Posts tagged inner critic
Writer Mindset: End the War with Your Inner Critic

Inner critic. Personal demon. Shadow. Dark side.

Whether you use one of these terms for your negative self talk or just call the problem Fred, if you’re a writer then you know all about that nagging, negative, pervasive, and sometimes downright toxic – thing – that tries to get in the way of our writing.

The inner critic is one of the most difficult problems writers face. That negative inner commentary takes a tremendous toll on our creativity, our productivity, and even the quality of our work. It leads us into procrastination. It creates avoidance and contributes to burn out. It steals our love for writing and fills us with misery and self-loathing. Under its influence some of us stop writing or never even get started in the first place.

Given the monstrousness of its behavior and the extent to which it harms us, maybe it’s not surprising that we talk about this common creative problem as though it were something separate from us, something alien and “other.”

When we come face-to-face with our darker side, we use metaphors to describe these shadow encounters: meeting our demons, wrestling with the devil, descent to the underworld, dark night of the soul...
— ~Connie Zweig, Meeting the Shadow

Using a metaphor offers a degree of separation that allows us to engage in ongoing warfare without ever fully assuming responsibility . It also ensures that we can never win. Because here’s the thing, people:

My inner critic, demon, shadow, whatever, is absolutely and indubitably part of me. And yours is part of you. Which means we are waging war with ourselves.

This cannot end well. In fact, as long as we live, it cannot end at all. And yet, below is a small sampling of the popular advice on offer for dealing with the inner critic problem.

Four Ways to Overcome Your Inner Critic

How to Stand up to Your Inner Critic.

Taming Your Inner Critic

Five immediate and easy ways to silence your inner critic.

These are all from page one of a Google search for “inner critic,” and they are all high-powered, informed, intelligent sites, including Psychology Today and TED Talks.

I have to confess that I’ve spent the last few years using similar language when talking about the critic. I’m sorry about that. And I’m out to repair the damage.

Here’s what I’ve come to believe. if you try to silence, tame, or overcome your inner critic, you are silencing, taming, or overcoming a part of yourself. Maybe it’s not the best and brightest and most lovable part of you, but who can blame it? It’s unheard, invalidated, unloved, and it’s naturally gotten a little ugly and muddied up because of that.

Psychologist Carl Jung theorized that we all have a shadow self which contains the unconscious parts of our personality that we do not want to own, usually because they are unsavory and unpleasant and we don’t want to acknowledge that we contain this darkness. Because these pieces of us are unconscious and untended, they can create all kinds of havoc in our lives. 

But it’s not only the ugly stuff that gets stuffed away into the shadow: 

...the shadow contains not just destructive aspects of the personality, but also potent, creative, and powerful capabilities. During our development certain traits and impulses were condemned by our family, peers, and educators, not out of care but out of envy, fear, ignorance or jealousy. Our proclivity to abide by social expectations also caused us to repress talents, innate abilities, and impulses which if cultivated and developed had the potential to make us more effective beings in the world.
— Carl Jung and the Shadow: the hidden power of our dark side

Our toxic, negative self talk has its roots in our childhood and early creative lives. It continues to live on because we believe the lies that we were told, and because we have unhealed wounds that continue to fester. We live in a condition akin to Stockholm syndrome, where we have internalized the words of those who want to keep us small and captive.

Dark, yes?

But stay with me, because there is hope – so much bright, beautiful, wonderful hope.

Jung believed that by embracing our shadow we can we become our best, brightest, and fully realized selves.

And I believe this is how we resolve the problem of the inner critic, by learning to dance with our demons. When we heal our writer wounds, transform our negative, toxic self talk into positive, encouraging messages, and forgive the people and events that created those wounds in the first place, we can reclaim a valuable and powerful part of our creative selves instead of wasting our energy fighting against it.

This frees up so much abundant, creative energy and joy so we can get to our writing and other creative work unhindered and actually aided by a helpful, thoughtful, critic that serves rather than impeding our progress.

Stay tuned for more posts on DIY inner critic transformation, or join me for my brand new Dancing with Your Demons: Transforming Writer Wounds class starting September 26.





The Magic of Letting Go: How Forgiveness Helps Your Writing

Over the last few weeks I've been engaged in a new process for me: forgiveness.

If you had asked me a month ago if I had things to forgive, I'd have blinked at you and said, "I don't hold grudges." (I really excel at denial.)

When my Dreambook Planner asks me every Sunday as I'm looking ahead at the new week: "Who do you need to forgive?" I often leave that space blank.

That's because I've been focused on who I need to forgive in my current every day life. And it's true -- I am pretty good at practicing forgiveness in the here and now. When something comes up I usually take care of it. But it has not always been so.

