Quiet Your Jerky Inner Critic

Inner Critic Impact

I’ve been thinking about my Inner Critic lately. I was asked to paint a special piece for someone. A voice in my head began to tell me I wasn’t good enough to do that. My insecurities swelled. This is the second time that A-hole in my head prevented me from taking an opportunity to get paid for my art. It’s time I quiet them down and show them whose boss. I’ll bet you also have an Inner Critic holding you back. Let’s take ’em all down.

How to Overcome the Inner Critic

Positive Truths

The first step to shushing the sabotaging bully in your head is to recognize why those thoughts formed in the first place. Then, speak the truth out loud. Seriously. It might feel silly, but look in the mirror and revoke the mean thoughts. Replace them with an affirmation. In my situation, I should tell myself “My art is worthy of commissions.” Repeat this exercise as many times as necessary. The yahoo in your head might come back to you and repeat the old negative thoughts. Keep replacing those thoughts with positive truths until you overpower the Inner Critic.

Write It Down

It might feel uncomfortable, but write down your self-critiques. Notice how hostile your thoughts are. Would you say those things about or to other people? My son is very hard on himself. I often remind him, “be as kind to yourself as you are to other people.” Seriously. You’re human. Be nice to you. Have some self compassion.

Challenge the Jerk

Now that you wrote down your Inner Critic’s best material, turn it around. Rewrite the messages with kinder “I” statements. For example, maybe your critic nags, “You can’t do anything right!” Rewrite it to say, “I might not be perfect, but I try really hard and I accomplish a lot of my goals.” Again, focus on self-compassion.

Use Your Art to Challenge Your Inner Critic

Last year, I did a relatively simple art exercise presented by Julie Fei Fan Balzar to face some of my self-critical thoughts. I recommend you give it a try.

Step 1: Gather your materials. Decide on a substrate. Do you want to work on a canvas or art board? This is perfect for an art journal. I chose an 11×14 inch piece of watercolor paper. That’s my favorite paper to work on for mixed media pieces. You’ll also want a pencil, eraser, waterproof pen, and some paints/colors of your choice.



Step 2: Write down all the mean names your Inner Critic calls you. This is not a long, linear journaling exercise. Fill your paper with large words varying the orientation and font. Although it makes me feel vulnerable, I offer my example on the left.

Step 3: Try to disassociate from the meaning of the words and look only at the lines and shapes they make. Turn your letter forms into whimsical flower shapes, stems, and a flower pot. Let the lines guide your drawing. In my example, I show you how I turned the letters into my flower pot. I have never drawn flowers in that fashion prior to or after this exercise. 

Step 4: Use your preferred background color and block in the composition.

Step 5: Lastly, paint/color in the flowers and pot. Add details and lines to further camouflage any remnants of letters or words.

There you go — you just took your most negative, mean thoughts and turned them into something beautiful. Take that, Inner Critic!

Tags: art class, art exercise, artist mentality

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