Silencing the Inner Critic

Dealing with artistic self-doubt and taking charge of your creative journey

Timer6 min

One asset artists often develop rather early is tough skin. They understand that criticism is often a necessary ingredient for critical acclaim. Thus, they take (most) critiques in good faith. While at it, they also learn to be quite discerning, honing the ability to distinguish helpful advice from malicious and unwarranted attacks.

However, one critic they often fail to identify and keep shut is self. Hence, it is not surprising to find artists struggling with self-doubt even at the peak of their careers. This is often quite draining and can make the creative journey extremely arduous and lonely.

If this is your situation, this article comes to your rescue. We will discuss here the keys to identifying and shutting down the unhelpful inner critic. We will be drawing insight from Danielle Krysa’s bestseller, Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative. Want to know more? Come along for the ride.

How to silence your inner critic

Here are a few ways to overcome self-doubt and silence that inner critic:

Accept that YOU are creative

One of the issues people face is the fear that they are not creative (enough). This is a significant symptom of impostor syndrome. Even those who have attained some measure of success and thus have some evidence of a burning creative spirit still battle this fear. They feel that the successes they achieved were mere flukes, nothing that could be repeated.

Considering how important this is, Krysa tackles this issue head-on in the first chapter of Your Inner Critic. The author believes that everyone has an inner artist looking to break free and find expression. She draws the reader’s attention to children’s abilities to be artistically expressive, pointing out that the lack of towering expectations is the reason this spirit thrives. However, as we grow into adulthood and come face to face with criticism, this artistic spirit gets stifled.

In response, she admonishes you to begin again. If you have somehow lost the artistic spirit, you can start afresh. This time, turn away from the accolades, or the lack of them. Focus solely on the joys of that moment. As Krysa admonishes: “You don’t have to be a star out of the gate, or sell your first painting for ten thousand dollars—just be creative because it brings you joy.”

Eliminate labels

“Labels are sticky. They’re great for organizing your cupboard; but when people put clingy, hard-to-remove labels on themselves, it can prevent creative growth. And sometimes labels have incorrect information!”

Danielle Krysa

Labels are definitive and summarize you in such a way that there is no room for growth. It is one tool your inner critic uses to constantly put you down. 

Krysa examines the different labels you may be struggling with. The first is the label of parenthood. A lot of folks feel that the start of adulthood and parenting signals an end to their creativity. The same goes for those who are self-taught; they feel that this delegitimizes their stance as artists.

Other equally troubling labels include the stigma of coming from a small town, feeling small from being far behind your peers, or lacking formal education. The learned author advocates that you ought to do away with these labels. Disregard any tag which people have slapped on you or that you may have even put on yourself.

When you complete yanking each of these labels off, fill the now “labeless” cans with whatever else you want. Here, the focus is on growth and self-development. Teach yourself what you want to appear as. Like anyone will tell you, what a can contains is much more important than any label slapped on it.

Deal with the bully

Imagine you are in class, just before the bell goes for recess. You are sitting, a sinking feeling in your stomach. While every other student around you can hardly suppress their excitement at the coming recess, you are petrified because you know that the class bully awaits you just outside your doors.

You may no longer be a timid preschooler afraid of the class bully, but the fear might still be familiar, occasioned by self-doubt.

Your inner critic is the biggest bully of all. While you can move away from others’ toxic opinions, you can scarcely run away from yourself. Hence, your inner critic is always around, looking to remind you of your doubts and fears. You must deal with this bully just the same way you deal with any other bully: by standing up to it.

In Your Inner Critic, you will find the steps to trumping these fears. The first step is identifying the source of the inner critic. It might have its origins from childhood trauma or from any other external source. The next strategy is to unmask the fear and doubt, staring them in the face and calling their bluff.

Finally, you need to replace the inner critic with something positive and soothing. Krysa suggests that you turn your critics to cheerleaders. This is one sure way of converting negative energy into some positive ones.

Redefine failure

“Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo”

Jon Sinclair

There are a few things that batter one’s confidence the way failure does. This is because it seems to reinforce every negative thought and feeling you’ve had about yourself and your capabilities.

The truth is that you cannot wish failure away, no matter how hard you wave your magic wand. Also, failure is an integral component of success. Every successful person you can think of has failed at one thing or the other. From Thomas Edison to J. K. Rowling, the list is endless. Thus, instead of wishing failure did not exist, you would be better served if you had a more rounded view of the concept.

In Your Inner Critic, you learn that failure is but a stepping stone towards success. The book reveals that not only is failure something to run towards, but it can also provide lessons you cannot learn any other way.

Thus, it is up to you to decide what messages and signals failure sends to you. When you stop viewing failure as the enemy, you will harness the power of failure to achieve more.

Break through blocks

The average creative is familiar with blocks. They arise unbidden, lapping up your creative juices and leaving you unable to move even one limb. What is more, within this period of inertia, the inner critic swings into action, seizing the opportunity to remind you that you cannot succeed as a creative.

This is an experience Danielle Krysa is well aware of, being a writer herself. Hence, drawing from experience, she informs you not to sit on your hands to wait out the block. Instead, in the last chapter of Your Inner Critic, she lays out specific steps you could take to overcome creative blocks.

Some of the wonderful suggestions include seeking outside opinion and validation, trying out some mundane activity, and even fashioning out a creative cave. One thing is certain; putting all of these to work will certainly take your mind away from the pesky inner critic.

There is no need to walk around with niggling doubts filling your head. Of course, a little doubt is necessary and might even be essential for sustaining the creative process. However, consistent putdowns limit your success, and impostor syndrome can stop you from reaching the peak of your potentials. In this article, we’ve drawn lessons from Your Inner Critic to show you how to silence this critic once and for all. The snippets here do no justice to the book. To get a fuller understanding, download the Headway app to read the full summary of the book.

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