How to Transform Your Inner Critic Into an Inner Cheerleader

by Guest Blogger | 23 comments

This guest post is by Jackie Johansen. Jackie is a writer and soul seeker who is passionate about how writing has the capacity to create huge, positive change in ourselves and others. She writes at Finally Writing. If you are ready to unleash your inner writer and get writing from the inside out, head over to Finally Writing for writing inspiration, strategies and freebies.

Do you ever feel like your own worst enemy?

Are there times when you are bursting with inspiration, bursting with ideas to write about, but struggle to get started or bring them fully to form?

Inner Critic

 

You struggle because you start over thinking and planning—picking apart the idea and wondering if it will ever work. You may worry what people will think. Doubt if you are good enough, and you start finding things to distract yourself with.

The words remain unexpressed. The page remains blank, or half finished. You have given power to doubt, worry and fear.

When this happens, your creativity is not in the drivers seat. Instead, the inner critic is.

Luckily, you can overcome your inner critic by transforming your relationship so it triggers encouragement and confidence, rather than negativity and stagnation.

What is the Inner Critic?

The “I” voice that worries and is full of doubt, is not the real you, it is not the “I” that speaks from creativity, light, or inspiration.

Rather it is a protective defense that takes over when you are doing something important, when you are stretching to express yourself creatively and authentically.

This critical voice comes with the territory of creative expression and we must learn how to write and create regardless. Here's how to transform your inner critic into your personal writing cheerleader.

Notice How Your Critic Shows Up

The inner critic pops up when we are writing but it also has a tendency to follow us in other parts of our lives.

To transform our relationship with the inner critic, we must become more conscious of it.

Does it show up at times when you are alone, when you are social? Does your critic pop up when you are trying to do something new, creative or share an idea that is uniquely your own?

Be curious.

Activate a witnessing stance.

Notice your body when you experience your critic. Notice how your body shifts, holds tension or reacts.

This process starts empowering us to be a witness to these feelings and sensations. We begin to gain distance from them, which creates space to interact with them differently.

We begin to stand more confident in ourselves because when we are aware of our patterns, we can then make more loving and empowered choices about how we interact with them.

Choose to Feel Your Creative Power

Take a moment to picture yourself fully in your creativity. Fully in your power. How does it feel to have written?

Knowing this feeling on a conscious level puts our critical voice in perspective.

We are much more vibrant and creative than this critical inner voice wants us to believe.

Even though the critical voice can feel overwhelming and has the power to stop us in our tracks, we can take a moment to gain our footing and to experience it differently.

Remind yourself of how much bigger and more vibrant you are when it starts to get in your way.

Use Positive Self-Talk

The negative voice exists because there is a positive one as well. They are two sides of the same coin.

When you start experiencing negative thinking, retort with positive self-talk. Take a deep breath and remind yourself why you want to write in the first place, feel into your creative spark, tell yourself that you can do and that you will, no matter what.

The more we engage in positive self-talk the stronger this positive voice becomes.

The negativity loses its charge because it activates positive thinking.

Your Inner Critic Can Be a Great Editor

One of the best ways to transform our inner critic into an ally is to use it to the advantage of your creative work.

Our critics are great editors. Harness its power to help you edit and see your work through an editor’s lens.

However, use the tools above to keep the critic in perspective and from coming into your creative process too early.

Love the Tension

Often we experience the inner critic so frequently that engaging with it positively can be uncomfortable and often difficult.

Be gentle with yourself.

Recognize that when you experience doubt and fear, it is a signal that you are touching onto something important and necessary for your personal growth and for the growth of your writing.

Write your way through discomfort. Write through the negative feelings. Write with confidence, love and heart. (Tweet that?) Trust that the writing practice will take you and your work exactly where you need to be.

How about you? Do you struggle with an inner critic who often keeps you from writing? Share in the comments section.

PRACTICE 

Write a letter to your inner critic. Share with this voice how you feel when it comes into your experience and why you want things to change. Share why you hold the intention to express yourself creativity, and how you would like it to support you in the process.

When you're finished with your letter, share it with us in the comments section.

Have fun!

