Telling your inner critic to shush.

Lets start with the obvious: This is a hard time.

I’ve stared at my phone…a lot, and watched copious amounts of Television. What is it I would rather be doing with all this free time you ask? 

Well, I’d love to be writing music, singing, and mastering my guitar skills! I’d love to be drawing, painting and making art! It would be awesome if I could grab my camera and go on long walks through my neighborhood, capturing the light and shapes I see along the way! Oh my, there are so many things I’d love to be doing each day. Instead, I find myself in my room coming up with reason after reason why I should not pursue what I enjoy most. Telling myself how it’s a waste of time and I’m better off staring at the wall, feeling stuck. Why? Because of my damn inner critic! She is so freaking judgmental! To put it bluntly, she’s a BULLY.  So, when did she get so loud and why does she always win? I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways we convince ourselves not to pursue what gives us meaning and purpose.

Another thing I like to do is write. So, I’m going to start there – Today, I write. 

Danielle Krysa shared an interesting insight during her Creative Live class, ‘Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk’: “If you were to write down your worst inner critic’s statement about yourself and say it aloud to someone else, how would it sound? Would you feel it was appropriate, or would it sound ridiculous, maybe even cruel?” When we take our judgment’s externally and hear them aloud, they sound similar to what some might call emotional abuse. So why do we think it’s ok to talk to ourselves this way? In her talk, Krysa asks “Who’s voice is your inner critic? Is it a family member, a teacher, a bully from school?” If you were to think back on your life, can you pinpoint where the voice originated?

As I explore what role my inner critic has played in my life, the most disturbing question I have asked myself is, “How did my critic become so loud and convincing, and what has it kept me from doing?!” This thought scares the living daylights out of me. It’s as though my critic has disguised itself as the truth and I’ve been trusting it and letting it run my life for years. So today I attempt to let go of regret and anger around this issue. Instead I choose curiosity and exploration. Join me.

First ask yourself, what are your critic’s favorite insults? What is it trying to convince you to ignore and how does it do this? You’ll begin to notice, as Krysa points out, that the inner critic is not very creative or original with the insults it hurls at you. They’re actually quite childish and simplistic. So when you look over at your guitar or your camera or the blank page on your laptop, what thoughts pop into your head? Does your critic say “you’re not good enough”, “there are more talented people than you”, “it’s a waste of time”. What is your critic’s favorite way to destroy your motivation and confidence? Explore how much power you’ve given to your inner critic, and how much power you want it to have moving forward.

Now that you’ve learned it’s language, it’s time to start talking back. One of my favorite tools Krysa gave in her talk was to rewrite statements. One great example being, when your critic says “you’re going to fail, don’t waste time trying” re-write it as “Oh I’m going to fail…like a genius!” Why, because all creatives fail, it’s part of learning and growing. It’s part of being human! You have to fall down and get back up in order to become great at anything! Tony Robbins has a fantastic quote that has helped me get back into action when I cower under my critic’s judgments, “No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow your progress, you’re still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” Basically, as long as you keep going everything else is irrelevant. So remove the belief that if you want to practice music, you have to win a grammy. If you want to draw in your sketch book, you must open a gallery. If you want to write, you better become an author. This-Is-Wrong. You pursue these activities because they energize you. Because they bring you joy and purpose. Because they make your life worthwhile. What better reason do you need? 

Now that you’ve learned your critics most beloved insults, pinpointed where in your life it may have begun, and started to talk back, what’s next? Well, this is where you begin to reclaim your life. For me, my inner critic is loudest with my music. I love to make music. My inner critic likes to SCREAM, “You have nothing to add to music, as a whole. There are people far more talented then you out there. It’s time to set that hobby down”. Nice, isn’t she? So, whats my move – I pick my up my guitar and play. Is it easy? Hell no! It’s a process. As Mel Robbins says, I count 5-4-3-2-1 and I start. This voice doesn’t go away over night, it’s been perfected over years. But no matter where you are in your process, if you’re fighting back, you’re on the right track.

So, what is it that energizes you? Is it writing, music, painting, drawing, photography, gardening, sewing, cooking, acting? Whatever it is, take it back! You deserve to do what brings you joy, we all do.

If you’d like, write in the comments below what your inner critic says to you and how you’re telling it to shush. I think you’ll start to realize you’re not as alone as you think. When we fight back, we fight back together.