The Secret to Finally Silencing Your Inner Critic

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Photo Source: Photo by Tiago Felipe Ferreira on Unsplash

So many artists are afraid of a bad review. Afraid that they will be judged or ridiculed for their work, that someone won’t appreciate their expression and label it weak or unworthy. So many artists stop themselves from creating with their fullest capacity for fear of this potential criticism yet they simultaneously live in a daily relationship with a much harsher critic: the one inside of them.

It is said that the space between your ears is either the most critical or the most critical: importance or detriment. The inner critic can be harsh and debilitating or it can give us discernment and be for our growth and evolution. The key is to understand that we are not that voice, we are the presence listening to it.

Many of us have a tyrannical inner critic. A cruel and unrelenting voice that judges our art, bodies, and being. It’s relentless and never satisfied. It masquerades as a friend, pretending that the punitive words it feeds us is motivating and forces us to become “better.” But a friend would never assure us of our brokenness. This voice is not for us even if it claims to be trying to help us or offer a dose of reality. The reality, the truth that is and always will be, is that we don’t need to be fixed or shamed into becoming more. We were born enough.

Yoga teacher Christy Marsden explains that when bad or bitter words are exchanged in an argument, it’s as if those in the fight are hammering nails into each other’s walls. Even if one or both parties apologize, taking the nails out of the wall, the holes are left behind. Eventually, we become full of holes and even a fresh coat of paint cannot undo what has been done.

The same goes for the inner critic of the artist. Over time, we are so filled with the holes of doubt, second-guessing, and insecurity that our canvas is too beat up to paint upon any longer. And the more we begin to believe the criticism of that inner voice, the more we begin to collect evidence of its validity. Before we know it, our bank accounts, relationships, and résumés have gaping holes no spackle in the world can mend. 

Rather than spending our lives trying to play small so the inner critic has less to comment on or rather than allowing ourselves to be a punching bag to its cruelty, let us learn to practice a life-saving tool: kindness.

It seems simple and obvious. And it is. Kindness breeds kindness.

READ: Negotiating Peace With Your Inner-Critic

Indulge in the practice of non-harming; dedicate yourself to non-violence in your words, thoughts, and actions. Even if the actions you take are already loving and non-violent, your mind might be a raging battleground.

If you believe you were created for a purpose, you were perfectly designed for that purpose, and that you live in a loving universe, then how can you constantly belittle and criticize yourself? How can you be so harming of the body, mind, and soul that house your greatness and potential? How can you constantly take out aggression on a quiet garden and then expect anything to desire to grow within it?

Your inner critic just needs a little kindness. Can we stand in love with the place inside of us that is scared and unsure? Instead of making the inner critic the villain, can we see it as truly trying to help? It doesn’t know better but you do.

Extend kindness and compassion to the voice that wants us to be okay so badly that it continues to tell us we’re not okay. Can we look at the scared, hurt, aggressive, unkind places inside of us and thank them for showing us an opportunity to love all the parts of ourselves, even ones we want to judge or dislike?

The practice is simple yet profound. When you notice the critic giving its next onslaught of opinion, imagine holding this scared, mean, ignorant force outside of you and simply stand in its presence and smile. Smile at the criticism. Smile in your living room or in the audition waiting room or your car. We know that when you look at your reflection in the mirror and you smile you will see your reflection smile back at you. It happens instantaneously and yet, the reflection never smiles first. It always starts with you. And it is all you have to do. Over time, with practice, as you keep watching and smiling lovingly, you might find your way to a softer voice.

When we can learn to extend kindness to ourselves in the face of our inner critic, we open ourselves up to knowing that there is no critic so powerful as to shake us from the center of our truth. We begin to repair our holes one by one, soon finding our way back into a wholeness we never thought possible.

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Natalie Roy
Natalie Roy is an actress, author, and spiritual teacher. She’s also a 500-hour certified yoga and meditation teacher specializing in visualization technique, positive psychology for actors, the yoga sutras and taking ancient Eastern philosophy and practices and playing them into the audition room and onto set.
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