Posted by: Suzan | November 17, 2020

Calm Your Inner-Critic So You Can Create

Do you long to start something new (a creative project; a sport; hobby; or work opportunity)? Do you hear that familiar voice, “What are you doing? You know you can’t do that. Who do you think you are?” It can stop us dead in our tracks and suck the joy right out of us.

The good news is you’re not alone. Having these internal voices aka: the inner-critic or gremlin, is a universal thing. We all experience it. What I’ve learned through research, offering playshops on the topic, and coaching clients for about 20 years is the inner-critic is terrified of change. He/she is so afraid of the unknown, of failure, of being disappointed or criticized, even of experiencing success. The inner-critic loves the status quo so beginning anything “new” is a sure trigger for him/her. The truth is our gremlins mean us no harm. They believe they are doing us a favor by saving us from rejection, failure, and disappointment.

There is a large cost to allowing the inner-critic to have its way. Our happiness. The following are some steps you can take to calm your inner-critic and honor your pursuit of happiness:

  1. First we need to accept that having an inner-critic is universal. You are not alone. The inner-critic lives with each one of us. We cannot banish him/her or any of their “distant cousins.” There are many versions (e.g. “comparison” gremlins or “not good enough” gremlins, etc.) so it may feel like a large family nagging away at us (albeit quietly–no one else can hear). Can you relate?
  2. Although we share our lives with gremlins, we can have a reprieve. We are always at choice in this matter! This is important to remember when we are starting something NEW. One helpful way I share with clients is to visualize your gremlin with a backpack on and send it off on a long hike (without a map). With practice you can later pack his/her bags and call the Uber for a send-off to the airport. Send him/her away on a long flight and a 2-week vacation in spite of Covid 19. Yes, the gremlin may return earlier than expected, yet how nice to have a break. Again, you are always in charge with how you respond to your negative internal chatter!
  3. Practice Presence as the Inner-Critic lives either in the past (focusing on what you “did”) or in the future (worried about what you “might do.”) He/she cannot survive in the present moment! The more you can remain present with mindful activities like meditation, receiving bodywork, and deep breathing exercises–you become more relaxed and can then effectively calm your inner-critic so you can create!
  4. Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear suggests having a conversation with the inner-critic. He/she longs to feel heard by us. It might resemble something like, “Ms. Gremlin I hear you’re worried I’ll be embarrassed if I do this presentation and draw a blank during the middle of it.  I also know I’m well-practiced and will do fine. Thank you and I’m doing this presentation anyway.” Finally, she uses an analogy of a car. Knowing that the inner-critic is a permanent resident, it will likely be with us in the car too. We are at choice as to where we allow it to sit. Will it be the back seat or do we allow it in the driver’s seat?
  5. Here’s some suggested homework if you’d like to explore this concept more: Buy a small notebook to carry with you. Jot down anytime you hear yourself saying something negative about yourself for a few days or even a week. See if there’s a pattern (as in repetition). Later go back and rewrite the negative into positive. Practice noticing the inner-critic (awareness is fundamental), then speak back to it with kindness and firm resolve. Finally, reframe what it’s saying from the negative to the positive.

Remember the inner-critic chatters (that’s what it does), it is often not loving toward us, and it never tells the truth. You can choose what you want to believe and how you will react.


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