Making friends with your Inner Critic
Have you stopped yourself from writing or journaling because you didn’t know what to say? What would happen if you picked up a paintbrush and allowed it to be your pen, expressing your inner wisdom and creativity?
“What me paint?” you say- I don’t know how to paint
Or perhaps you paint but feel that it has to be done a certain way, following guidelines you learned in art school or painting in a way that is pleasing to others.
“Every poet needs a pen”
Perhaps your pen is a paintbrush
Imagine painting freely with whichever colors your heart desires
Imagine the images flowing out from your paintbrush and extension of your fabulous creative self- yes you
YOU are creative.
You can do this.
You have permission.
So many of us hold our creative selves back from expressing our true selves. We either don’t pick up our pen or brush or pencil or when we do we restrict ourselves from full expression.
We feel our art has to look a certain way.
We fear we will be laughed at.
We worry what we might discover if we unleash our creative selves fully.
What it often comes down to is that we listen to that inner critic more than we listen to our creative muse. The inner critic is a character we have constructed over the years from criticisms we were unable to fend off. Their messages become internalized when we believe any or all parts of the critical messages we get and take them personally as an indication of who we are.
Luckily we each also have an inner muse. However, many of us are so removed from our inner muses that our creative potential is underutilized. Often at my work myself and the other 2 art therapists are asked to do the “creative stuff” for staff events with an underlying assumption that unless you are an “artist” you are not capable of being creative.
The truth is we are no more creative than our other colleagues; it’s just that we believe more in our own creativity and embrace our inner muse. In reality, we are all creative; we all have an inner muse waiting to inspire us.
Your creative muse lives inside you. Though many will tell you inspiration needs to come from outside your self, if you listen carefully enough you will hear the gentle creative voice of your muse.
She is there. She is patiently waiting for you to say that you are ready. She speaks softly, subtlety nudging you to feel her presence, to believe in her. To believe in your Self and all your own unique creativeness.
What’s that you say? You can’t hear her, over all the other critical voices bogging you down. Voices that tell you how you should be, or voices that incessantly compare you to others, telling you your art is not worthy enough.
Enough! You ARE worthy enough. You are more than enough. There is no need for you to listen to those voices that put down, or minimize what you create. You can turn the volume down if you want to. But you must want to. Excuses are tempting I know. They help us stay ”safe”, not from danger but from change.
Do not settle for “yes buts” as answers to why you are not creating more often.
Putting off art projects, which would otherwise feed your creative soul. The voice of the inner critic can be intimidating indeed, but does not have to be.
Here are some ways to combat those inner critics:
Listen to what their underlying message is: I know I said earlier that you don’t need to listen to the rants of your inner critic. I still mean it. Don’t listen to their surface message, there is usually more to it if you just dig a little. You could try to ignore them of course but that usually doesn’t last long. Often the messages from our inner critics are important to listen to because they highlight an inner struggle that needs to be resolved. Old scripts that need to be acknowledged released and replaced with messages of encouragement.
Have a back-up plan: Even when we know that the messages are false or based on past experience, some days may be harder than other days to not take criticism to heart. Be prepared. I once read that for every negative thing said it takes two positive things to “erase” the damage.
Write down on little finger size cards the words of encouragement you need to hear. What would you tell a friend who was struggling with believing in her own creativity?
Work with your inner critic: Sometimes inner critics may bring our attention to something we need to pay attention to, for example their mean words may be based in fear, where is that fear coming from? Interview you inner critic about their fears. Let then be detectives about where these critical messages, doubts and fears are coming from.
If you would like to discover more ways that you can face those inner critics connect with inner muse, join me online for 5 weeks of exploration and adventure with Painting with Your Muse.
Petrea Hansen Adamidis R.C.A.T. is a Registered Art Therapist, a mom, artist, & an avid nature nut with over 18 years of experience working with children, families and adults. Join her at ArtTherapist.ca where she offers a free e-course “Free Your Inner Child” plus other creative resources to draw the self out.