Let me introduce you to my inner critic. His name is Critical Carl. He is a highly intelligent person who is accomplished in almost anything I have interests in. Which is why he is quite effective in criticizing me in practically everything I do. I don't know the exact day he showed up in my life, but I have heard his voice in my right ear for a long as I can remember. His voice reminds me of what I imagine my grandfather would sound like, an assertive person who will be heard even if you do not want to listen. His advice is always logical, and he always has tons of supporting evidence. Which is why I tend to fall into his web and believe what he says as the absolute truth. I remember when I was in elementary school, I was excited to answer a question the teacher asked. I raised my hand with vigor excited to blurt out the answer, but his voice whispered in my right ear . . .
"Look around, no one else is raising their hand. If they don't know the answer what makes you think you know the answer. You are not better than them, put your hand down, because when you say the wrong answer all of your classmates will laugh at you for the rest of the day." Critical Carl
I looked across the room and notice not a single person knew the answer. So, I slowly put my hand down. When the teacher announced the answer and it was exactly what I was going to say, I was angry with myself for listening to Critical Carl. He led me wrong. That was the day I found out Critical Carl was NOT my friend.
It took me years to figure out how to get along with Critical Carl. Although I could never see him, I could always hear him over my right shoulder. Thinking about it now I wonder why he is not there when I need someone to talk to for advice, or when I am stuck or struggling with an issue and need that sound advice to help me out of a jam. Nope, he shows up when he feels like it and is always telling me things I don’t want to hear. Here is the thing about Critical Carl, he has a very calm but confident voice. When he shows up, I always listen, because it is not just the tone of his voice, but it is also the content that sucks me in. Lately, he has been showing up often while I am drawing. He usually says things like,
"Really, you decided to not swatch your colors... you are going to regret that", or "what made you think you could draw this, your skills are not even close to tackle something this complicated?" Critical Carl
I have gotten so used to his antics that I act like I don't hear him and keep going on. Then a few minutes later something goes wrong with my project, maybe the colors look off or then I realize the basic shapes are off and here comes Critical Carl because he loves to chime in to emphasize the issue. "I told you that you should have swatched your colors at the beginning - you can't fix that now." Darn it, Critical Carl is always right--I hate to admit it but it is true. But is he really ALWAYS right?
Typically, Critical Carl would show up say a few lines and make me feel small or incite fear or simply get me to stop doing whatever it was I wanted to do. After he would say his few lines I would surrender and move on to something else. Whenever he would show up it seemed I always ended up feeling horrible about myself. Where in the world did Critical Carl come from? I mean I can't see him, so he isn't real. So, where did he come from? That question stopped me in my tracks one day when I let his negative talk take over my thoughts. The things he says are things that either I have heard my father say, or a teacher say, or there are a few things he normally says that I have heard from my best friend. So again, I wonder where did he come from... my imagination? Really, it's just me trying to tell myself something - clearly in the wrong way but yeah, I am trying to tell myself to be better, or don't embarrass myself. So, if I created Critical Carl in my mind then that means I could also create the exact opposite in my mind too. I started to think about the Frankie I want to be – you know, Frankie in my best self. What is it that she would say to me right now, because she is supportive and helpful and works hard to make things better? She has the same goals as Critical Carl, but she simply goes about it a different way. I found a new strategy, a way to dance with Critical Carl whenever he comes for a visit. When I hear Critical Carl talking, I ask Fabulous Frankie to tell me what she thinks about it. This is where I take control back because it is now a choice - I can choose to listen to Critical Carl or I can choose to listen to Fabulous Frankie. Don't get me wrong here sometimes Fabulous Frankie doesn't have good sound ideas or solutions and I do listen to Critical Carl from time to time. What I will say is that I do not feel dejected or bad about myself when Critical Carl shows up, because I am listening and choosing the right thing for me. Besides, who doesn’t like to dance now and again?
We artistic types are prone to perfectionism or self-doubt that can ruin our creative spark. Often, we allow the inner critic to lead the dance which can leave you crying in the corner for the rest of the night. When you take to giant steps forward in your skills there will always be an inner critic there to force you to take a step back. I suggest that it you haven’t done so; you start to build a relationship with your inner critic. The reason they keep showing up is because they really want us to do well, it doesn't feel that way, but it is true. You will need to be able to hear your inner critic and make your own decisions based on all the facts not just the ones the critic is willing to share with you. He may tell me that I will never measure up to the amazing artists I see on the internet, but that just isn’t so. After all, Fabulous Frankie will tell me to look at my own progress and continue to practice. So, the next time you hear your inner critic over your shoulder, invite them to step out from the shadows and dance. Be good to yourself, take the lead in the dance and don't let your inner critic control your actions. Together Critical Carl and Fabulous Frankie can bring out the best in me.
What's happening in the Corner . . .
With the holiday season rapidly approaching, we are surrounded by more and more shiny things. So, do you want to learn how to add shine to the objects you color. Join us all month as we learn what and how to make something shine.
If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Work-at-Your-Own-Pace Practice for Shiny Things here.
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