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How To Quiet Your Inner Critic: Tips From The Jealous Curator

by Kate Dessa
art & design, creativity, featured
Martha Rich offers tips on silencing your Inner Critic.

Illustration by Martha Rich

This is an excerpt from Danielle Krysa’s latest book Your Inner Critic Is A Big Jerk. Danielle is an artist, graphic designer, writer and the mind behind the wildly popular contemporary art blog The Jealous Curator. She launched the blog in 2009 as a place to showcase artwork that made her jealous with envy, but since then she has learned how to channel that jealousy into inspiration. Or in her own words, “I’ve realized that jealousy can actually be turned completely on it’s head, and used as fuel to get back into the studio. It can only stop you if you let it. That’s when the magic transformation from jealousy to inspiration starts to happen.” 

Danielle visited CreativeLive’s San Francisco studio for a special after hours keynote lecture and book signing. Click the link to watch her talk. 


Oh, that voice—it is the root of so much trouble. It shows up with cruel comments, snarky jabs, and is always armed with a long list of reasons and excuses for quitting. It prevents talented people from doing amazing things, often stopping the flow of creativity before it even starts. It sits on your shoulder whispering hurtful words that plant the poisonous seeds of self-doubt. What a jerk that inner critic is. But wait, I have good news. Your inner critic isn’t in charge; you are. You can quiet that voice, and even bury the hatchet, turning that manipulative jerk into a trusted ally, with just a bit of effort—okay, maybe a lot of effort. We’d better get started.

AN INVESTIGATIVE ASSIGNMENT

First things first. Where did this annoying voice come from? It certainly wasn’t there when you were glitter-gluing feathers and macaroni onto colored sheets of paper. When, how, and why did that inner critic’s voice show up? It’s time to launch an investigation.

Step One: Identify “The Voice.”

Do you know who your inner critic sounds like? Is it the voice of an unsupportive teacher from your past? A parent who didn’t encourage a creative path? A professional critic who panned your work? The first step in silencing this voice is to recognize where it originated. It’s important to acknowledge that this voice is not part of you. It’s a collection of negative words and experiences that derive from external sources. That voice doesn’t belong in your head, unless it can learn to support you.

Martha Rich offers tips on silencing your Inner Critic.

Illustration by Martha Rich

Step Two: Pinpoint the Attack.

What, and when, is your inner critic attacking? Does it pop up only when you’re writing? Maybe it’s quiet when you’re cooking a gourmet meal, but shows up when you paint. Unless you pay attention to this, it may feel like your inner critic is there 24/7, but I can almost guarantee that that’s not the case. It preys on insecurity. When you’re doing things that you enjoy, creative endeavors that come easily to you, that little voice slinks over to sulk in the corner. Take note of those moments, and bookmark them—we’re going to come back to this.


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Step Three: Unmask the Guilt.

Inner critics can sneak into your life in the form of guilt: parent guilt, family guilt, work guilt. This guilt convinces you that creative pursuits are frivolous and that focusing on them is a waste of time. Your inner critic flourishes in that guilt-filled environment— it’s like mold thriving in a damp, warm room. Just imagine if everyone fell victim to this. What if Leonardo da Vinci had felt like painting the Mona Lisa was a waste of time, or if J. K. Rowling had allowed “mom guilt” to stop her from writing the Harry Potter books? When you unmask that guilt, guess who you’ll find? Yes, it’s your inner critic hiding back there! Sneaky jerk.

The sooner you do this investigation, the better. Once the mystery is solved, you’ll be that much closer to silencing that unhelpful little voice. In fact, just acknowledging that you have an inner critic, and understanding where It comes from, takes some of its power away. You can gather up its nasty comments and dismiss them, instead of believing them as truths. Soon, you’ll begin to realize that they’re just a collection of fear-based words coming from an insecure bully.

Martha Rich offers tips on silencing your Inner Critic.

Illustration by Martha Rich


Looking for more ways to push out your inner critic? Join Debbie Millman’s class A Brand Called You. Debbie Millman is one of the most influential design minds of our time; an author, educator, brand strategist, and founder and host of the acclaimed podcast Design Matters. Her CreativeLive class will help you discover what you truly love and how to pursue it as a career.

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Kate Dessa