Inner critic or compassionate self: who's in charge?

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

Sebastiana Black, affiliate of The Writers Company, writes about self-criticism and how to overcome it. To find out about her FREE taster, please go here.

As a Voice Movement Therapist and Counsellor I have worked with many singers, actors and others who wanted to free their expression. What I have encountered again and again was that many of them learnt to beat themselves up, spent a lot of time comparing themselves to others, didn't feel heard and found it difficult to take up space. Unsurprisingly these self-beliefs and attitudes blocked their self-expression and confidence.

It is not uncommon for writers and all types of artists and creative people to struggle with self-criticism. Being authentic, finding and developing our own creative voice and expression can be difficult, exposing and it makes us feel vulnerable. The stress of trying to reach our creative goals and dreams can trigger self-criticism. The inner critic steps in to manage our anxieties and save the day. It is trying to protect us from failing, not being liked or becoming too 'lazy', amongst other things. However it is often going about it in rather ineffective ways by judging us and makings us feel inadequate. It finds numerous ways to control, push and guilt-trip us, undermine or even destroy our efforts. It wants us to be perfect or fit in with what others want us to be. The motivation of self-criticism arises from fear and often makes us feel small and exhausted. When the self-critical voice takes over our internal life, it is hard to feel strong and inspired!

On the contrary self-compassion is encouraging and supportive. It is a much more effective internal attitude and more sustainable in the long run. It is possible to motivate ourselves in our work and creative projects with a different kind of voice – coming from the compassionate self! The compassionate self has a calm, confident, clear and creative stance. It is much more curious about our inner life and predicaments. It wants to know what we really need. It makes us feel more connected to ourselves, our work and others. With self-compassion practices we are creating an inner ally instead of an inner enemy.

Self-compassion is a positive emotion that invites us to open to our suffering with kindness and warmheartedness. Self-compassion helps to soothe our stressed body and mind. However, as our brains are wired for survival and tend to look for threat, self-compassion doesn't come easily to us. Research shows that a majority of people are more compassionate towards others than to themselves. Self-compassion is therefore something that needs to be practiced in order to create new patterns of relating to ourselves and our struggles.

The Mindful Self-Compassion course is an evidence-based, nourishing and enjoyable programme. It offers tools, meditations and exercises to pause, acknowledge our unhelpful habits and the pain they cause. We remember that we are not alone in this and that others experience similar hardship and make mistakes. Finally and most importantly self-compassion teaches us to attend to ourselves with kindness, warmth and greater acceptance. From this empowered place creativity can grow. This self-compassionate relationship towards ourselves often leads to greater resilience, better coping skills, healthy behaviours, successful collaborations, the ability to take responsibility and reaching our full potential.

Find out more about my upcoming course Finding Your Compassionate Self here, or on my own website here. There is also a FREE taster about this course which will take place on Monday 13 December 2021 – 7:30-8:30pm. Please contact us to book yourself onto this or find out more.

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