Have you seen the movie Birdman? It’s a fascinating portrayal of the relationship between and artist and his inner critic. The main character, a former movie superhero, takes a big risk by trying his hand at live theatre on the biggest stage – Broadway. Naturally, this state of vulnerability escalates his self-doubt.
It’s no wonder the move resonated (it won the Oscar for Best Picture). Creativity brings up our vulnerabilities. The inner critic is a voice we all contend with, whether we are starting a new business, sharing a piece of writing, trying a new class, or promoting our next workshop or gallery show.
I'm experiencing this now, as I prepare for my book release event in 5 days. My default tendencies to stay invisible are leading me to daydream about hiding in the bathroom for the duration of the event. "Who do you think you are?" rings in my ear. My stomach hurts.
As a creativity coach, I help people move through their fears by taking small steps. Why small steps? It has been proven that lowering pressure opens the mind to increased creativity, productivity, and joy in the present moment. What would happen if I took small steps in my own situation?
In a workshop I recently led entitled “Calling out the Critic,” we followed a powerful process to show our critic the door. Here are three small steps we can use to step out of our fear and into our power.
EXPRESS. What does your critic have to say? What (or who) does it look like? Give it a few minutes to express its urgent message. There are several ways to do this. Cut and paste images and words from magazines. Write a letter in your journal from the perspective of your critic. Read it out loud. Sing it. There’s no need to get hung up on the way you do this. The key is to simply BECOME AWARE of the messages, get them out of your head, and on to the page.
DETACH. Take a deep breath. Realize the messages of the inner critic are not the truth. They are not you. These messages are fear-based. And it’s totally NORMAL to have them. They come from our ego, whose main job is to protect us from saber-toothed tigers. Really. These messages are generated from the amygdala, the part of the brain that is wired for survival. The strange thing about the amygdala is this: it doesn’t realize we are no longer cave people. It’s an evolutionary holdover. Bring yourself to present time and disengage from the panic button.
SUMMON your Inner Ally. Tap into your strength and determination. Deep down, you know it’s there. Remember that time you survived speaking in public? Remember the last crisis you came through? Traveled alone? Walked through the house alone in the dark when the power was out? Your Inner Ally helped you do these things. Draw a shield on a piece of paper. Use the Grace Card image I posted with this blog for inspiration. Write a "comeback" from your Ally to your Critic, such as:
“Why not me?”
“Through fear I find courage.”
Take your shield and place it over the messages of your critic. Choose to believe your ally 5% more. Remember, there is power in choice.
With practice, you’ll find the amount of time between these steps decreases. And that’s where freedom and power come in. As we step away from our critic, we step into our power.
What are some messages your critic says to you? What might work for you as a “comeback” response? Give it a try. Please share your comments below. Step back into your creative power. Your ally has your back.
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Author and Branding Consultant
I am passionate about helping mission-centered business owners share their message through compelling written and visual content.
My memoir, What I Gave to the Fire, is available in both print and Kindle formats on Amazon.com.