I recently touched on the idea of an Inner Critic.  This nasty little alter ego that we all have drives some of us mercilessly.  Not only does it judge us by our own harsh  standards but also by the judgements we think everyone else is going to be heaping on us as well.

Grace walking

Unless of course we are children and invincible!

It matters not whether you are an artist, a plumber , a lawyer,  a bee keeper, or even out of work. It is there – hovering over your shoulder ready to stick in it’s 2 cents worth if you give it half a chance.  So what to do?

Here are some ideas on how to control this pesky fellow…..

  • Firstly acknowledge that he/she exists as an entity separate from you
  • To help with this – draw, paint,  sculpt, what he/she looks like – does he/she have a name?
  • Secondly you need to determine that you are actually in control – that YOU get to say whether or not you choose to allow him/her to have any say at all.
  • Thirdly you might ask – but how can I stop him/her – he/she just turns up in my head and lets fly.  Heres a couple of tricks –

a. Imagine you have a big dial you can turn up or down that controls the volume of  your critic speaking to you.  Then turn down the volume to zero and refuse to listen.

b. Imagine yourself tying a gag on him/her.

c. Imagine a rubbish bin – you could paint it all different colors if you like – and when Mr or Mrs  Critic pops up – well just put it in the bin and put the lid on very firmly and walk away. You could even erect a sound barrier around the bin if you felt like it.

Inner Critic

Inner Critic

A baby takes a step and falls down – not just once or twice but over and over again.

Do we yell and rail at this little person?  No.  Quite the contrary – we smile, we encourage we laugh delightedly.

When does our love affair with creative endeavor turn sour I wonder?   Why is it do you think that we don’t offer the same gift to ourselves as we learn something new, or “fail” in an attempt to be perfect?

Look at this picture of my granddaughter Grace.  Notice the look of absolute delight on her face as she is fully immersed  in her creative moment.  I think we can learn a lot from children…..Gracie

Where is it, or when is it no longer OK to make mistakes as we learn to grow?  When is it that we stop celebrating each little success and misstep along the way?

Why is it that my students want to judge themselves as failures for not producing the perfect painting on their first attempt?  Why is it that they only focus on the mistakes and how ‘bad’ it is?

Not only that,  why is it that after creating more than 80 art works – I still do the same thing?  In fact I think the Inner Critic gets louder and more demanding the older we get.  It refuses to allow us to begin at the beginning of something , demanding a level of expertize that we clearly don’t have and criticizing very loudly when we don’t live up to those impossible expectations.

What if, the next time you feel you have failed at something – how would it be to stop – smile to yourself – and celebrate the fact that you tried something!  There are no mistakes. Love your attempts – every one brings you closer to what you are trying to achieve.

Celebrate your Successes no matter how small.

OK so we now have a much better idea of who our Inner Critic is.  That being the case, how about making a list all the kinds of things he/she might say to you,  for example Boris might say to me, nasty things like:

  • What makes you think anyone is going to like your work?  OR
  • If you don’t sell any work that means it’s no good    OR
  • She’s just saying that she likes this work because she’s my sister/friend etc   OR
  • She (my sister) is only buying my painting because she feels sorry for me … not because she really likes it  OR
  • Someone dares to tell me that  they really do like my work and I find every reason under the sun to tell them why it’s no good

Of course that list is endless…………..


Photo Credit (John’s online journal)

I think this wonderful cartoon which has been around for ever in various forms – kind of says it all in a way!

Now looking at your list – there is a pretty good chance that many of those very thoughts have been keeping you in not such a good place.  What you might want to do is take the power out of those statements.  Here’s one way to  do that.

This amazing technique  can take the power out of these nasty little comments – if you are prepared to actually be honest with yourself and  ask yourself the question

  • Is that true?

This seems very simplistic but what you will find when you begin asking yourself this is that probably at least 90% of the time we have constructed a story around the thing we are telling ourselves, that actually isn’t true.  I have probably had every one of the above thoughts at one time or another, some many times over and you know – when it comes right down to it, I can’t say that they 100%  true.

So this the forces me to look and ask the question

  • So what is true?

The first person who introduced me to this way of thinking was Byron Katie.  She has an amazing personal story and does incredible work helping people to heal themselves from their own self destructive stories.

Other ways to silence the Inner Critic…..

  • Ask Boris (substitute your Inner Critic’s name) for some Positive Feedback – say you’ll only turn the volume back up if he can find something good/helpful to say
  • Ask yourself – what are the good things about this – work/situation/event etc
  • SMILE…… Smiles are incredibly powerful – they change our state. If you don’t feel like smiling think about a time when you were really happy  – SMILE
  • Imagine Boris (X) getting smaller and smaller and smaller until he disappears

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