Falling In Love With Your Inner Critic

If you’re anything like most of us who create, one of the biggest blocks to us creating more deeply, more often, is our old “friend” the inner critic.

This is that voice within us that constantly belittles us, tells us we can’t and shouldn’t even try.

Some of the most popular records our inner critics keep hauling out, dusting off and playing over and over, even though they’re a hundred years old, are:

– An artist? You? Who ever told you you had any talent?

– Even if you do create art, no-one will ever see it, so what’s the point?

– You know you shouldn’t even begin creating unless you absolutely sure it’s going to turn out perfect.

– There are so many people out there more creative and inventive than you are. Give it up.

– You never finish any creative projects you begin, you’re a complete creative failure.

Ouch. Any of these sound familiar to you?

When we hear these sort of unkind and unhelpful remarks in our thoughts, then of course it knocks our confidence and discourages us from creating.

Because we begin not only to believe our inner critic, but to fear it too.

We see it as some evil monster waiting in the shadows, ready to leap out and strike us down with a swift uppercut or well aimed roundhouse kick whenever we get close to happily creating. And, because this is what we believe our inner critic will do, it becomes what we expect it to do, and, yes, true to the script we’ve already written, this is exactly what does happen.

So what if we could silence our inner critic? What if we could kill it dead, eradicate it once and for all?

Personally I don’t think that’s possible. But what I do know can work wonders is, if instead of hating and trying to destroy your inner critic, being constantly and exhaustingly locked in battle with it, you can strive to understand it, embrace it, even fall in love with it.

The absolute key to this, is to understand that your inner critic is not a bad person really.

image: CHRISTINΔ

Everything it does, every last utterance and tactic to sabotage your creativity has a positive intention behind it.

The intention is to protect you. To keep you safe. To stop you being hurt, and disappointed.

And the only way to not be hurt and disappointed is to never take any risks. To never dream. To never try. To never create. That’s the aim of your inner critic, that’s what it wants. Because it loves you, and wants to protect you from pain.

Once we realise this intention, our whole attitude and approach to overcoming our inner critic changes, it turns on its head.

We no longer fear it like a demon cloaked in darkness, but instead it seems a rather sweet old guy (or gal) that just wants what it thinks is best for us.

After this shift in perspective, the next step is not to fight your inner critic, but to thank it, and embrace it.

Maybe you could strike up a conversation the next time your inner critic starts up one of those old records again. Maybe it could go something like this:

“Dear IC, I know you want what’s best for me, and I know you’re trying to look out for me, to keep me from hurt. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and caring, I’m most grateful. But, you see, creating is really important to me. It’s a fundamental part of my life. I breathe, I eat, I sleep, I create. It’s that vital to me. So whatever you may say to me, however loud you may shout, however hard you might hit, I’m just going to carry on creating anyway.”

Pretty soon, your inner critic will get tired, and bored and defeated.

It doesn’t mean you’ll never ever hear from it again. And maybe although you understand and embrace it, you won’t fall in love with it completely, and start taking it on romantic weekend breaks. Not quite yet anyway.

But it does mean that its influence will be radically reduced, leaving you to get on with all the creating you know you have bubbling away within you waiting to explode…

So show a little love and understanding to your inner critic today.

It might just be the best thing you’ve done for your creativity in years.

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6 thoughts on “Falling In Love With Your Inner Critic”

  1. Hi Dan,

    New to your interesting website, browsing around, I found this, and the ‘Bob-post’. And there is very good advice here for when you’re blocked and not creating at all (and I’ve certainly been there!)
    However, when you start to actually risk expressing yourself the inner critic can become a friend in another way; it can be the ‘quality controller’ that doesn’t let you ’embarass yourself’ by putting just anything out there… It can be the mentor who knows you can do even better, and always spurs you on to greater creative achievement – and I mean this, not in the sense of outer success, but in the sense of finding ‘new land’ in your media of creativity…
    It is always a question of balance, of course, and on bad days Bob will have to be sent off on a looong walk…;-)

    Thank you for a very inspiring site…
    Pernille

    Like

    1. Hi Pernille,

      Thanks for your comments, and glad you’re enjoying what you’ve read. : )

      Interesting thoughts about the inner critic, and I agree, there’s a part of us inside that knows when we’re just going through the motions and creating something we’ve created a dozen times before, or something we know is less than we’re capable of, yes like a quality controller, plus a bit more ambition. Not sure I’d call that the inner critic, but at the moment I don’t have a better alternative!

      You might be interested in a post called Why You Must Reach For The Magical Elusive Third Level Of Creativity which talks about “safe” level two creating, and why we need to push ourselves beyond that.

      Thanks again.

      Like

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