We all have our own lurking Inner Critic.
Some are louder and meaner than others, some sound a lot like other voices from our lives, and some are quieter and less overt but just as critical. You are probably intimately familiar with your Inner Critic when you begin to create something new—whether it's a page in your art journal or anything else.
The one that criticizes or belittles what you're making: "That is so not good. Terrible! Ugly!"
The one that suggests giving up. "Ah, what's theuse? You'll never get this."
And if you don't give up, that voice just doesn't let up.
It constantly appraises your progress and questions. every. move.
We all have some form of an Inner Critic because we're all human. We're wired for survival. When things feel unsafe, when we risk our physical or emotional self (no difference on the inside), the Inner Critic tries to talk us away from the ledge—away from that risky place.
Anything risky triggers the message in our most prehistoric core of the brain, seat of this fear center whose primitive makeup cannot distinguish between physical or emotional harm.
"Danger! Danger! She may fall! She may get hurt! She may be judged! She may disappoint!"
In response, out comes our Inner Critic to guard and protect. And as it happens, criticism is particularly effective for that purpose: to remove you from harm.
If you believe you're no good, you won't continue. If you're persuaded to give up—you won't get hurt.
Unfortunately, you won't create either.
Which is why you must face down your Inner Critic.
I know it's not easy. The judgements, the second guessing—the perception itself that you are in harm's way—often feel true, especially if your fragile self encountered unsupportive, critical people in the past or you learned to see yourself in negative light.
You do feel fear. You are afraid you won't "measure up" (to standards you probably wouldn't endorse if you thought about it).
But here's the thing. If you want to express yourself creatively and authentically, you are being called by something much larger than your Inner Critic (or any critic on earth).
Your creative self wants out, and your art journal is the perfect place to let it. Your art journal is a safe place to play and experiment in glorious color and line and text and whatever else you want to use because no one else needs to see your art journal—it's all for you.
There's just one thing, though.
Your Inner Critic will still be there.
Don't be fooled. Doing anything creative feels risky to the Inner Critic, even when there is no risk at all. So the only way to win over your Inner Critic is to be creative anyway. And as it turns out, that's the beauty of an art journal.
It's the perfect place to practice putting your Inner Critic in its place.
So how do you face down your Inner Critic in your art journal?
1. First, acknowledge the voice when you hear it. Don't try to ignore it. Simply hear the voice:
"You're not very good, you know...you're going to put that there?...You'reso bad at this! You don't have any talent."
Answer: I hear you.
2. Second, note your gratitude for the concern, but also kindly remind your Inner Critic that you're here in your Art Journal because it's okay to fail here—if failure happens.
You're only here to play and experiment. And really there is no failure—only learning.
3. Then, turn your attention back to your page and with the voice still present (maybe even shrieking), relax, take a deep breath, and do the one thing that comes to you—trust that whim and do it.
If it takes a bit to hear that inclination, take a couple of breaths, but just do whatever comes to you.
Don't listen if you hear criticism or questions.
Don't think ahead. Just do that thing. Maybe you want to draw a line or create a stenciled image. Maybe you see an image on your table you want to glue down. Do it.
4. And then, do the next thing.
Again, don't listen to the voice (it will undoubtedly continue to criticize and question.)
And don't think ahead—that's when you may be pulled into a silly debate.
Just be in the moment with the thing you feel like doing. This is your intuition speaking, quiet nonverbal nudges, you begin to hear below the surface of the critical voice.
5. And then do the next thing...and then the next.
One next thing at a time until at some point you notice that the Inner Critic has in fact quieted down a bit, maybe entirely, and you become fully absorbed.
You faced down your Inner Critic and the creative journey, it turns out, isn't what the Inner Critic imagines at all.