call When You're Self-Critical
This post is for anyone who feels a call to some self-starter initiative, whether it be a creative passion or an entrepreneurial venture. As someone in the arts and who has dabbled in entrepreneurism for many years, I am all too familiar with the infinity of little hours that can be frittered away doing anything but that calling. Fortunately, you don't have to stay stuck. Read on!
Getting out the door with two kids is always a struggle. As I rifled through my drawer looking for a pair of socks to go under my boots, I heard the familiar “DAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaAAA!” of my 18-month-old having a front door meltdown wondering what was taking me so long. Intermingled with his yelling were the escalating protests of my 6-month-old as my husband tried to put her sweater on. Wearing multiple layers was not going well for any of the Sumereaus right now. My search for socks became more desperate. I dug all the way to the back of the drawer before unearthing a black and a purple sock.
I sighed in frustration. Gone were the days of put-together autumn outfits. I rarely wore makeup any more or coordinated a cute outfit, and I hated feeling sloppy all the time. My inner critic started chanting “You’re THAT mom….the one whose kids rule her life, who can’t even find matching socks!” I searched harder.
Then a thought dawned on me: People who are cool enough not to care can pull off mismatched socks. I donned the purple and black socks with a smile. And we got out the door.
I am uber-familiar with the voice of my inner critic threatening to paralyze me. That inner critic is powerful, man. He can make himself sound like God. “The world doesn’t need another blogger or speaker or singer. What have you got that’s so special anyway?” (pro tip: God doesn’t talk to us like this.) In the past this self-doubt paralyzed me so that my creative output was practically nil. When life got busy, I would just throw up my hands and spend whatever free time I had obsessively following the bloggers, speakers and singers I longed to be like.
I’ve learned to put on the mismatched socks and get out the door. Just make it happen.
Perhaps a dream is calling to you that feels far out of reach. It often feels uncomfortable and scary to respond to something we're called to. Maybe a lot of things would need to change for you to achieve it. Maybe you feel overwhelmed and compare yourself to others. I’ve been there. I’m still there, sometimes. I often feel like I get nowhere at home, inching along in the stolen moments of babies’ naps.
I’ve finally gotten wise enough to know that I need to always first surrender my roadblocks and pent-up creative passions to God, and ask him what he wants me to do with them. I tell him to please redirect the desire if I'm not meant to follow that passion. If he is calling you to it, he will keep knocking on the door of your heart. When he does, go for it.
I seriously doubt that God wants you to suffer in endless unfulfilled desire. He probably wants you to make the brave choice, which is to struggle against that inner critic and fight to make time for it.
Many of my callings from God are creative. The creative world is already over-saturated with people competing for the attention of an audience. Sometimes the sheer number of creatives makes me scared to put anything out there. The oft-quoted phrase “beauty will save the world” points to a deep reality of the power of art to change hearts and minds for the good. If we allow our self-doubt and competitive spirit to dictate whether or not we contribute beauty to the world, we are abdicating our power and giving it to the devil. We are silencing the voice that could most help a lost soul find its way home.
A year ago, despite having a six-month-old and one on the way, I committed to writing just one blog post a month and sending one email blast to my subscribers per month. Some months I’ve had overloads of inspiration, and others I’ve been so sleep-deprived that I had almost nothing, but I kept my promise to myself and made it happen. I have slowly found my voice (still in process!) and have gained confidence. Best of all, each new blog post brings with it a bump of inspiration- either I receive feedback from my modest but growing audience (I loooove hearing from you guys!) or the Holy Spirit hits me up with an idea that flows from my head onto my computer screen easily.
As I have slowly plodded along inch by inch, I finally have the confidence to keep writing and speaking when my self-doubt threatens to overpower me. I have built a reputation with myself that am THAT girl who gets things done.
It no longer feels like plodding. It’s really exciting to feel inspiration bubbling up inside me! I understand now that following my vocation as a mother while simultaneously following my creative calling is the exact life that God dreamed for me. I give my full attention to my babies when they are awake and I pour out the creativity of my ministry when they sleep. The hours of doing menial housework improve my blog posts because I have time to muse on them rather than churning out posts with little thought. I finally realize this IS, as the kids say on Instagram, #livingmybestlife.
One of my creative cheerleaders Marie Forleo says: “Start before you’re ready.” (note: I am a big fan of Marie as an entrepreneur but I don’t ascribe to some of her views in other arenas.)
It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be the best. It just has to happen because God called you to it and you have a unique voice to add to the symphony of creation.
If you’ve been waiting for a sign to get your God-given calling started, this is it! I totally get that everything other than following your call becomes attractive when you sit down to do it. The more power our voice has for good, the stronger the devil will push back with everything he’s got to discourage you from taking action. Let’s not let him win the battle of the little moments. Hail Mary full of grace, punch the devil in the face.
So what if your socks don’t match? Get out the door and make it happen.