20 Tricks for Overcoming Your Internal Critic – Part 1
Do you sabotage yourself with negative thinking and self talk? You are not alone! These messages we give ourselves come out of our verbal left brain. And, I let that critic get me nearly every time. Just before I am about to teach a workshop, for example, my critic often natters at me: “Why are you trying to teach art? You haven’t mastered everything yourself. They won’t learn anything new! You’ve already taught that technique many times! They’ll be bored!” Etc, etc, ad infinitum.
My critic is most active between 3:00 and 6:00 am when I can’t get back to sleep. This is actually because our serotonin levels (the body’s naturally occurring “happy hormones”) are lowest when we sleep. During that time, I can “catastrophize” like crazy. Everything in my life looks really bad. Then I wake up in the morning. My charmed life awaits me and I wonder what all that dark stuff was about!
When you want to paint a picture or get creative in any way, you need to allow yourself to get into your creative right brain. That means you need to ignore your left brain critic. You need to shut it down or shut it out for a while. Be gentle with yourself and how you do this. Your left brain is not the enemy. It is incredibly useful for many things: math, linear thinking, language, memory, motion and problem solving are all good things that our left brains do for us. How could we survive without all this?
So how to trick your left brain into relaxing so that your creative right brain can shine and take over? How do you let those negative thoughts float on by and let the creative, positive juices take over? Here are four paintings I worked on in about a half hour. My right brain was really dancing on high! This doesn’t happen very often. For most of them, I was working on top of another painting.
The two above are more or less complete. The two below, are still in process. Let me know what you think of any of them:
Here are the first 10 tricks and tips that I use to get into my creative right brain:
1) Positive Self Talk. Be kind to yourself – let your left brain chatter float on by and away. Replace it with words of self-acceptance and encouragement. Don’t try to squelch your critic by stomping on her…..she a valuable part of you too! But right now, just let her dance away.
2) Tell yourself over and over: “Failure is if you don’t try. You don’t always have to succeed not to fail,” Bryce Courtney. Or as Miles Davis said, “Don’t fear mistakes, there are none”. We learn from everything. If you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough to get out of your normal comfort zone. And all “mistakes” are fixable.
3) Ask yourself: What would I attempt to do if I knew I could not fail?
4) Don’t worry about being perfect and don’t try for a finished painting: tell yourself this is an exercise/experiment. Enjoy the process of getting there.
5) Ignore uninformed feedback – discriminate when choosing who to listen to. Your inner voice should have the most power.
6) Find a supportive community. Look for fellow artists who share your frame of reference and your mission – nurture this community.
7) Let your right brain take over – tap into your intuitive intelligence, your emotions, and your subconscious, improvise, and express yourself with the freedom of a child.
8) Breathe deeply and evenly. Hey! Sounds obvious, but breathing really helps a lot of things.
Try out some of these ideas. Let me know if and how they work for you. If you have other tricks, please share them. I’ll include another 10 tips in Part 2, my next blog.