I was going to be on a panel at the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) annual conference about dealing with the inner critic, but it got cut, so…more for you!
(And please check out the conference — it has a stellar and timely list of relevant sessions for writers, cooking teachers, bloggers and more.)
Anyway, I might do a webinar on this topic for IACP later, which would be great. And I’ve been thinking that, in the time of COVID, it never hurts to explore mental health. Often, creative people are sensitive, and in a time where it’s already hard to concentrate and focus, we don’t need unproductive thoughts. So let’s jump in.
What’s involved in dealing with the Inner Critic:
What is the inner critic, exactly?
It’s your own voice, first of all. It’s part of you. The critic can take the form of a destructive monologue, such as “That sentence is terrible, you are never going to be a good writer, no one wants your story ideas, you’re not going to get that cookbook deal….’ You know, the negative stuff in your head you try to ignore.
Are there different types?
Yes. The voice and messages are not the same for everyone.
Some researchers have identified seven types of inner critics:
- the perfectionist
- the taskmaster
- the inner controller
- the guilt tripper
- the destroyer
- the underminer
- and the molder.
Do any of these sound familiar?
Isn’t negative self talk normal?
Yes, but too much can affect your confidence and self esteem. How much is too much? Do you feel depressed, angry, anxious or upset? Does your own brand of self talk reinforce feelings of shame and self doubt about your abilities as a writer, blogger, influencer, recipe tester, etc.?
If so, you need ways to tone it town. You don’t want your productivity to suffer, or reduce your chances of starting a new project, like a new cookbook or blog focus.
Because, let’s face it, we all have fears, and we try to cope with them. Maybe your Inner Critic is an overprotective parent that exhorts you to not start new writing projects for fear that you’ll be disappointed, for example.
Does the critic ever go away?
No. Because it’s part of you, you can’t get rid it. But you can tone it down.
Tips for dealing with the Inner Critic productively:
I’ve used a few techniques, over the years. These are the ones that have worked best for me:
1. Notice the chatter.
How often does this subconscious voice contact you with a negative message? If you’ve been dealing with the Inner Critic for years, you may not even notice. You try to block out the voice, but it’s still there.
2. Have a gentle talk.
Now that you’re paying attention, you might be shocked to see how often the critic pipes up with unwanted comments. Don’t yell at the Inner Critic when it appears. Treat the Inner Critic nicely, since it’s part of you. You want to quiet the voice, not destroy it. You could say, ‘Thank you, but I’m busy now. Could you come back later?”
3. Ask questions.
Research shows that talking to yourself can make you smarter, improve your memory, and help you focus. So don’t be shy. Address the Inner Critic as “you.” You could ask such things as:
- What’s your role in my life?
- What are you trying to protect me from?
- What would happen if you didn’t do this job anymore?
You might be surprised by the answers, even have a breakthrough.
Lastly, there’s a silver lining for working with the critic. Being critical is a great skill! We all need an editor, for example. The Inner Critic is an expert at critical thinking. It can help you pick the best photo for Instagram, edit a blog post, review a recipe…all kinds of things that take discernment. Ask it for help with a task. And then train it to give you specific feedback, such as “crop out the fork,” or “tighten that sentence.” That’s so much more helpful than “What an awful photo!”
You want feedback that’s actually useful, versus a nagger who wants you to be perfect. Which is not how the Inner Critic sees itself, of course. It actually wants to be helpful. So train it to give you help that would be productive.
That’s it for my tips. Are you familiar with your Inner Critic? Have you tried other techniques? Let me know what has worked for you.
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You might also like:
- Top 3 Traits of Successful Artists and Writers
- Feck Perfuction: Be Bold and Fearless with James Victore
(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.)