Ann Cannon: Doing battle with ‘brain freeze’ and my ‘inner critic’

First Published      Last Updated Apr 14 2015 09:03 pm

I'm supposed to be writing an essay for a project right now called "Silencing Your Inner Critic," but instead I'm reading stuff online about "brain freeze."

This is the excellent thing about the Internet. You can find out why you felt like you were having a stroke yesterday afternoon when you knocked back a Powerade slush with your son at Sonic. One minute you were fine and the next minute your head was exploding with cold. You felt like a dirty bomb of ice crystals was going off in your brain, and you went WHAT AM I? EIGHT YEARS OLD AGAIN? Because that's what you do when you're 8 years old. You get "ice cream headaches."

Anyway. Yesterday's brain freeze was epic. I can still feel it this morning around the edges of my skull, so that's why I'm reading up on the subject. So far I've discovered that it's a nerve in the roof of your mouth causing you all that pain but you end up feeling it in your brain somehow, because that's how nerves are — always blaming other body parts for the misery they cause you.

The good news is that I don't appear to have permanent brain-freeze damage.

The bad news is that I haven't yet written my essay about "silencing your inner critic."

What's an inner critic, you ask? It's that voice in your head that says you can't do whatever it is you're trying to do. My inner critic and I have conversations all the time that go something like this.


ME: Ugh. It's you again.

MY INNER CRITIC: You really thought you could do this thing? Just who do you think you are anyway?

ME: Please. Just go away.

MY INNER CRITIC: Fine. Be that way. But please remember that you'll probably fail (again!), and then I'll be back to say I told you so.

I do take some comfort from the fact that I'm not the only person who wrestles with an inner critic. E.B. White, the author of "Charlotte's Web," once said it was painful to watch his wife, Katherine, write her lovely essays on gardening, collected in the book "Onward and Upward in the Garden." The writer in her would put a sentence on the paper, White said, and then the editor in her would take out a gun and shoot it dead.

The problem, of course, occurs when you end up with more dead sentences than living ones. So how do you handle an inner critic?

You can, of course, let it shut you down so instead of doing what you need to do — and even want to do — you get online and read about "brain freeze," including suggestions for dealing with the condition such as "remove the offending substance" from your mouth because you would have never, ever, EVER thought of that one on your own.


You can stop listening. Give that inner critic a name — let's say Gladys, shall we? — and tell yourself you don't need to listen to Gladys yakkity-yak-yakking anymore. You can even talk back if you feel like it.

"You're probably right, Gladys. Whatever I'm doing won't be perfect. But who cares? Perfection is overrated anyway. So scram, sister."

Do we really want to get to the end of our lives and mourn the pictures we didn't paint or dances we didn't dance or classes we didn't take or paths we didn't follow or friendships we didn't make?

Just because some voice inside our heads said we couldn't do it.

See you later, Gladys.