Six Ways to Embrace Your Inner Critic & Empower Your Work
Every artist knows their inner critic. That voice inside that speaks from a place of fear. Most advice out there is on how to silence or ignore this inner voice in the hopes of continuing to create your work.
There’s a better way to deal with this.
First of all: who is the inner critic? Who is this voice that warns you, tells you you can’t do something good enough, makes you feel small, quivering, scared, and even can get you to stop moving toward your dreams? Where does this voice come from?
We often hear that it’s from all the people who molded and shaped you as you grew up.
I don’t think that’s who it is.
I think this voice is you. Not you now, but you as a child. I call my inner critic “Little Girl Me.” And I see her as a child who doesn’t need to be silenced or ignored, but heard and reassured.
Little Girl Me speaks up every time I’m about to branch off into an area that she’s never been before. She speaks up when I’m expanding into bigger dreams, bigger risks, venturing into areas where she sees the potential to get hurt or, get this, left behind. She’s scared and doesn’t know what comes next, so she shows up in my emotions as fear, hesitation, dread, big whopping ‘what ifs’, insecurity and ‘who do you think you are to do this?’ kind of thoughts.
It took me some time to realize that unlike most of the beliefs out there, Little Girl Me is not my enemy. The inner critic is not there to destroy you or stop you from being happy. It’s not your mother or father or your elementary schoolteacher’s voice either. It’s you – your inner child. The part of you that will always need nurturing and reassurance. You don’t need to fight this part of yourself, you need to parent it.
So, what can you do the next time your inner “child” acts out and needs attention?
1. Be kind. Your inner child is scared, not naughty. You wouldn’t yell at a child for being scared, so don’t yell at yourself.
2. Don’t ignore him/her. She needs attention, she needs you to sit down and listen to what is scaring her. The inner critic will not stop until you listen.
3. Listen with understanding. Why is he scared? What is he scared will happen if you proceed? What is behind the fear that’s driving the insecure thoughts and doubts? I’ve found that Little Girl Me most often is scared she won’t be taken care of, scared that she’ll be left behind as Grown Up Me moves forward into places that seem too big and frightening for her.
4. Realize that Grown Up You has the ability to take care of Little Child You. You don’t need to rehash all the ways that you didn’t get the love or nurturing that you needed as a child (you can, but you don’t have to). You have the ability now to take care of, comfort and reassure your inner child. And that’s what you need to do. Explain to Little Child You that while things look scary, everything is going to be all right. You are going to proceed toward your dreams and you promise to take care of Little Child You along the way. Often just a few calm, soothing words of comfort are all that the Little Child You needs to feel safe and stop berating you.
5. Don’t try to make Little Child You grow up. You wouldn’t assure a scared child by telling them to grow up. This part of you may never grow up and will most likely always be with you. Accept that. Be kind and loving, soft and tender with Little Child You.
6. Recognize that when Little Child You makes a fuss, it’s because they need to be heard and reassured. It’s not because there’s something wrong with you, or that you don’t have the ability to pursue your dreams, or that you aren’t good enough. All of those things are what Little Child You says to get you to stop doing whatever it is that’s scaring him/her.
Embracing and mothering/fathering your inner child is far more effective than ignoring, trying to silence or stepping into the past to try to figure it out.
I know now to expect Little Girl Me to show up whenever I’m taking new risks and expanding. I can head off her fear by addressing it before it comes up. And that lets me move faster and more confidently toward my goals.
Next time your inner critic shows up, try this approach. And let me know how it works for you.