I’ve been reading a string of articles lately on the PsychCentral’s website (here and here) about the inner critic and some ways in which to deal with it.
The notion of an inner critic is not new; I remember (in my first week as a student interning at an art therapy non-profit in Texas), hearing my supervisor telling the children of a therapy group to listen to that voice inside that tells them they can’t draw nicely or that they’re not talented. She said “that’s your inner critic! And what do we do with it? We kick it out of the room and tell it to wait outside until we’re done. Now, the critics can look in through the windows if they please, but they will not be allowed in.”
I remember feeling like this was such an interesting way of explaining something that I myself could not put my finger on. So, as the diligent therapist in training as I considered myself to be, I took the suggestion and implemented it for myself. Each time I would start painting, or drawing or something I felt I was not enough talented to obtain, I became aware of my inner critic. Afterwards, I took it up a notch. Instead of trying to chase my inner critic out, I just paid attention to it, I observed it. I was really listening to what he, because mine is a guy, had and wanted to say. I didn’t listen defensively; I listened to it as objectively as I could, and as I would if the story was about someone else. I think my inner critic has not been able to develop a proper vocabulary because his messages were not detailed or explanatory in any way, he pretty much kept saying one or two things over and over again. So, I felt I was faced with a decision. Either I figure out the message and take this new information and discard it and basically go right back to square one, or, I can give his suggestions a try. I thought that if it works- okay, if not well, at least I tried something new. I now draw and paint and I don’t feel embarrassed to show my pictures to other people, like I did before (I scattered 2 examples).
I know that my inner critic is not an external force or object. I could try to externalize it, although past efforts proved futile. It is a part of me, it is a sensor that goes off, a warning of sorts that lets me know what’s happening inside. If a part of me appears not to be in line with the rest of me, rather than impossibly trying to eradicate it or repress it, I’d probably want to integrate it with the rest.
To do this, self awareness is a must. A very basic level of acceptance of who we are is also needed. Good and bad, sometimes a liar and sometimes someone honorable, etc. I know, sounds a bit scary to admit certain things, and if you allow yourself to truly be open and honest with yourself, you might be surprised. You might even find some things you like about yourself!