Monday, January 20, 2014

Shut Up, Inner Critic

Lately I’ve been living with someone who has nothing good to say about me, who takes every opportunity to put me down and tell me I’m not good enough. In fact, she’s kind of a witch.

She’s my inner critic.

When I put pen to paper, she’s right there with “helpful” comments about how boring and bland my words are, and her most cutting criticism is that I have nothing to say. This criticism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and suddenly I don’t have anything to say. No words come. I sit staring at my blank page, bereft of ideas, frustrated that my writing time is slipping away with nothing to show for itself.

My inner critic has nothing constructive to say. She (my inner critic is a she) only tries to shut me down. Nothing I do is ever good enough, and I am not even close to being “good enough.” If she has good intentions, she’s going about it all wrong.

You don’t have to be a writer, artist or “creative” person to suffer from an inner critic. You may have one who trashes your appearance, athletic ability, intelligence, childrearing, housekeeping, or level of hospitality. When an area of life is important to you, you may find you have a small—or large—inner voice criticizing you. Your inner critic may try to keep you from doing what you want, or it may lash out when you’ve been human and made an error.

Frankly, I’m tired of my inner critic’s B.S. I don’t need any inner voices tearing me down. If she has nothing helpful to say, she can just shut up. I don’t let real people talk to me like that—why do I let her get away with it? Here are four things I’m doing to shut up my inner critic:

  1. Notice what she’s saying. Is there any truth at all or is it just generalized, unconstructive criticism? Occasionally, there may be a kernel of truth in what she says, but more often she makes big, sweeping statements that simply aren’t accurate. (I’m really not the most boring person in the world, for example.)
  2. Pretend I’ve overheard her criticizing someone else. Do I believe her, or would I argue with her, defending the other person?
  3. Talk back to her. Question her. Say, “Who cares what you think!” Tell her to shut up. Someone who speaks to me the way she does deserves little or no consideration for her feelings. One article I read suggested naming her, then telling her to shut up by name.
  4. Draw or paint a picture of her, then tape her mouth shut. I got this idea from Laure Ferlita—read her post “What Does Your Inner Critic Look Like?!” here
My inner critic doesn't like how I've drawn her...

I hope you don’t have such a vicious voice living inside your head, but if you do, try one or more of the above techniques to silence her. You don’t have to put up with that!

Do you have an inner critic? How do you silence him or her?

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4 comments:

Laure Ferlita said...

Does anyone NOT have an inner critic?! I would be surprised to hear that they did not.

I think, for me, the biggest challenge is to stay aware of "that voice." It's insidious and slides in when I least expect it or look for it. Before I know it I'm on that slippery slope headed for the abyss of doom.

Great post, KJ!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

I don't know that I've ever met anyone who doesn't have an inner critic, now that I think about it. "That voice" is indeed insidious...sometimes I don't hear it, but I find that I'm already halfway down that abyss of doom and don't know how I got there.

Debbie Nolan said...

I am with Laura - Kathy - I think everyone has an inner critic. Love the idea of taping her mouth shut. Mine seems to appear just when some challenging stressful thing is happening. Now I think I will go draw mine and tape her mouth!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Debbie--Great! The more of us who silence (at least symbolically) our inner critics, the better.