When I first started writing seriously, I burned everything I wrote because I was afraid of anyone reading it.
Then, when I began my English degree, I talked about other people's writing confidently, but anytime I tried to do writing of my own I completely froze.
And when I published my first blog post, I was filled with so much anxiety that after hitting “publish” I chased it with a few stiff drinks.
The reason I'm sharing this is because I now know my inner critic was the cause of each of these moments of self-doubt. In this post, I want to show you to out write your inner critic.
The experience of the inner critic is universal. Because it's part of the creative process, the clearer you understand the inner critic, the more power you have to combat it, outsmart it, and write with confidence.
What is Your Inner Critic?
The inner critic is a psychological concept used to describe a part of your personality that judges or demeans yourself and your work. It's the voice that makes you feel small, not good enough, and blocked.
Often the inner critic is described as having a big booming voice. Or as aggressively telling you that you are wrong or that you shouldn't have started.
However, I've found that it often shows up nuanced, gentle, with the illusion of “normal thinking,” which makes it difficult to tell the difference. For example, my self-doubt voice can sound the same as my excited and inspired voice. They both sound like me.
The difference is that one is energized, expansive, and inspired. The other is constrictive, fearful, and limited.
It's random nature is what gives the inner critic power. It has a way of sneaking up on you, getting in your way, before you even know what's happening.
As writers, it is so important to know all the sneaky ways the inner critic can show up. This gives you an advantage because you can anticipate and spot the critic for what it is, and choose to keep writing anyway.
How the Critic Shows Up and What You Can Do
I've found that the critic shows up in three different domains: mind, body, and spirit. And there are different ways to diffuse the critic's power in each domain,.
The inner critic is ultimately a thought system that limits what is possible. It shows up when you feel stuck, when you have a problem you can't seem to figure out, when you over think, or analyze yourself and your work.
It shows up when you have critical thoughts. “Who am I to write?” it whispers. “I don't know what I'm doing.”
When you find yourself thinking like this, recognize the thought as the critical voice and counter it by asking yourself, “What other way I could look at this?” Your non-critical voice will jump the opportunity to respond.
I've found that my inner critic often shows up somatically. When it does, my body starts to hunch, I feel constricted, and unconsciously start taking short and shallow, breaths. I physically turn inward and become smaller.
When the inner critic strikes, you play small by making your posture small. One of my favorite TED talks explains how posture affects your brain chemistry.
When your posture starts to shift, notice it. Then take this awareness as an opportunity to straighten, ground your feet on the floor and reconnect to your breath. This clears blocks and allows you to continue typing away with ease and confidence.
When the critic shows up in your body, you don't get into a flow with your writing.
The inner critic manifests when you feel uncreative and uninspired. You don't experience words flowing and sparking through you.
When this happens, remind yourself you are creative, abundant and extremely capable, but the critic is preventing you from experiencing that in the moment.
Another way to counteract the critic when it shows up on this level is to practice gratitude. Take a moment to reflect on the places in your life where you feel creative and alive. Keep a running list, write in your journal, remind yourself of the creative spirit you are.
The Function of the Inner Critic
A question that often comes to mind is why do we have this critical part of ourselves in the first place. What function does it have?
What puts me at ease and helps me keep writing through my inner critic's attacks is seeing the inner critic as a means of self-preservation. Its function is to protect us from the vulnerability of stepping out of our comfort zones and expressing ourselves.
For me, remembering that the inner critic is trying to protect me helps to make it less demonized. I can come into relationship with it in a different way. I understand my critic is there, doing it's job and I can listen to it, thank it, and then move on.
A New Relationship
By increasing your awareness of how the inner critic shows up for you, you take your power back. You build internal muscles that experience keep you writing despite its pressures to get you to stop.
The more I write, edit, publish, and repeat, the more I see my critic for what it is: simply a part of myself that comes along for the ride.
The way the critic shows up will be different for everyone based on your own experiences. However, you are not alone in experiencing its presence.
Ultimately, the critical voice is a small voice compared to the creative potential and aliveness that you are at your core. The inner critic may feel big in the moment, or slither in like a sneaky snake, but by remembering the bright, creative and inspired reality of who you are, you stand your ground, stand in your potential, and write energetically with courage and heart.
Have you observed the inner critic's voice in your writing? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments.
Free write for ten minutes and pretend you are an anthropologist watching yourself write.
Afterward, write your own writer's manifesto, outlining how your inner critic showed up and how you will counter it when it sneaks into your process.
How did your inner critic show up? Share your manifesto in the comments section.