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23 Comments

  1. Doug Schenek

    Going through this right now, I’m at a point in my story and could go in any direction. This is also a graphic novel and my creative side is turned off…

    Reply
    • Jackie

      Doug, Thank you for sharing. I have definitely felt what you are going through–that my creativity is turned off and that I am at a fork (or many forks) in the road about where the writing could go. It can be helpful to remember that these times are full of potential and the standstill points to us being close to a breakthrough. Keep writing and clarity will come. Tons of luck to you! 🙂

  2. Steve Szubert

    Dear Inner Critic: Can you do better? …. silence … end of story 🙂

    Reply
    • Jackie

      Thanks Steve! I think having a sense of humor about our critic is a fabulous approach 🙂

  3. Tora Sacramento

    I am in the process of writing about something devastating that happened to me, but I want it to be a piece about “lessons learned”. I am finding that my first four paragraphs are what I want to say but now my IC (ick! 🙂 is starting to have me edit as I try to continue. It’s funny how I needed this article to show up just at the right time. My boyfriend (also a writer) has been telling me I need to just write, then edit later. This is so hard for me.

    Reply
    • Jackie

      Tora, First off I want to appreciate you for having the courage and heart to write through a difficult time in your life and your healing story. That is such a powerful journey to be on and naturally your critic will come up in a huge way. Notice it, take a deep breath and keep writing. Trust in the process and know that your story is important, valuable and will bring inspiration and healing to the world. Tons of love to you.

    • Tora Sacramento

      Thanks Jackie!

  4. Avril

    Dear Inner Critic,
    You don’t fool me. I know who you are, and you are not me. You are a big snot ball that has incorporated every negative thing anyone said to me, and now you would let those useless, yapping voices interfere and harass when I’m working.
    I hear how I’m not smart enough, not saying anything new or interesting, or on the other hand, what I’m doing is strange and I’m weird. I recognize the voices: Family, mean girls, even trusted friends. You manage to sound like me, and attempt to suck me into thinking I am criticizing myself. You are not me. I respect myself, I love writing, and I enjoy the process, without letting you raise doubts about the outcome.
    So, Inner Receptacle Of All Things Negative, congratulations. You’ve amassed an impressive collection of put-downs. Have fun playing with them. As for me, I’ll be busy writing.

    Reply
    • Jackie

      Avril, This is such powerful and great stuff. I think we can all relate to your words and experience. I know I can. Thank you for writing and sharing your truth. Blessings to you on your writing journey. xox

  5. George McNeese

    To my Inner Critic:

    I appreciate your honesty, but the truth is you’re very annoying. I hate that you put down my work and keep me from being creative. You put too many distractions in my way, and I feel unable to overcome those distractions. There are some situations I cannot ignore, like the birth of my son. Aside from my duties as a husband and father, your interruptions are no longer wanted. I will not let you interfere with what I want to accomplish as a writer. Afterwards, once I complete my drafts, I will welcome you if you have encouraging words to go with your critiques. Otherwise, you are not welcome.

    Thank you for listening.

    Reply
    • Jackie

      George, Thanks for sharing. I love how you laid out your priorities and came to a compromise here. That is a great exercise and such an important conversation to have with the critic 🙂

  6. Jo Malby

    Great post Jackie. I especially liked: “Recognize that when you experience doubt and fear, it is a signal that you are touching onto something important and necessary.” Also very apt personally at the moment! Being gentle on yourself and kind too isn’t always easy but also agree that is so important. Though it has taken years to even teach that place. Really enjoyed this, thank you. 🙂

    Reply
    • Jackie

      Hi Jo! Yes, being gentle on ourselves is difficult but so critical to our personal well-being and work. Although difficult, each time we take a small, gentle right action, it becomes easier and easier. Thanks for taking the time to write. xox

  7. Diane Turner

    Thank you, Jackie, for a perfect post. My inner critic and I have been in a tug-of-war for the past couple of days, so I welcome the opportunity to yank the rope to my side.