As I began working through an online class I'm doing (Money Bootcamp for Women by Denise Duffield Thomas and it's FANTASTIC if you happen to have any money hangups) I encountered an entire module on forgiveness. When I got into the work I realized I was dragging around years of baggage over hurts both large and small. It kinda felt a bit like this:

Thing is, I didn't even know they were there. I was so used to working around them that I thought the whole time I was free.

So I started a very simple practice of repeating the forgiveness mantra Denise teaches (I'm going to share it with you in a minute) whenever one of these people or incidents popped up. No pressure. No need to feel a certain way, or wait to forgive perfectly.

The name would come up. I'd repeat my little mantra, let it go, and move on.

I'll admit there were tears involved around some names and situations. But it felt so amazing to release all of that weight and let it go.

So then I started thinking. The act of forgiving is really for US, not for the person we forgive. In fact, in this forgiveness practice, those people are never even going to know whether we forgave them or not. It's all about clearing away all of that clutter. It weighs us down and holds us back. It can present as chatter from our internal critic.

And there is one person, sometimes the hardest to forgive, who needs to know I've forgiven her. And that person is - myself. She needs to know that I forgive her everything. All of her inconsistencies and faults, failures, and foibles.

I need to forgive her for years she wasted, for not always doing her best work, for procrastinating and avoiding, for missed opportunities and falling short of goals.

This, my dear one, frees up so much energy to move forward into deeper creativity, deeper relationships, and more joyful living.

The mantra is simply this:

I forgive you.
I'm sorry.
Thank you.
I love you.

(Note: You may have some people in your life, or in your past who have done heinous things to you and maybe they don't deserve to be forgiven. In that case, this kind of forgiveness may seem insurmountable to you. Remember this, though: Forgiveness is for YOU. And YOU deserve to be able to let it go. Sometimes it helps to start very small. Sometimes it helps to have a professional person to walk through this work with you.)

I plan to continue this forgiveness work on a daily basis, but this does seem to be the perfect time of year to focus in on it and give ourselves the gift of beginning the new year free and clear.

So, I'm running a free online Clear & Create group on Thursday, December 13, to take us through the process of letting go of our own perceived failures and creating intentions for 2019. This is an interactive Zoom room session involving guided imagery, free writing, and letting go of old baggage. I'd love to have you join us!

I’m also taking this work deeper as part of a brand new coaching package that will transform your creative process - and your life - within the space of 30 days. I believe in this so strongly I’m offering a guarantee.

You can get a free taste of how this works in the Clear & Create group, so I hope to see you there!

Self Talk Radio: How the Inner Critic holds us back

The inner critic.
Being hard on yourself.
Maybe even "being a realist."

Whatever you call it, negative self talk is a prevalent behavior that's been coming up a lot lately with writer friends, coaching clients, and even popped up as an issue of concern on a podcast I was listening to yesterday.

I'm going to guess that it affects you too. I know it certainly affects me. Wouldn't it be awesome if we could be our own best cheerleaders, encouragers, and motivators, rather than our biggest critics and demoralizers? Imagine how many creative risks we might take, how many new things we might explore, how much more good we might do in the world?

The first step to solving any problem is understanding it, so let's tune in to Self Talk Radio KERRY, a station that is playing continually in the background of my consciousness, usually without my awareness, and see what's playing.

(NOTE: When I wrote the first draft of this I included stuff other people have said and kinda made stuff up. This is the honest transcript, because I want you to know that whatever is going on in YOUR head, you are not alone.)

What makes you think you can pull this self employed thing off? You'll be crawling back to the day job before a year is up.
Getting a little big for our britches, aren't we?
Maybe you used to be able to write, but you certainly can't write now. Nobody is going to read this shit.
I don't know what you were thinking to start this podcasting project, because you know you'll just get bored and drop it and nobody will ever listen anyway. All full of ideas, but you never finish anything.
You know you're going to fail, so why bother to start...

Yikes. Okay. That was helpful.... NOT.

Know this. If your private self talk station sounds anything like this, you are not alone. Pretty much everybody I know deals with this type of self criticism on a regular basis.

Recently, I was lucky enough to go on a cruise with Cruising Writers, hosted and run by Christina Delay, my business partner for Creative Wellness Retreats. I facilitated a group for the writers on the cruise about our inner critics that turned out to be surprisingly powerful, even for me. We all took a few minutes to download the negative self talk going on in our brains (something I'm going to invite you to do in just a few minutes.)

One of the writers stopped writing, looked up at me, and said, "This is so mean."

Well, yes. It is mean. And it got meaner.

Because the next thing I asked them to do was to choose one of those things they were saying to themselves, and then deliver that line to somebody else in the group. There were actual tears, here, my friends. Not from the person the line was delivered to, but from the deliverer. Things they had been saying to themselves unconsciously for years made them cry when said out loud to another human being.

