The Inner (Art) Critic

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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.

By | 2017-05-03T11:48:39+00:00 May 3rd, 2017|7 Comments

About the Author:

My name is Nicole and I'm a photographer, author, & educator living in Portland, Oregon, USA. When I'm not making photos I'm writing books and tutorials for my online store, Learn more about me and my story here.

7 Comments

  1. Dianne May 5, 2017 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Well said, Nicole, and just what I needed to hear right now. Thank you for sharing so candidly.

  2. Sherry L. May 5, 2017 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    Not having had a formal education in photography I’ve had only a “learn as you go” education. Doubt about my skills abounds. But, I keep trying with occasional success. What is important, to me, is that I am happiest when I’m behind my camera. Therapy for the soul. Thanks Nicol for sharing.

    • Nicole S. Young May 6, 2017 at 2:35 pm - Reply

      I remember that it took me a very long time before I called myself a “photographer”. I have very little “formal” photography education as well (only a handful of side-classes when I was young), and so most of my knowledge was learned on my own, so I understand where you are coming from. It takes confidence and a leap of faith to put yourself out there and remove the doubts. Not easy, but the more you get out there with your camera the faster it will build.

  3. Iris May 6, 2017 at 6:30 am - Reply

    Well said, Nicole. Yes, that inner voice can be very distracting, but as you said, we can move forward. I started to see other people’s work as an inspiration. Still fall in the trap of comparing my work with others, which can be deadly.

    • Nicole S. Young May 6, 2017 at 2:37 pm - Reply

      I agree … and not only comparing work and photographs, but also lifestyle and the experiences that come with different “styles” of success. But we each have our own paths; the grass is always greener, eh? :)

  4. Norma May 6, 2017 at 10:35 am - Reply

    I know exactly what you mean.

  5. John Wearing May 8, 2017 at 3:43 am - Reply

    You could have been writing about me Nicole but I think there are many of us who experience that inner voice a lot. Thanks for sharing in such an open and candid way. What you have written is inspirational because it tells us how to beat that inner voice.

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