Naming the Inner Critic


I started reading the new Julia Cameron book, The Creative Life: True Tales of Inspiration and I’ve been thinking a lot about my own creative life as well. Julia writes candidly about her inner critic, a gay designer named Nigel who skillfully and cruelly cuts her down to size even after four decades of successful writing. I think we all have an inner critic, whether we pursue a creative life or not.

My Inner critic is called The Voice. The Voice is a shape-shifter. The Voice is essentially genderless, but it takes the form of various monsters depending on the situation or the source of its disappointment with my life or choices. The Voice sometimes sounds like my mother with her disdainful and cutting remarks – vetoing my outfit, abusing me for my weight, or scolding my utter inability to do anything right. How could I possibly be so dim to think I could be successful.

Sometimes The Voice takes the form of a former friend who betrayed me years ago. In this shape he belittles me, always making me aware that I don’t quite belong.  The Voice is extremely skilled at cutting me off at the knees and driving a stake through my already shattered heart. In romantic matters, The Voice morphs into the image of a stereotypical popular girl from my high school. She is tall and slender with a model’s cheek bones and an amazing ability to make me feel like a hunchback, “Who would love you?” she asks with a cruel cackle.

It’s difficult to stand tall under The Voice’s judgemental glare. The Voice is usually standing behind me, arms crossed with a sneer of disgust, no matter what I’m trying to accomplish.

It helps to name the inner critic. You’d think that naming it would give it more power to hurt you, but it actually gives you an opportunity to see the inner critic for what it really is – a useless bully. It helps to air the wounds from the inner critic with trusted friends who will look you in the eye and tell you the truth. The truth that The Voice is an idiot. The Voice shouldn’t  get any attention or merit, no matter how insistent it can be about my lack of talent or worth.

It also  helps to read that Julia Cameron, a writer/creator that I admire still struggles with Nigel, her inner critic. It makes me feel better to know that the inner critic doesn’t just try to wreck my self-esteem, it exists in all of us. The Voice doesn’t have the right to kill my spirit any longer. The Voice has been silenced…for now.

It’s unrealistic to believe that The Voice will be quiet forever. I know that it will reveal itself again. However, I now choose to look it in the eyes, tell it to F off. then I can get back to work.

2 responses »

  1. Hi Mary, I really love this post! Your words and imagery are really powerful and honest. I have been working at recognizing and softening my own inner critic(s) as well, that tell me I am not good enough. I think the inner critic is a mash-up of voices and traumas we have collected throughout our lives that we haven’t fully processed or let go of. I’m learning to cultivate some pretty potent (and fiesty!) self-love to take some of the power back 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experiences xo.

    • Thank you!

      Congrats on taking back some of that power. I am working on it too! In some areas of my life, I feel like I have learned how to let go and take my power back from The Voice and in other areas – not so much. I think naming those experiences and writing about them help. It also helps to work with someone who can help me dismantle the illusion that my value comes from all the outside stuff. When I own and admit that I am valuable as is, The Voice won’t have any more ammo to hurt me with.

      Thank you for the comment and for bravely slaying your own inner critic!

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