Name Your Inner Critic

Many of us struggle with an inner voice that chatters a low-grade stream of discouraging negativity.  In the world of creativity, this voice has been christened “The Inner Critic” but we’ve heard other much more evocative and telling names such as “The Wicked Witch” “Nagging Nelly” or “Perfect Pete” which capture the discouraging power of this “personality”.

Although we may assign nefarious intent to our Inner Critic (a workshop attendee once described her inner critic as trying to “suck the joy” out of her life), we suspect that our Inner Critic is well meaning if not a bit misguided.  Our Inner Critic often wants to protect us from embarrassment or failure, and to avoid frustration and disappointment.  However, in doing so, it keeps us from experimenting with new ideas, and from the learning that comes with trial and error, and it keeps us from having fun!

The Inner Critic is often caught up in perfectionism and performance.  However, as positive psychologists Biswas-Diener and Kashdan note, the happiest people of us accept that striving for perfection is a loser’s bet and adopt a more devil-may care attitude about performance (see their article What Happy People Do Differently).

So, if the Inner Critic does mean us well and wants to help us, how would we harness this aspect of ourselves without letting it inhibit our experimental, creative, and fun-loving self?

Here are some tips to manage the Inner Critic:

  • Name the Inner Critic (You can take it even further and develop a persona or character for the Inner Critic. You can assign a gender, personality, style of dress, manner of speech, etc…).
  • Dialogue with the Inner Critic (ask him/her questions like “What purpose do you serve?” “What are you trying to accomplish?”  “How would you like to help me?”” How can I help you?!”).
  • Writing poems or letters to the Inner Critic.
  • Make your Inner Critic useful, not an overly harsh judge but a constructive editor for useful feedback.
  • Make friends with the Inner Critic/make him/her your ally.
  • Name your “Inner Muse”–your creativity and inspiration–and do the same as you did above with your Inner Critic.
  • Have your Inner Critic and Your Inner Muse dialogue (some have characterized these encounters as a “Punch and Judy” match or a round between Ralph and Norton of the Honeymooners, but hopefully yours will leave the “actors” less black and blue).

Art Directives for the Inner Critic:

  • Make a symbol/Draw a portrait/Or Make a figure/sculpture of your Inner Critic.
  • Make symbols for the strengths your Inner Critic represents (self-protection, judicious restraint, avoiding failure, good judgment).
  • Make a symbol/Draw a portrait/Or Make a figure/sculpture of your Inner Muse.
  • Make symbols for the strengths your Inner Muse represents (Creativity, appreciation of beauty, curiosity, playfulness).
  • Picture your Inner Critic and Your Inner Muse working together to toward something you to want accomplish.
  • Go to our website and tell us the name of your Inner Critic and your Inner Muse.

Share the name of your Inner Critic and your Inner Muse on our facebook page.  

In other news, Gioia was just published in an academic peer-reviewed journal, the International Journal of Qualitative Methods! This journal has open access to its content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge.  Click here to access her article “Altered Inquiry: Art Discovering Arts Based Research Through an Altered Book”.