I finished reading a book this week called Playing Big by Tara Mohr. It was recommended to me after I received “feedback” from my first internet troll. (I didn’t know you could use that many F bombs in one sentence!) When I first read what this person had to say, I I literally moved away from my screen as a read it, as if distance would help me navigate their anger. While it was clear the comment was not about me, having anger or vitriol directed at you can be tough to take. It got me thinking: creatives tend to be sensitive souls; how many creatives are held back from sharing their work for fear of internet trolls like my Mr. F Bomb?
In Playing Big, Tara Mohr makes it clear criticism (of all kinds) is part of living our lives to the fullest. And that the criticism itself is more a reflection of the people giving it than it is of ourselves. If for some reason the criticism really stings or resonates with us in some way, then it is bringing up the voice of our own inner critic and an internalized belief we struggle to navigate.
It’s scary to show our art to loved ones, or to the public on social media. Let’s go through three strategies that can help you cope with your inner critic, which is worse than any outside Mr. F Bomb will ever be!
(1) Find the Stinger
When we are stung by a bee, we have to dig out the stinger in our arm, otherwise it takes longer for our injury to heal. The same goes for any verbal hurt we face. Give yourself some quiet space to reflect on why the criticism hurled at you stings. What exactly about it hurts so much? Is it a feeling of rejection? Do you struggle with people not liking you? Why do you feel insulted? Take some time to break down and dissect what was said and consider the nature of your sting. By understanding why it hurts, you better understand your own emotional needs. It’s a lot easier to care for hurts when you know where (why) they came from.
(2) Find The Humor like Harry Potter
Create a visual (mental or drawn) that ties the criticism to something silly. Let me explain…have you seen Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban? In it, students learn about something called a Boggart, a creature that turns into whatever one fears. To defeat it, students use a spell called Riddikulus, where they imagine their fear doing something silly, to make themselves laugh. (I especially like Ron’s spider with roller skates on its “feet”). We can have our own spell. Put your inner critic or the harmful words in a silly situation. For example, what about making the harsh words come from a My Little Pony (the 80s child in me is coming out)? Or, from a cutesy stuffed animal? If you can bring humor to the situation and take the words out of their context, it will sting less, I promise.
(3) Find Your Inner Strength & Let It Go
Finding a way to let go of criticism that feels hurtful is hard. Having someone just tell you “just let it go” doesn’t quite work. Now that you are equipped with a means of finding your stinger, and with a magic spell, you need a ritual. Find a way to honor yourself and give yourself the love you need to feel valued and safe. This may mean treating your inner critic to some love (go for massage, take a hot bath). It could mean going for a good run (man those endorphins can help). Or perhaps you have your woo on and some lit candles and burning up a print out of those words would feel really good. DO what works for you. I can give you advice to the moon and back, but ultimately you know yourself best. Create a ritual of self-love and care that allows YOU to let it go.
By fully expressing ourselves, we are bound to discover people who don’t like our work or what we do. Take pride in this. Yes, you heard me: PRIDE. Having critics is actually a sign of success!
It is in our fullest expression of being that we do our best work. Not only will you have critics, more importantly you’ll reach out and help others who resonate with your message, your creativity. That is where real connection and contribution takes place.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: What holds you back from showcasing your art to the world? What strategy have you used to cope with your inner (or an outer) critic? I want to know! Tell me about it in the comments below.
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