Woman sitting alone with laptop

Pretty much everyone has an inner critic! It can be tempting to just try to ignore it, but let’s talk about why that will backfire in the long run. 

Why We Try to

Ignore Our Inner Critic 

It’s common to think, “My inner critic is unfair and wrong, so I’ll just ignore it!” After all, why give energy to negative thoughts? 

This strategy might work in the short term. Distraction from negative thoughts and fears offers you relief, and frees up time and space to get things done. You’re not “feeding the beast”, so you might feel like you’ve beaten it. 

Why It Will Backfire

1. Unexpressed feelings don’t go away. Instead, they tend to come out as anxiety, stress and depression.  So, it comes as no surprise that stuffing those feelings can contribute to significant mental and emotional distress. Your inner critic’s voice, like all of your thoughts and feelings, wants to be heard. 

2. Your inner critic is not, in fact, a “beast”. Rather, it’s a part of you that thinks it is helping to keep you safe from rejection. By criticizing you and pointing out your shortcomings, it believes it will drive you to do better and avoid mistakes, or to avoid the risks altogether by keeping your art to yourself. These good intentions are misguided, but if you work with your inner critic’s desire to help you, you can uncover helpful perspectives hiding beneath the criticism.  

If I Don’t Ignore My Inner Critic, Then What?

The question then becomes, how do we listen to and process demoralizing messages without dissolving into a puddle of insecurity?

Here are three things to keep in mind: 

1. Differentiate Yourself From Your Inner Critic

By recognizing that you are not your thoughts, you can begin to detach from their influence, and instead notice and discard their contributions to your inner landscape. 

It doesn’t hurt to shine a little love and light on your inner critic. Thank it for trying to help you by pointing out your shortcomings, and let it know that you got this. You may find that it calms down when it’s reassured that it’s not solely responsible for making sure you get things done. 

2. Listen With Curiosity Instead of Judgment

Listening to your inner critic with curiosity instead of judgment will help you learn how to work with it. Label its message simply as “thinking” rather than as positive or negative. This observation will, over time, empower you to differentiate between constructive self-critique and the unhelpful, harsh judgments that can stifle your creative process. 

This non-judgmental thought process might look something like: 

A) “I’m noticing thoughts that people will  laugh at my portfolio because it’s so clear that I lack talent.” 

This is descriptive, not judgmental. Notice that it is a different experience than:

B) “OMG I’m worried about my portfolio being laughed at because I have no talent.” 

See the difference? In A, you’re giving the inner critic space by labeling what it is saying, without judging it. By practicing this kind of non-judgmental awareness, you will lower your own stress level about your  negative thoughts.  

Without so much stress, you can become curious about your inner critic’s contributions. You might harness some insights, for example: “I’m feeling insecure about my portfolio. I’m going to talk to an artist friend about it, and see if I should invest in a portfolio review. Maybe my portfolio needs updating, or maybe it’s fine and I’m just feeling nervous about sharing it.” 

3. Don’t Accept the Inner Critic’s Statements as Truth

Inner critics tend to speak authoritatively. “You don’t have what It takes.” “That drawing sucks.” “This will never work.” Remember that these are not truths just because they’re stated as facts.  

In the earlier example about your portfolio, accepting the inner critic’s statement as truth might lead to: “OMG I’m worried that everyone is laughing at my portfolio because they can clearly see that I lack talent.” The conclusion that follows might be, “Best not to share my portfolio.” 

But if you don’t accept it as fact, you can continue to observe without judgment and not jump to conclusions. Read more about the inner critic here. 


Thoughts are not facts, and

Feelings are not facts 

What You May Find When You Pay Attention To Your Inner Critic: 

Motivation: The inner critic can serve as a source of motivation. Mild self-critique can push you to strive for improvement and excellence in your artistic pursuits. It can encourage you to set high standards and work diligently to achieve their creative goals.

Quality Control: The inner critic can act as an internal quality control mechanism. It helps you evaluate your work critically, identify areas that need improvement, and refine your skills. This self-awareness can lead to the creation of high-quality art.

Learning and Growth: Constructive self-criticism can be a valuable tool for learning and personal growth. Artists who listen to their inner critic can adapt, learn from mistakes, and evolve in their artistic practices.

Attention to Detail: The inner critic can draw attention to important details in your work. It encourages a keen eye for nuances, which can enhance the depth and complexity of your creations.

Hurdles to Look Out For In Dealing With Your Inner Critic:

Overwhelming Self-Doubt: When self-criticism becomes relentless and overwhelming, it can lead to excessive self-doubt. You may constantly question your abilities and the value of your work, making it difficult to create or share your art.

Perfectionism: A hyperactive inner critic can fuel perfectionism, where artists set unrealistically high standards for themselves. This can result in chronic dissatisfaction, creative paralysis, and emotional distress.

Creative Blocks: An overpowering inner critic can contribute to creative blocks, making it challenging to start or complete projects. You may become so preoccupied with self-criticism that you struggle to find inspiration or joy in your work.

Decreased Enjoyment: When criticism dominates your thoughts, it can interfere with the enjoyment and fulfillment you derive from your creative endeavors. Art may become more of a source of stress than joy.

Stifled Authentic Expression: Artists who are excessively self-critical may censor their true creative voices, fearing judgment or rejection. This can lead to art that lacks authenticity and emotional depth.

The trick is to strike a balance between harnessing the helpful aspects of the inner critic while mitigating its detrimental effects. 

You CAN learn to manage and reframe your self-critical thoughts. By fostering a healthier relationship with your inner critic, you can promote creativity, self-esteem, and overall well-being.

Looking for more support around working with your inner critic? 

I’m excited to let you know about a FREE 5-day workshop I’m holding from Oct. 16-20, 2023, “Inner Critic Hackathon: Transform Your Self-Talk!” 


Over five days of live Q&A’s and self-paced study, you’ll learn:

• How to personify your inner critic, turning it into a character with its own voice and traits, allowing you to understand it better.

• The origins and intentions of your inner critic, uncovering how past experiences have shaped its beliefs and motivations.

• The art of fostering compassionate dialogue, transforming criticism into understanding and empathy.

• Strategies to shift from criticism to collaboration, harnessing your critic’s traits for creative growth and improvement. Inner Critic Hackathon: Transform Your Self-Talk

I’d love to have you join me! 

Stay connected and keep creating!