When someone tells you you’re a failure, how does it make you feel? What is your response?
Do you yell back at them? Tell them to stop? Drop them as a friend immediately?
Most of us have an internal dialogue that yells at us—just like a nasty person. Yet we keep letting this person into our lives—over and over again—without ever trying to change the relationship.
Do you catch yourself saying hurtful messages to yourself? The kind that directly connect to limiting beliefs and self sabotage tactics?
“What will they think of me?”
“Who am I to do that!?”
“What if they notice!”
“Why try. It won’t turn out anyway.”
These are the messages of your critic.
Do you know its messages? The onslaught of harsh and hurtful inner voices that are on constant repeat?
What kind of relationship do you have with your critic?
Do you avoid it? Stuff it into a dark corner? Pretend it’s not there? Maybe you turn it off with substances or screens, cheap thrills or pretending. It happens. We are all doing it.
But if we really want to change our lives—from the inside to outside—avoidance and resistance won’t do the trick. Building a good relationship with your critic is crucial.
The critic will stop you in your tracks. It will keep you from any iota of creative activation. It will contract you, keep you playing small and feeling insignificant. The critic is the biggest hindrance to our creativity, our life force energy, and it will keep us from living the life of our dreams, feeling nourished and taking action steps. The critic will keep us away from just about anything we truly desire and long for.
My solution for working with the critic is not to negate it or try to turn it off. Strangely, the critic, while being our worst enemy, is also the artist’s best friend. How is that possible?
In many regards, the critic is our resistance, our old patterns—usually based in the mental body or the imaginal realm of our being. Often we’ve inherited these patterns from our lineage and/or we acquire them through life experiences.
The critic essentially is all the parts of our being that tells us to stop, say no, resist, refuse. Actually this is a very important protection mechanism. In many ways, the critic has our best interest in mind. Literally! In fact, the critic is connected to the part of the brain that can keep us safe and out of harms way. We need it—just not all of the time.
How can we turn off the critic?
Rather than turn it off or silence it, I prefer to invite it in to our lives intentionally. Hey, it’s already here, and more resistance is likely not going to be useful—or a good use of our energy. I take a Gandhi approach to the critic—befriend the enemy. See what it has to teach you, what its message really has to share with you and why it shows up when it does. I often tell my clients to invite the critic over for a cup of tea!
Five Steps for Befriending Your Critic:
Before we can attend to the critic and its messages, we first need to identify it. Most people walk through life completely unaware of their inner thought processes. The mind is on auto-pilot and it never stops! I encourage you to get into a rigorous habit of using the four levels of awareness as a means of navigating your inner terrain. Doing consistent self tracking with a four level check-in is vital. What is a four level check-in?
Can you identify the critic and its messages? What level of awareness does it usually come from?
In your sacred creative space, leave a chair open for your critic to “sit in.” Or perhaps place a special reminder in your art space that symbolizes your critic. This is an open invitation to your critic. It is also your reminder that it may arrive, but you don’t need to engage with its behaviors.
Get curious and ask it to share more with you. Create an image of your critic. Let it out of the closet, let it be seen and acknowledge its presence. What colors, shapes, textures and images arrive on the page? Use whatever art medium inspires you—craypas, markers, pens, scraps of paper etc. Give yourself 20+ minutes for this process.
Title your image. Give your critic a name. Clearly identify this part of your being. Who is it? Get curious. Then ask your image to share with you. If your image could speak, what would it say to you?
Ask your image to answer these questions:
Now that you’ve harvested some vital information from your critic, it’s time to look at your findings. What does your critic want and need? How does your critic help you? How does it harm you? Most importantly, does it have a gift to share with you?
Notice the ways in which your critic serves you and acknowledge its messages. Honor this part of your being for trying to help you in some capacity. Now when it arrives, track it. Notice its arrival. Thank it and acknowledge it. You can choose to use the critic to support your creative process or destroy it. What choice do you make? How can you continue to befriend this part of yourself?
“Art is primarily about the development of consciousness, not the development of an object.” ~ Hudson
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Author: Saraswati J.
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Author’s Own