Suspend censoring yourself. Experiment with observing yourself instead.

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In this article

I want to go within. 

I don’t care, right here and right now, about the social implications of my creations. I care about the censorship that rises within myself. I care about the ideas I can’t even reach inside my own consciousness because they are sequestered by a part of me that thinks it knows better. 

It doesn’t. 

I appreciate the effort on it trying to protect me – from judgment, from being made fun of, from being rejected, or even (God forbid) from being ignored. I can’t allow it, however, to be the master of my existence. I can’t allow it to guard my every thought, my every desire, my every musing, my every impulse, my every idea.

My internal censor has multiple arms and heads and forms.

It has been nurtured by a wide range of external and internal sources: from family, to friends, to teachers, to bosses, to magazines, to social media, to an elaborate blend of all of them that lives rent free in me.

There’s people in my life who I internalized as censors: old friends who had an elevated eloquence on what was good art or bad art, who despised mediocrity, who were as brilliant as they were judgemental (at least in my young and eager eyes). Coworkers who were so articulate on what it meant to be talented and connected and successful. What you should or should not be doing. Where you should go. What you should wear. What you should buy. Who would say “you have not been to New York unless you’ve been to this place”. 

It’s quite odd that some of the relationships that helped me widen my worldview – without whom I would surely have a more dull experience of life, were also the ones who fostered this inner judge in me, in ways no other relationship did. 

Perhaps it’s simply a defense mechanism against losing myself in the expansion of experience. Perhaps it’s simply my own nervous system going, “you can take this new path if you want, even though you know I hate new paths. Here, I will build some insurmountable guardrails on each side of the road so that you don’t wander too far off “.

Perhaps (surprise surprise!), these censors have so much more to say about myself than about any of these people. My censor’s most recent shapeshifting took place after I moved from Brazil to the Netherlands, and it paired perfectly with the person who it impersonated: highly critic, perfectionist, never good enough kind of vibe. You know, the life of the party.

It’s been over my shoulder for years now. And even though I managed to write consistently, to publish books in English and Portuguese (which I have never thought possible), it’s still here somewhere. It still scares me. It still holds the keys to places I know I want to go creatively. It still disguises as hundreds of other things that seem to be what I lack. 

At the end of it, my internal judge disguises itself as other people while it’s intransferably mine. I can (and probably will) mask it however I want but it’s none of those people, it’s me. I’m the problem. Just like in every Scooby Doo episode, the mask is taken out and it has been Scooby the whole time – or someone else (I actually know nothing about Scooby Doo).

I wish there was a clear conclusion to this, but I don’t believe there is. I don’t want my internal censorship to go completely away – God forbid I become an unhinged sociopath who launches rockets, purchases social media platforms and wants to insert chips into people’s brains. 

I understand, acknowledge and appreciate the fact that there’s this part of me that cares. It cares that I am not exposing myself too much. It cares that I am not settling down for average when I could try a bit harder and make it great. It cares that what I make is responsible and sensible. It cares that I don’t become overwhelmed with new environments and experiences. It tries to impersonate external judgment to spare me from harsh criticism coming my way unexpectedly and hurting me. 

Come to think of it, it has nothing but good intentions.

I will not and I don’t want to get rid of this part of me, but I can’t let it take over. 

I can’t let it take the wheel. 

This part of me is a compliance advisor, not the CEO of me. It’s the editor and the publishing house, but not the writer. It’s the producer, not the performer. It’s the critic, not the composer. It’s the sponsor, not the painter.

Without the rawness of creation, there’s nothing to edit. 
I can’t censor what doesn’t even exist. 

So I will keep trying this, probably forever. 

Let it in. Process.
Breathe through the impulse of the censor.
Let it out. Observe.

Picture of Carol Milters
Carol Milters

Writer & Educator
Mental health at work, burnout, ADHD and bipolar • Research + lived experience
Author, "My Morning Pages: Chronicles of living through Burnout" and “One Step Per Day: Meditations to begin again, whenever you need”

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My Morning Pages:
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