“Criticism is part of the creative man’s journey.” – Marcus Samuelsson
Do you ever replay old scenarios in your head and think to yourself: “Man, I should’ve said or done that instead!”?
Say hello to your inner critic!
First things first. It’s not that bad! We all have this guy in bigger or smaller doses. Sometimes we’re aware of it, sometimes we’re not. The second thing is to realize that the voice isn’t us. It’s a part of us, sure, but it doesn’t define who we are.
We can choose to ignore it or to try and learn from it. Pro tip: Don’t ignore it, usually it just makes it come back louder and with a vengeance!
What we should focus on is to start talking to it in a manner that let’s it express its opinions (that’s all they are!) in a more constructive way. It might sound slightly schizo but, if we can do that the inner critic can actually HELP us! Instead of playing its usual “You Suck” routine.
Here are a few indicators on what makes for good critique and sucky critique.
- Right place, right time. It doesn’t come too early or too late. Some things are better left between two parties instead of in groups.
- Short and sweet. Well, maybe not “sweet” but cuts to the chase!
- Relevant. Bringing up things that are pointless is, well, pointless.
- Specific. Pointing out the precise things that need improvement.
- Educated. It comes from credible sources with experience in the field.
- Sincere. An honest opinion please!
- Actionable. Making it something that can people can act on and do something about!
- Wrong place, wrong time. When it’s not asked for or when there’s no chance to do anything about it.
- Endless. Just hammering the person without getting anywhere. People don’t remember the point of it.
- Irrelevant. “Oh, and don’t get me started on your mother!”.
- Ambiguous. Being too vague and general won’t help the cause.
- Uninformed. Making unsubstantiated statements.
- Devious. Critique aimed at undermining the person or leading them wrong.
- Impracticable. There’s nothing to be done and things just plain suck.
If you can run criticism through this filter whether it’s your own or other’s you’ll go a long way towards being able to better decide whether or not it’s legit. You could start critiquing the critic!
You might still feel like there are some unresolved things that keep popping up and trying to shoot it down with the criticism filter doesn’t help.
What you do then is to disassociate yourself from it and talk to it as a different entity. Just as the cartoon above. Only now you try to change it into something constructive instead of having the battle. Here’s an example!
Inner Critic: Oh, man! You remember when you wrote that stupid dialogue? You’re so stupid. Why’d you even start writing at all? You’ve got no natural talent for it. People will hate you. It’s embarrassing. You’re never going to amount to anything. It’s pointless. Stop it right now. Go and stuff your face with some coke and cold pizza. Watch some TV or porn! Maybe then you won’t fail at everything you do!
You: Stop. That’s not helpful. There’s too many things coming at me right now. What in the dialogue was “stupid”?
IC: Well, it didn’t sound authentic. People don’t talk like that. You’re no good at that, you should have…
Y: Stop. That’s not helpful. I can’t change the past. What can I do better next time?
IC: You could listen to how people talk in real life. Use your own language.
Y: Thank you. That’s helpful. I can do something about that. Is there anything else?
IC: Not right now, but i’ll be sure to come up with something else later today that you should feel completely awful about for no apparent reason! Buh-bye!
Y: Aw, shit.
This is usually the way it goes. When I tried interrogating the little turd in my head it actually started explaining itself really well. Turned out that there was a lot of anxiety and fear there.
It was like this scared little kid who was protesting with all its might because it felt so extremely uncomfortable with a lot of stuff that i’d been doing. Obviously I was totally uncomfortable talking to that part of myself about it. By the way, I do realize how schizophrenic this seems. But it’s been an effective tool for me, so, yay!
There’s a certain truth in that you should “face your fear and do it anyway”. What doesn’t make the headlines is that there might be forces at work within us that might come out and bite us in the ass when we least expect it.
What a lot of people try to do is to drown this voice out, silence it or in other ways try and kill it. That don’t work friend.
We need to find a better way. A way of working WITH this part of ourselves instead of working AGAINST it.
It’s going to be there for quite a while so better get comfy with it. I suggest buying matching pajamas. Preferably with a flap in the back.
This way of deflecting criticism could be likened to the way a prism works. A critiprism (portmanteaus everywhere!) if you will. Just by holding it up against the light we can find new ways of looking at the problem.
It’s critical to have some good quotes!
“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard
“Music is art, and once you become an artist, you need to learn how to accept criticism.” – Yanni
“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember, the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.” – Zig Ziglar