We’ve all been there, staring at a blank screen as the words refuse to come. The words are frozen, teetering on the edges of your fingertips the way a needed word stays on the tip of the tongue. Suddenly your mood plummets, the initial joy you felt in creating something epic is now transformed into a defeatist attitude. What happened?
Your internal critic managed to block your creativity.
What is the internal critic?
This is the subconscious part of you that influences your negative thoughts and actions against yourself. It seeks to destroy your self-esteem so that you remain ineffective, paralyzed by fear and indecision.
It is the part of you that pulls back when you embark on a promising opportunity, delighting in reminding you of past failures while highlighting all the risks involved. Because your emotions are entangled in this destructive web, your inner critic manipulates your feelings to align with your thoughts.
But fear not—you can take control of yourself, subdue your inner critic, and increase your productivity by taking the following actions:
- Awareness: develop the habit of self-reflection
- Shifts in mood: what triggered it?
- Validate: is this true?
- Resolution: Challenge your inner critic
Awareness through Self Reflection
So often we go through our daily lives unaware of unresolved feelings and thoughts. We tell ourselves this is how we are without taking the time to ask why. If we get into the habit of asking ourselves why we do the things we do, and how can we can do things differently, inevitable we arrive at an uncomfortable place.
This is a place of vulnerability, truth, and humility. Do we change or do we continue as before? Most people never get past this point because it’s painful and requires effort. Plus, there’s the internal critic attempting to block you from freeing yourself from your self-imposed prison, whether it’s the past or irrational fears. Holding a figurative mirror to ourselves is difficult, but it’s a crucial step in raising your awareness.
Mood Changes: What is the Trigger?
Once you’re aware that your inner critic influenced your thoughts or actions, you need to pinpoint when your mood shifted from high to low. What was the trigger? Did a word or phrase take you back to a painful moment of the past? Acknowledge it!
This doesn’t mean you’re agreeing to the right or wrong of that past moment. All you’re doing is isolating the occurrence so you can take the next step. The more you resist this acknowledgment, the more you’ll perpetuate those negative thoughts and feelings you’ve internalized.
Once you’ve pinpointed the emotional trigger, pay close attention to see if there’s a pattern. Then take the next step.
Validation: Question your internal critic’s judgment
Any moment you stop to question yourself, you are distancing yourself from your emotions. This gives you an opportunity to regroup, to reevaluate the situation from another perspective, but more importantly, to question what your internal critic is saying.
Let’s go back to the scenario from the beginning of this article. If your internal critic is telling you no one wants to read your writing, it’s understandable that your creativity is blocked from performing. Even if your conscious state knows that’s a lie, some part of your subconscious may believe it based on your history. Hence, the blank page.
Do you see how your internal critic manipulates you to stay in your comfort zone?
Rather than believing the negative thought, ask yourself this question in every situation: Is it true?
Is it true that no one wants to read your writing? If your writing strives to help others in some way, whether it’s through entertainment or knowledge, people definitely want to read it. Furthermore, in a world of billions of people, isn’t it reasonable to assume that at least one person out there could benefit from your words? Thinking in this way makes more sense than believing that zero out of six billion people could possible enjoy your writing.
If your critic counters, telling you your work doesn’t matter, push back with this reminder: my work matters because I matter. Say it out loud. Again. Say it in front of a mirror every day. The more you do this, the stronger your belief in yourself and your work.
Yes, it will be awkward and embarrassing at first, but you are speaking truth to yourself. Remember, even the most confident people struggle with their inner critic’s lies. This is simply one way of getting around it.
However, if what your critic is saying has a ring of truth to it, (such as claiming your writing is weaker than others), here’s what you do: rather than focusing on the weakness, shift your perspective towards the resolution. What do I mean by that?
Consider your writing as a current struggle, one in which you wrestle with daily because your writing progress is a journey. Remind yourself that competing against others isn’t your primary goal. Your concern is with improving your craft, and that’s what you’ll focus on. Your inner critic has no power at that point because you’ve turned the negative into a positive.
The more you become aware of the lies and test them, the faster you’ll remove the barriers to your creativity and ultimately your productivity. There’s just one final step to silencing your inner critic.
Resolution: Challenge Your Inner Critic into Submission
So you’ve managed to identify the areas of your life that are controlled by your inner critic. You’ve observed your mood changes, and you’ve tested its statements as truth or lies. Now what?
Now it’s time to push back against your inner critic, challenging the behaviors and thoughts that seem normal to you. It’s time for your mind to shift your thinking once you realize that certain aspects of your life are founded on lies.
At this point you may revert to your old habits and thought patterns because the unknown is scary. But ask yourself this: what do I have to lose? Going back to the familiar means the same results, while trying something new—even if you fail—opens up a new world for you.
Perhaps this means you free write for ten minutes straight as a way of silencing your inner critic. Or maybe you try meditation or taking a walk whenever you’re aware of the negative thoughts closing in on you. Although you’ve never attempted these techniques before, what do you have to lose? You need to figure out a way around your inner critic. Take the first step. You never know where you’ll end up or how you’ll change just by trying.
Once you’ve discovered coping mechanisms against your inner critic, you can challenge it. This means analyzing the thought or action before telling your inner critic you’ll prove it wrong.
So there you have it
Just a few steps to take to turn off your inner critic. These steps are simple but in no way easy. As long as these new habits are in place, you’ll discover that your inner critic has no power over you. That blank page will become a source of inspiration right before you fill it with words. Your inner critic will try to use fear and insecurity to maintain the blank page, but you’ll brush it aside like a pesky fly because your laser focus has no time for lies.
What are some other methods you use to silence your inner critic? Please share in the comments below.