I would never look at another human being on a journey and say, "You're totally going to fail at this," or "Your writing sucks, dude."

This isn't being a realist. It isn't tough love. It's mean and hurtful and not helpful.

Imagine the damage done by having this kind of toxic garbage playing in your subconscious day in and day out, year after year after year.

Now, are you ready for the good news?

You can change it! You can convert the Self Talk Channel into a motivational channel that will encourage and inspire you rather than dragging you down. I'm going to give you the steps of a simple practice, drawn from Kaizen-Muse coaching, that you can implement to start this transformation.

1. Awareness. Start tuning in to that negative voice so you know what it's saying. Much of its power comes from the way it runs in the background, influencing you while you're busy doing other things. Take five minutes to free write the critical messages. Don't stop to think or analyze, just scribble them down.

2. Draw a big heart around them. Write a message like, "This is normal, I accept that everybody does this." Or, "I am not alone with this." Or, "Thank you for sharing." (Do this step, even if you want to skip it. It's important. It takes some of the energy away from the critic.)

3. Reframe. Look at those things you've written down and see how you might turn them into encouraging messages. Imagine you are delivering them to a friend you love and believe in. What might you say then?

Try focusing on a positive aspect. For example, I'm converting "You know you're going to fail, why bother to start?" into "You're awesome for starting this project. I love your energy and enthusiasm!" That feels so much better. It gives me energy to keep going, rather than fulfilling an expectation of failure.

Or, reframe the negative into a positive question. Like this:

"Nobody is going to read this shit," becomes "What if this grows into an awesome book and my readers love it?"

Again, this question makes me want to keep going. To keep writing. It gives me permission to grow the book, to develop it into something good even if it isn't awesome yet.

4. Say nice things to the woman or man in the mirror. I got this one from the podcast I was listening to yesterday - LOA Recon with Jeannette Maw. What you do is say nice things to yourself, every day (or as many days as you remember - no beating yourself up for missing!) while looking in the mirror. I think Jeannette mentioned a magic number to aim for - like 40 days, or something - but anything you do will help.

One important rule: You don't get to beat yourself up for your negative self talk.

A funny thing happens when we start in to change this pattern. We start beating ourselves up for beating ourselves up, in an ongoing endless cycle. Funny how we're like that, right?

It's taken a lifetime to develop this pattern, so don't be surprised if it takes some time to shift it. Hey, if you’re reading this, you've already taken the first step! Now, where can you find a few minutes to do the exercise?

I do have some more resources for you to take this work deeper. I made a little video, and my 2nd episode of the Creativity Quest podcast with Authors on the Air Global Radio Network is on this topic and will be up later today. If you missed the very first episode, on Becoming the Fear Whisperer, you can listen to that here.

I'm also offering coaching calls where we can work together to create an individualized plan for transforming your self talk radio station into positive motivation.

Reprogramming this one thing makes such a powerful difference, my friend. Undertaking this work is one of the most important steps you can take toward being your best, most creative self--which in turn makes the world a better place for all of us.

Happy Creating!

Dude, Go For the Dream. It's Not Selfish At All.

Do you have a creative dream languishing in a corner with the dust bunnies? Or maybe tucked carefully away into a drawer with some dried lavender and rose petals? Maybe you even take it out every now and then, brush it off, look at it wistfully and then let it drop back out of sight.

You are so not alone! Creative people all over the planet are stuck in the same place.

There are a million and one reasons why we don't go after our dreams. Fear, self doubt, negative self talk, and a host of others. The one that is on my mind today involves a message a lot of us were handed as kids and are still listening to today.


We believe that carving out the time to write or paint or pursue photography or practice music or be in a dramatic production or whatever is an act of selfishness. Engaging freely in creativity feels too good. In our subconscious minds we believe that life is supposed to be about sacrifice and burdens. We say things like,

"Oh, I can't possibly do that now. I have responsibilities and obligations. Maybe when the kids are grown up. Maybe when I retire. Maybe when the grandkids are grown up. Oops - maybe in the next life..."

I heard a guy talking awhile back about a big dream. He wanted to do a thing that involved writing and traveling. But he couldn't bring himself to do it. He talked about his son, who is living a creative life, and he kept saying, "I just feel that he's so selfish."

And inside I was screaming at him, "DUDE! Go for the dream. It's not selfish at all!!"

Of course, since I was eavesdropping on this conversation, I didn't say anything. But I went home and wrote this down in my reminder journal (a special journal where I keep little nuggets like this that remind me about what's important and that give me inspiration.)

If you have a persistent creative dream, then that is part of your reason for being here in the world. Pursuing it doesn't make you a selfish human being, it makes you a fulfilled, self-actualizing one. It makes you a better person. A full, living, breathing, contributing person.