    Dear Inner Critic,
    You jump right in whenever my insecurities surface, which happens often, but lately, I find your nose stuck firmly in my business. Your time will come, I have told you. Right now, however, you are annoying, you keep me from progressing, you tell me I am a lousy writer, who has nothing to say that anyone would waste time reading, and you chastise me in my own voice. Nervy, methinks.
    Right now I am busy creating and have no time for you or your games, so just put a sock in it.

    Now, that felt good.

    Reply
    • Jackie

      Diane, I love the tug-of-war image…perfect! Keep on writing, with each word you put to paper the rope will come closer to your side 🙂

  8. Gert van den Berg

    Dear I inner Critic

    For years you have been whispering in my ears, telling me that I would never be good enough that I would be a mere shadow of what I want to accomplish. For so long you have broken me down until there is nothing left except hatred for my hopes and dreams. The same ones that I had seen drowned within the riptide of my insecurities. You have caused me to retract within the confines of my being, to be a prisoner within that cage and linger in that darkness until peace finds me.

    But it’s about time that we start working together. If we carry on like this then both of us are not going to get anywhere. I will listen to what you have to say and use it to become better in the things I love.

    However if we can’t learn to work together and you just keep trying to break me down then I will become like a spiteful child and undermine you wherever I can. So that I may prove that I am better than what you would have me believe.

    Reply
    • Jackie

      Gert van den Berg, what a beautiful and powerful letter. Thank you for sharing this with us. You are so right, if we don’t find ways to come into relationship with our critic, the fight will continue on, which takes energy away from our work. Thanks for your inspiring words.

  9. Adam Hughes

    Dear Baltasar,

    I appreciate your vigilance in helping me to avoid falling on my face, but I think the time has come for us to more clearly define our roles.

    My goals — and since we’re working as a team here, your goals — include expanding the scope, audience, and quality of my writing. To accomplish this, I need to take some chances and try things you may have never dreamed of.

    I don’t have the time and energy to fight off your objections at every turn, so I must insist that you sit quietly in your room while I create.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, because I do need you, too.

    Every time I finish a rough draft, I’ll ask you to give it the once-over and tell me where I’m crazy.

    When I complete a more polished draft, I’ll bring you in to help me edit the crap out of it. I know how you love that red marker.

    And I promise to meet with you at least once in awhile to make sure I’m not going off the rails in some profound way. You know, to keep me from punting the “day job” and taking that Walden plunge that’s always rattling around in my brain.

    Otherwise, I’ll call you.

    Thanks for your attention, and I look forward to working with you … when the time is right.

    Adam

    Reply
    • Jackie

      Adam, this is fabulous, thank you for posting! I think you were so smart to define the role of the inner critic and find ways to come to a new relationship with it. All the best to you.

    • Adam Hughes

      Thanks, Jackie. And thanks for the fun, provocative idea.

  10. Emma

    Dear Inner Critic,

    You must be tired. I admire your capacity for hard work, but
    isn’t it time you took a rest? I know you only want what’s best, but you need
    to trust that all will be well, even if you’re looking away. I can’t do
    perfect, but that’s all right. Even you can’t do perfect! But if you sleep, and
    I can work without you breathing down my neck, perhaps you’ll have better work
    to get your teeth into when you’ve woken, refreshed, and ready to step into
    your power and help me edit.

    Sweet dreams,

    Emma

    Reply
  11. Bruce

    Dear Inner Critic,

    I really need you to ease up a bit. At the very least let me finish a sentence before you chime in with your “suggestions”. Granted, you do help me get my points across, but I need to move these projects faster and you are slowing me down. Why don’t we try a little experiment? Today you let me write sentences without interruptions and tomorrow, full paragraphs. Let’s just see what happens.

    Jackie, Thank you for the wonderful read.

    Reply
  12. Michael

    Dear Inner Critic,

    There is a part of me that is always scared and overprotective. That is you Inner critic.

    But I see our future as a team, you can help me from going to far, help me see my work from a different perspective. Sometimes you become stubborn and use my own fears against me, then I either give up or fight you. I know that there will always be hate and criticism, but that is a risk that I am willing to take. You just need to trust me and take a leap of faith.
    So it comes to a choice: You help me or try and stop me.

    Kind regards, me.

    Reply

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