What is your inner critic? And how can we find love and gratitude for them so you can create without going to war with them?

In this solo episode, I discuss:

  • what your inner critic is
  • how to fire up your inner critic so you can get to know them
  • why you’ve got an inner critic and how to love and feel gratitude for your inner critic
  • an example of my own inner critic

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Hello - I’m Amy Isaman, author and creativity coach, and you’re listening to episode 34 of the dear creativity let’s play podcast. I want to talk today about this idea of an inner critic that stops you from creating. I’ve talked about this quite a bit on various episodes, like episode 4 on getting started , episode 6 on sharing that creative secret or dream that you’ve wanted to follow, episode 11 on creative resistance. And in most of these episodes, I discussed the inner critic is more traditional ways of recognizing her and banishing her to some extent,

But, I had an insight a few weeks back when working with one of my students that I’d like to share. It’s been super helpful for her and for me.

Before we start, let’s define inner critic. What does that even mean? What is your inner critic? You know her well even if you’ve never named her. She’s that little voice ein your head that tells you an idea is dumb or won’t work or you’re not smart enough or talented enough to do the thing you feel called to do or create.

If you want to wake her up and engage with her, it’s super easy. Grab your journal or just answer the following questions in your head:

Think of 5 things you’d love to try. Get outrageous. What’s the big scary thing that grabs at you heart, that you’re afraid to even say out loud?

Got it?
Now, what were all the reasons your brain came up with to NOT do those things. What were the most common objections? Are you too old? Too expensive? You don’t know enough? Guaranteed to fail? What?

Write those down - and you, you’ve captured your inner critic at work.She’s often brutally mean. You talk to yourself in a way that you’d NEVER talk to a child or a loved one.

When we talk about the inner critic, we often talk about banishing it, or working through the resistance. Stephen Pressfield wrote an entire book called “The War of Art” about dwelling with resistance. The inner critic is a voice of that resistance. And when we think of the language we use it’s quite violent: resistance implies a battle or fight, the WAR of art is a battle, banishing the inner critic.

We rage against them. We fight them. We banish them from our creative space.

But what if, we could recognize where this inner critic came from and understand that YOU created her from a loving space?

And if you listen closely to the words you hear when you imagine your big scary outrageous dream, you might even hear the original voice who said those words to you to stop you. Maybe it was a parent, a teacher, a sibling, a friend, and you can hear those words.

You might have heard these words as a little child. You heard that your doodling was a waste of time or you got in trouble and so you stopped drawing because the drawing brought pain.

And your inner critic is merely trying to PROTECT you from experiencing that pain again. You listened to someone who you love or respect and they said words that hurt. So you decided, unconsciously, to make sure you didn’t experience THAT again. That’s how brilliant you are. We believe what they tell us. And why wouldn’t we? We’re little children and we don’t know anybetter.

But that little child PROTECTED US in the best way she knew how.

At the beginning of this episode, I Mentioned gratitude for our inner critics. And that’s what I mean. Rather than battling her or banishing her, what if we were able to say, “WOW, thank you for protecting me, but I’m all grown up now, and I’ve got this. I’ll be okay.”

You might have to do this over and over and over. But I feel like it’s a more loving approach to dealing with the inner critic than going to war.

Let me give you an example: My second novel is called The Tarot Cipher, and it’s about some ancient tarot cards. I find tarot cards super fascinating. They have this intriguing history actually from Renaissance Italy. The earliest tarot cards are from the mid 1400’s. But then, in the 1700’s through the 1800’s they became associated with the occult. There is no mention of this in relation to tarot cards for several hundred years!

In any case, I discovered that there are four original cards missing from the Visconti Sforza tarot deck that was created in 1464 as a wedding gift form.

It’s unclear if tow of the missing cards were never created (the Tower and the Devil) because those have scarier imagery on them and possible the groom didn’t want them included in his wedding gift. Or, if those cards are missing.

In any case, this is where stories start, right? We think of an idea or discover a fact and then start with...what if?

My inner critic hit HARD when I started researching and writing this book. She said things like, tarot cards? People will think you’re weird. They’ll think you’re into occult things. I live in a pretty conservative community and I actually had a woman tell me that the tarot was of the devil. Which my inner critic turned into me being evil if I wrote on this.

It was crazy. But here’s the deal. I know exactly where this started. As a little girl, being weird or different in my family was NOT looked on kindly. Stay in your lane. That’s where love and acceptance is. Whether or not that was true, that’s what I learned as a little girl. Be normal - whatever that is. Don’t take risks.

So when I started to write on historical tarot cards and research their history, WOAH it woke her her up.

And her goal? To keep me safe. To keep me feeling loved. Those are NOBLE goals. And I’m grateful that she helped me get through my childhood.

Truly, I am.

And I can see that now. I don’t need to battle, or banish, or go to war against her. I can say, “Wos, thank you for keeping me safe. Now, the best way to keep me safe is to help me create the best book possible. Help me do that.” And we can.

It feels like a minor shift in perspective but it’s really huge.

And it’s helpful.

Recognize what your inner critic says most often to you. Acknowledge that she’s doing her best to keep you safe. Tell her thank you, love her for it, and keep creating.

And if you’d like to read The Tarot Cipher, you can find it on Amazon or links are on amyisaman.com/books.

If you’ve enjoyed this episode and would like to get updates on them as well as other inspirational tips, ideas, and workshops to connect with your creativity and develop a consistent creative practice, head on over to amyisaman.com/subscribe. That’s amy is-a-man.com/subscribe.

Use your voice. Write your book - even if it’s weird. Paint your painting. Sing your song. Keep creating and I’ll see you here next week with a super fun interview.

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