Halloween is here (though you’d have thought it was closer to Christmas with all the snow we got on the east coast this weekend!), and that means it’s time to get out the wigs, the masks, the Capes (ha!), and the plastic teeth. That’s right, time to put on those costumes, pretend you’re someone else for the night, and…bob for apples? Do people still do that? Anyway, the great thing about Halloween is that the scares are all in fun – we know the people behind the masks and can take comfort in the fact that the overzealous zombie that’s been making a nuisance of itself all night long will once again become our best friend tomorrow morning.
The point is that masks and costumes and disguises are kinda awesome on Halloween because we know they’re make-believe. But, what if someone followed you around on a regular basis, and they were dressed up as…you. That’s right. Same hair, same eyes, same clothes, and (most importantly) same voice. Not cool, right? Well, let’s make it even less cool – what if this fake you spent all of its time criticizing you and your decisions, and eventually became so convincing that you thought it WAS you? That’s scarier than anything Halloween can throw at you, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, what I’m talking about here isn’t fiction – it’s your Inner Critic, that little voice inside your head whose job is to criticize you and make you doubt yourself. It also goes by other names: The Saboteur, The Ego, and The Gremlin, just to name a few. Inner Critic is the term that we like to use because it seems particularly apropos to artists who deal with judgment and criticism from others in their field on a constant basis (including professional critics whose very job it is to criticize their work). Regardless of its name, the Inner Critic has one goal: to wear you down with self-doubt. And it will use any means possible to do so.
Now, this is a BIG topic and I dedicate an entire lesson to it in the Artists In Action program, so we’re just touching on it here. But, I want to point out something that can help you identify when your inner critic is trying to cause trouble: Your inner critic is a master of disguise. That’s right, every day is like Halloween for your inner critic and just as I mentioned above, its favorite costume is YOU. Unfortunately, it’s not looking for treats…but it IS looking to trick you. What that means is that it can be very difficult to tell when your inner critic is around – it knows you inside and out, and it has a special talent for mimicking you. It loves to make you feel like its criticisms are a natural part of who you are, and that can make it extremely complicated to separate your inner critic from you.
The point is to be vigilant – it’s easy to get fooled when what you’re hearing sounds like it’s coming from someplace deep within you. But, if you can learn to separate yourself from your inner critic – to pull the mask away and reveal it for the rabble-rouser that it is – you’ll be able to stay true to yourself and what it is that you want. It’s not always an easy thing to do, but the more you practice doing it, the more natural it’ll become. And to help with that, in the next blog post, I’m going to give you a fun tool you can use to identify your inner critic and help keep it at bay.
Before I head off, I want to leave you with a little inspiration in the spirit of Halloween with this clip from The Great Pumpkin. What’s great about Linus (don’t even get me started with Charlie Brown – he’s an inner critic’s dream!), is that in the face of all kinds of doubt from his friends (and even a tiny bit from himself for just a moment), he’s able to push it all aside and remain true to himself. Sure, he probably caught a cold from sitting in a pumpkin patch all night, but in the end a little sniffle is a small price to pay for self-confidence and faith in what he believes in.