We all have it, the tiny voice inside our head, criticizing our every decision. The smug, egotistical artist inside of us, telling us we’re not good enough. Lately this voice has been getting louder; maybe it’s trying to get me to pay attention. It’s always there when I don’t live up to my own expectations, or wish I had done something better (or different). It screams at me if I’m anxious about a new idea, or when a big change is on the horizon.

I tend to find myself allying with this inner critic. Its words can sting, but I still listen. Mostly I try to reprogram it, give the words a different meaning, and change the negative to positive. Other times I use its words as my motivation, a reason to keep moving.

When it tells me that I’ll fail, I work harder. When the voice says I’m not as good as someone else, I find ways that I am unique and successful. When it speaks I listen, and then I change my focus.

Why listen to the inner voice?

The voice comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s an idea or a fleeting thought. Many times it’s a reaction to emotion or stress.

When it gets loud you know that something needs attention. That “thing” inside of you is yelling, trying to make you turn your head or change direction. The voice is usually saying something negative, the thing we don’t want to hear, which is why it can hurt, and why we would rather suppress it. We are most vulnerable to ourselves, and because of this our voice also know when to confess that we let ourselves down.

To me this voice is an alarm. It’s my way of knowing when I’m standing still and need to start moving again. It gives me pause and helps me see that I need to make a change. My situation might be something as mundane as needing to de-clutter my workspace, but this alarm also wakes me up when I find myself lost in a creative slump. And instead of hitting the snooze button I jump up and get to work.

It’s not always easy, and I don’t always succeed. But I listen, take notice, and hopefully take action.

My inner critic is not my enemy, but I never let it have the last word.