How to Talk Back to Your Inner Critic
Episode #3 of the course How to overcome writer’s block by Jurgen Wolff
Sometimes the thing that blocks us is a harsh inner critic. In this lesson, you’ll discover what the inner critic is, how to find out what it’s trying to tell you, and how to respond more constructively.
What Is the Inner Critic?
The inner critic is the part of yourself that gives you feedback on what you’re doing, what you’ve done, and what you’re thinking of doing in the future. It can appear in the form of an inner voice, a feeling, or an image, or some combination of those.
Unfortunately, most of us have a harsh inner critic. Sometimes it’s the voice of a demanding parent or an unkind teacher. In those cases, we have internalized an actual critic from our past. Other times, the inner critic reflects our fears.
The Inner Critic Isn’t Evil
Even a very harsh inner critic is probably trying to protect you. By convincing you that you shouldn’t bother finishing that novel, it saves you from rejection. However, it also “saves” you from success. While the intention may be positive, the effects are negative.
Identify Your Personal Inner Critic
First, identify the image, sound, or feeling that comes to mind when you think of your inner critic or your block (they’re often one and the same).
My inner critic is a voice I hear in my head. It’s probably a reflection of two members of my family. One was overprotective (“Don’t do that, you could get hurt!”) and the other was dismissive (“What makes you think that YOU can do something like that?”). This voice is active when I’m trying something new, in the middle of a project and doubting whether it’s going to be good enough, or just as I’m about to finish a project and send it out into the world, where it could be rejected. It’s accompanied by a sinking feeling in my stomach.
What about you? Think about the times your inner critic pops up and the kinds of things it says or the kinds of feelings it creates.
It’s Time to Talk Back!
When we were children, we couldn’t talk back to the people who were criticizing us. Now that we’re adults, it’s time to talk back to the inner critic.
Imagine a conversation with your inner critic. Ask it what it’s trying to do for you. From what is it trying to protect you? For instance, maybe what you want to write could bring up difficult memories, or you fear it might upset someone else or it won’t be good enough.
Once you have identified the main issue, you will be able to deal with it logically. You can prepare yourself to cope with bad feelings that might come up, which could include discussing those with a counselor, for instance, or planning how you can use those feelings in the writing itself.
A fear always diminishes when you are able to figure out what it’s really about. The method in this lesson will help you to do that. But we’re not finished with the inner critic yet . . .
Although dealing with the inner critic logically can help, tomorrow you’ll discover a longer-term solution: transforming your harsh inner critic into a constructive inner guide.
All the best,
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
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