Your inner critic doesn’t leave you alone. It tells you all kind of things:
You’re not good enough…You’ll never match up…You’re a failure…
And its voice is insistent in all kinds of circumstances, never letting you feel good about what you do.
But you keep trying to be perfect hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe your inner critic will shut up once and for all.
Your inner critic was born in childhood
You were not born with an inner critic.
It was bred during childhood and then took up residence in your brain.
You may think that childhood is an idyllic time with little pressure on you, but children develop inner critics for many reasons. One of them is unrealistic expectations.
As a child, you probably thought adults were all-wise and all-knowing, so whatever they said must be the truth. When you couldn’t live up to their expectations, you felt like a failure and your inner critic was born. It perched on your shoulder and took up permanent residence lasting into adulthood.
Copycat crafts may have bred your inner critic
A perfect example of the effect of unrealistic expectations often happens in kindergarten or your early childhood setting.
Young children aren’t really ready for “real” learning, so lots of activities revolve around crafts. Which is fine, except in most cases, they revolve around perfect, cookie-cutter, copycat crafts.
Teachers and parents often want the children’s crafts to look as perfect as possible. If they left their children to their own devices, they’d just make a mess. So the adults create a model and have the children try to emulate it.
Children try their best, but their project will never look as good as the teacher’s, so they feel like failures. They also feel deficient because they realize deep down that the adults don’t trust them to do their own thing.
But most adults don’t realize that young children NEED to make messes and have imperfect art for their proper development.
Children need to make messy art, not masterpieces
When we allow children to do art at their own level, it nurtures a sense of self and competence even if the end result is not what an adult would be proud of.
When we allow children to create on their own and make messes, we are telling them, “ I know this is where you are at and I trust that you will do what you can at your level.”
This also helps discharge tension and allows them to represent forbidden thoughts in socially acceptable ways.
For example: It’s much better to show anger in art by painting in all black, than to punch your classmate.
When you were young and given projects that were way beyond your developmental needs, you probably started doubting yourself, which almost certainly spilled over into many other areas and carried into your adult life.
This now shows up as perfectionism with the need to do everything just right.
How to heal from that inner critic and shut him up once and for all
Have you ever heard the idea that when you fall off a horse the best thing to do is to get right back on?
The idea is to confront the thing that harmed you, in a positive form. Your trauma can be your medicine. If you indeed had negative art experiences when you were young, then the best way to heal is by recreating those experiences in a positive way.
Art therapy is one such well-known modality, helping people heal from trauma through art. It’s safe, non-confrontational and helps people cope with all sorts of negative feelings.
You don’t have to sign up with an art therapist to benefit from art therapy. You can be your own modified art therapist.
Get messy like you wish you could have as a child!
Let’s go over a few ways you can get involved with messy art that will help you get rid of your inner critic:
Finger-painting is one of the best and most important messy art activities for kids, and if you’ve never done it, then maybe now is the time.
If you are scared that the paint may stain your clothing or your walls, and you don’t want to bring it into the house, I have an alternative: shaving cream! The cleanup will be much easier because it’s not colored paint.
The real point of finger-painting is the wonderful sensory experience you get from feeling the mushy paint between your fingers, and having the freedom to create without permanent results. Shaving cream can give you the same benefit.
2-Mixed media art
Get involved in mixed media art. It allows you to create without feeling your “drawing” is unacceptable even if you can’t draw a straight line.
Mixed media art allows you to use many different types of material like paints, foils, found materials, and various techniques like collaging that are fun and relaxing without any predetermined method.
There are usually no models to follow and it is a great confidence-builder and inner critic-destroyer, as there is no wrong way to do it.
Get young children involved in “process only art.” This means the process, not the end product, is what’s important.
Very often when we have suffered from a traumatic experience, getting children involved in the opposite experience can help us to heal.
If there are no children in your life…then it’s time to be a child again for just a little bit (No tantrums though, please).
4-Unplanned watercolor painting
If you want to stretch out of your comfort zone to quiet your inner critic, there is an incredible tool that will help you learn about living and working creatively each day. Easy watercolor painting will teach you improvisational skills and help you turn off your self-censoring as you learn to let yourself go through the guided exercises.
I myself have been going through this process with a book called Painting your way out of a corner (By Barbara Diane Barry). It uses watercolors as the medium to help you break free from your inhibitions and heal. It’s a wonderful book and a must-read for all who would love to get unstuck.
So get ready to silence that inner critic
You have a choice now; you can give a little smile at these ideas and go back to beating yourself up and wallowing in perfectionism.
Or, you can take the bull by the horns and say “I will silence my inner critic. Bring on the shaving cream!!!!”
Now go do some messy art and get rid of that inner critic once and for all.
Faigie Kobre is a reignited art teacher who loves to help others reignite their natural, inborn creativity they thought they didn’t have, to help make their lives so much better and more fun . To begin you can get a free copy of her pdf guide 25 exercises to rekindle your natural creativity