Imagine that a loved one prepares a meal specifically for you. They've made all of your favorite foods and invited some of your favorite people. Maybe it's your birthday, or maybe it's just for no particular reason other than that they love you.

You sit down at all of those delicious, mouthwatering foods. You fold your hands together, sigh regretfully, and say, "Oh, I can't possibly eat any of this. I feel so selfish."

We are like that when we deprive ourselves of time with our creative dreams.

In fact, when we engage with and pursue our creative dreams, we feed the souls of others. How often have you been nourished, healed, maybe even saved by a well timed book, piece of artwork, or song? Think about that for a minute.

If you have a creative calling, large or small, you get to be a part of that. A part of making the world a better place. How is that possibly selfish?

If you've been cutting yourself off from the dream for awhile it might feel far away. Maybe it seems small and dried up and you think it's too late. It's not.

It's never too late to go after a creative dream. My grandfather started taking piano lessons in his eighties. He wanted to learn before he got too old.

But if the dream seems unreachable and far away right now, ask yourself this question:

What is one tiny little step I could take today?

It might be just buying a notebook to write in. A five minute internet search to look for a class or a teacher in your area. Browsing the art supplies in the Wal-mart aisle and feasting your eyes on colors and textures. Or even email me and ask about coaching, if you'd like a companion and guide for your creative journey.

Whatever you do, see if you can take one tiny step forward. And I'd love it if you'd share with me. It lights me up to see people reuniting with their creativity.

About that annoying voice in your head

Quick - without stopping to think - what is your inner critic saying to you RIGHT NOW?

CHALLENGE: Stop what you're doing, grab a pen and a piece of paper and try this. It will take you all of a minute and you might be surprised.

1. Set your timer for one minute, but don't start it yet.

2. At the top of your paper write: "Internal Critic: You have permission to speak freely."

3. Start the timer and let your pen write down everything the critic is saying to you. Keep the pen moving without stopping to think. 

Ready? GO.

(Did you do the thing? No? I understand. If you're at all like me, you're busy. You're saying, "yeah, yeah. Who has time for stupid exercises? I'll get the gist by just reading."

But you won't. You'll get information, but you won't get the information that's hiding in your subconscious, and that is really important shit. If you really can't do the thing now, promise yourself you'll do it later.)

After you've let the Critic have the floor, add something like this at the bottom of your page:

I hear you. Thank you for sharing. Now please go do some yoga and, for the love of all things holy, chill out.

I hear you..png

The hearts are important, because the Inner Critic is really part of YOU. War with your self defeats the purpose and wastes energy. If you can't feel love (the kind you might summon up for a fractious toddler) you can act as if. If you really listen, you may find that the Critic wants you to be safe and not get hurt, so it is eternally trying to shut you down and keep you small. So thank it for the feedback, pat it on the head, and send it off to the spa.

Even though it is usually well intentioned, the Inner Critic is seriously misinformed and often behind the times. You know what mine told me this week?

"You're lazy," it said. For a minute I bought in. 

"Yeah, I know. I'm lazy." Heavy, sad sigh.

And then the cognitive dissonance kicked in. Wait. What?

I work a day job, run a coaching business, write books, take classes, and do a reasonable share of the household chores. I'm not exactly sitting around twiddling my thumbs. And yet, harbored in my subconscious, even after years of work on this sort of thing, there was this random, completely inaccurate belief.

I actually laughed out loud, (a real one, not an online LOL). And then I said to my critic, "You're delusional, my friend. Not sure where that one came from, but I'm not buying it. Not any more. Maybe I could be more productive or focused or make better use of my time. Lazy? I don't think so."

The belief has tried to sneak back in a couple of times, but I'm watching for it now and just shoo it away. When it goes, it takes with a bunch of guilt boogey men that have been hanging around. 

Complete the Challenge

(I know. I told you this would only take one minute. But you can do this part of the challenge in your head while you drive or do dishes or shower or whatever, so it doesn't count on the clock.)

Pick one of the negative things your critic said to you and explore it a little. Try to look at it in a friendly, detached sort of way.. Is it true? What evidence supports the truth of it? Is there evidence against it? If you were presenting this negative statement to an impartial judge, would there be enough evidence for a conviction?

Can you put a spin on it? Think of it differently? Does it have a positive side?

Laziness, for example, could be spun as an ability to relax, to slow down, to enjoy the luxuries and pleasures of life instead of racing the clock. See how it becomes a virtue instead of a fault?

What purpose does this attribute serve in your life?  If it isn't working for you, can you change one small thing--just a little tweak--that would make it into a quality that helps you?

As always, I'd love to hear how any of this works for you! Comment below, or email me.