How to Free Yourself From Your Inner Critic

Thinking

Do you judge yourself too harshly for your mistakes? Do you condemn your creative efforts before they ever get the chance to come to fruition? If you're battling with your inner critic, take heart; it's possible to take out the inner critic and start being more supportive of yourself.

Lilian Wissink - a psychologist with over 20 years of counselling experience - has two exercises that can help. It all starts with awareness. Over to Lilian:

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Lilian Wissink

Regardless of how much you identify with having a harsh inner critic, increasing your awareness of this aspect of yourself can be liberating. So how do you free yourself from your inner critic?

It’s like clearing out your wardrobe — it helps you to find out what’s in there and decide what to keep and what to let go of. The following exercise asks you to externalize your Inner Critic: to transform what is on the inside to the outside.

It’s important to see the Inner Critic for what it is and what it says, rather than leave it furtively eroding your self-confidence. So let’s get it out!

Exercise One: Taking Out the Inner Critic

Find a large sheet of paper or use your journal and draw or paint your Inner Critic. This is not an artistic exercise, so it doesn’t matter how it’s done.

You might want to draw something specific, like a character, or do something abstract and draw all sorts of shapes and sizes or sharp lines to depict your Inner Critic.

Surround your picture with some of the negative messages this part of you tells you. These may be words, phrases, ‘shoulds’ or some of the other derogatory ways of giving messages that I mentioned earlier.

How did you go? After doing this exercise be careful not to judge yourself harshly by saying something like, ‘I’m so stupid doing this to myself.’ This, of course, would be your Inner Critic emerging again. Just see the Inner Critic as an inner voice that’s not helpful and needs taming.

Disarming your Inner Critic

As you can see, the Inner Critic is negative, picky and discouraging, so why does it hang around so much? Why don’t we just get rid of it?

Perhaps you have tried and it hasn’t worked. First of all the Inner Critic needs to be understood. We need to discover its purpose. There are different reasons that are usually unconscious, so let’s see if we can bring them into awareness. Once you do, it’s much easier to deal with the Inner Critic.

Your Inner Critic might be trying to protect you in some way: ‘If I put you down, I’ll stop you from going ahead and making a fool of yourself’ or ‘If I put you down you won’t have far to fall.

The Inner Critic might be well meaning in trying to whip you into shape or success: ‘Get on with it, you lazy thing.’ It thinks that by criticizing you, you will get things done. Well perhaps you will, but often at the expense of your self-esteem.

And typically after obeying our Inner Critic for a while, we stop and give up because we never really please it. If you have ever gone on a diet you will know what I mean. This is where the Inner Critic pushes you into being ‘good’ and careful with food, but to such an extent that eventually you rebel and eat whatever you want.

The Inner Critic might be trying to desensitize you to criticism you fear from others. Underneath, you believe that if you criticize yourself then it won’t be so awful when others do it.

You might say to a friend, ‘This is a terrible sculpture. I’m such an amateur!’ because this is what you think your friend thinks! You want to get in first.

The Inner Critic has a fatalistic and bleak outlook on life. It doesn’t see the exciting possibilities waiting for you as you move into supporting and encouraging your creativity. The next exercise helps to uncover the intention of your Inner Critic.

Exercise Two: Dialogue with the Inner Critic

Imagine your Inner Critic as a separate part of yourself, so you can have a conversation and find out a bit more about it.

You can place the drawing or painting you did in the previous exercise in front of you to help you to see your Inner Critic as a separate entity.

Writing in your journal, ask your Inner Critic the following questions and see what it answers.

• What are you telling me?
• Why do you keep telling me these things?
• What are you hoping to do by telling me all these things?

Feel free to answer back and continue the dialogue. Sometimes the dialogue comes easily and sometimes it takes time.

Do you understand your Inner Critic a little better now? As with some of the other exercises, you may need to mull over this information and allow your thoughts to evolve. Often when we are introduced to a new idea, we need time to think about it and let it sink in.

Your Inner Critic could prove deleterious if allowed to thrive in the wrong direction. Therefore, identifying it will help you manage it better. The exercises provided above will guide you on this path to have better control of your Inner Critic, and more freedom to be creative and appreciate your own work.

Creative Seed 3D250
Lilian Wissink
, a counselling psychologist with over
20 years experience, is the author of The Creative Seed 
- How to Enrich Your Life Through Creativity.

photo credit: untitled via photopin (license)