The Daily Battle for Brain Space

How I’m fighting my critical inner resistance, one day at a time

Rebecca Pendleton
Published in
5 min readJul 26, 2021


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There is a buzz in my brain. A hum. Like, when you go to a hotel room that has a kitchenette in it, and the low sound of the refrigerator keeps you up all night until your boyfriend sits bolt upright in bed and maniacally rips the plug out the wall? You know, like that.

The hum is restless anxiety of ‘needing to get stuff done’. It’s similar to that nagging sensation when you feel like you forgot something, but you’re not sure exactly what.

When I listen closely and intently, the hum starts to have a needling voice that starts with the same three words:

“I should be…”

  • I should be writing that email
  • I should be doing push-ups right now
  • I should be more productive
  • I should be achieving.

Sometimes (a lot of the time) the “should be’s” aren’t even articulated in my mind into actions, but more like a tidal pull towards “doing more than what I am doing right now”. Even if what I am doing right now is valuable and important, like say, making myself something to eat, or you know, resting.

When I get out my mind shovel and dig even deeper into the “should be’s”— I find myself asking — “Who says?”

  • Who says I should be writing that email?
  • Who says I should be doing push-ups?
  • Who says I am not enough?

And as I probe, it emerges…it’s an internal nagging voice, an internalised, introjected critical ‘authority’.

Sometimes, my brain assigns names and faces to the ‘authority’, often an amalgamation of my boss’s boss, HR, my parents, a government official here or there. But often, it’s not even someone in particular that I feel like I’m letting down — but rather just a general feeling of…inadequacy.

It’s a exhausting battle every day that throws my contentment and productivity off course.

So it’s time to take the power back. It’s time to fight. I don’t want the focus-sapping inner critic to plant its flag in my brain and take it over. The battle for focus begins every morning…



Rebecca Pendleton
Writer for

Product Manager & Aspiring Writer / Coach. I love self-development, service design & stationery. Sober but not preachy.