It’s so easy for me to think of a hundred ways why someone could do this better.
That’s what I was thinking when a woman was trying to fit the microphone headset over my ear. It wasn’t fitting right. And the audience was waiting as we fiddled with that contraption.
“It just. won’t. fit,” she whispered.
This one unhelpful thought pulsed through my mind: “What if I don’t fit?”
My turn had come to deliver a message of hope to a room full of women. As she bent and twisted the microphone to make it fit over my ear, I stood up front with a pit in my stomach, looking across the room at all these faces. I inhaled deeply and let my breath out in one long stream of air, wondering if the whole room could see the way that my heart beat hard and fast, beat like it might just jump out of my chest and run out the front door.
No one in the room had claws or sharp teeth. Except for one:
Hi. May I introduce you to my fanged Inner Critic, the one who whispers: “What will people think of you?”
Ms. Inner Critic is the one who tells me I’ll fall or fail. She’s the one who, as a child, made sure I felt like I the nerd, the loser, the geek. And she also knows how to pick on adult women: She makes us look across rooms or auditoriums, and then tells us we don’t belong here.
Maybe you already know Ms. Inner Critic. Maybe she beats hard against your chest when you’re standing at a podium, at a computer keyboard, at the overwhelming list on your kitchen counter. Maybe she mocks you when you look out across your church sanctuary, your cubicle, or your Facebook feed, where it looks like everyone else has the world be the tail. She makes you think that everyone else is winning, and you’ve got a big L on your forehead.
She makes you think you don’t belong.
Your Inner Critic can be a noisy, belligerent bully. Mine can, too. I have heard her accusations before I publish blog posts, write book chapters, parent my girls, or look in the mirror at my own reflection.
She’ll tell us that there’s something better for our life — if we’d only try harder, get cuter, make the Honor Roll, tell a better joke, drive a better car, shrink into a smaller pair of jeans.
And now, Ms. Inner Critic was trying to stage a protest inside of me, entering in through a door of insecurity that I had left cracked open.
Over the previous hour, three other accomplished speakers had stook at the front of this very room. All three of them — soul-beautiful with anointed words — moved with grace across the stage. They didn’t use notes. They all appeared to speak with a confidence that I didn’t feel on the inside.
But me? Well, I had my whole talk written out, would probably stay close to my notes, and at this point, it didn’t look like I’d be able to wear that cool, rock-star-diva microphone headset.
“It’s just not fitting,” the woman whispered.
Someone put a microphone in my hands.
And then a funny thing happened on the way to the podium.
I walked toward the center of the stage, and with my purple binder under my arm, and I could feel it happening. It wasn’t my heart that ran out the front door. It was the Inner Critic.
I felt a sudden sense of peace, that God could reveal a bit of His glory through my shaky voice, my typed-out notes, my quirky style. And I stood there, silently for a moment, scanning the faces. They weren’t here to criticize or jeer.
They were here to receive. They were on my side. And they believed that God could speak through one simple farm wife from northwest Iowa.
Looking back, I have a sense of what it might mean for any of us to really fit in: We don’t do any one any favors by trying to squeeze into our idea of what fits. We need only to be clothed in the right-sized life that God designed for us.
And because the over-the-ear microphone didn’t fit that night, I discovered that I had in my hands what fit just right for me —
I lifted a handheld microphone and spoke.