Dialoguing with Your Inner Critic

April 30th, 2009

A few weeks ago, I had a Couching session (sort of like coaching) with Sark (completely awesome by the way.) One of the things we discussed was talking with your inner critic. She recommended the book, Embracing Your Inner Critic by Hal and Sidra Stone, which I've just started reading. The idea of dialoguing with a part of yourself reminds me of the work that Havi talks about on her blog quite a bit. It's new to me and I admit, it feels a bit strange to try, but it can be incredibly effective.

It's amazing how much wisdom we hold, if we just give ourselves the chance to answer.

Within the same week, I took an art journal class with the lovely, Lisa Sonora Beam, and dialoguing with your inner critic came up again. I told Lisa about the discussion I'd had and she gave me a few questions to start with.

Later on, I drew my inner critic in my art journal, which intuitively came to me as a bird/human with winged/clawed hands, I wrote the questions next to my inner critic creature, and then drew speech bubbles to allow it to answer. This is the page:

inner critic dialogue

What kind of surprised me about the process was the realization that my inner critic is not out to get me. Yes, it causes a lot damage. Yes, it can create a lot of self-inflicted pain. But I felt some tenderness for my inner critic when I saw some of the reasons behind its behavior.

I asked my inner critic, "What are you here to teach me?" and it answered, "I am here to teach you how to dig deep and let go. If you persevere past the initial fear, you'll get there."

Hmm, apparently my inner critic likes to rhyme! Ha!

I then asked, "What are the next steps?" and the answer came, "Be still. Listen to your intuition. Write."

Next, I asked, "What would support me?" and my inner critic responded, "Less clutter. Walks. Journaling. joy - laughter - silliness - light-heartedness - play."

Lastly I asked, "What do you need me to know?" And it replied, "I am your inner critic, yes, but I love you and want you to succeed."

Wow. O.k. Good to know.

Give this a try: Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and imagine what your inner critic looks like. Without thinking too much about it, draw your inner critic on a piece of paper or in your art journal (you don't need to be an artist to do this. Stick figures can do the job. Or you could pull magazine images that represent what your inner critic looks like and glue them to the page.)

Write the questions you want to ask your inner critic and then draw speech bubbles. Let your pen move across the page and answer in the voice of your inner critic. Don't worry too much about whether this is silly or not what your inner critic would say. Just write down the first thing that comes to mind. What comes up for you? What does your inner critic need you to know?

20 Responses

Thank you for sharing this…I often dialogue with my muse/guide but have not yet dialogued with my critic. Will definitely play with this!

I have done work with “interviewing” various aspects of my personality before (especially those that “seem” to get in the way!) and I have always found that these “challenging” parts of ourselves are always calling us to something greater and are acting out of love.

Love and light,

This is pretty good. Great dialogue you’ve got going. Havi Brooks was doing something similar. It seems all our fears and blocks and struggles are actually trying to keep us safe and help us grow. Damn them.

hi leah, wow, do I have a big fierce inner critic!! must do this…thanks so much for sharing your process, it is a wonderful help to read what others do to break through those inner boundaries to fuller Being…


Oh my goodness…I can’t even tell you how much I needed to see this today. I’m fighting all kinds of fires at work today and have been beating myself up. Must have a chat with my inner critic tonight. Thank you! : *)

I’ve also been thinking about some Couching sessions with Sark. Glad to know that it was great!

wow, what an amazing and powerful exercise… it’s such a different perspective to look at this “voice” in the form of a being. so fascinating! and you have to tell me more about the couching session thing.

Leah, I am glad your inner critic has been telling you positive things! Mine is just nasty. It took me many years to get rid of him, or at least “tame” him. When I did that I started painting for fun again! Now it’s great, I can turn on the creativity anytime I want, and I don’t hear my inner critic bringing me down about my art. All of a sudden, something just clicked and I started producing all this art and trying new things!

I highly recommend the book, Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson. It is very tongue-in-cheek, but also serious and SO helpful! It has wonderful illustrations as well, and one of the exercises is to imagine what your “gremlin” or :”inner critic” looks like, and draw it! It really is wonderful.

I love this Leah !!! It works so well with what is going on with me right now – isn’t that always the way this miraculous Universe works ? I am working on learning to stop judging myself so harshly – my critic has graduated from simple critic to the Supreme Court of Judging Kim’s Faults over the years, and I am beginning the work to get that Judge to step down ! It is time to put a more just Justice in place!

I think that our inner critics/internal judges do have so much to teach us ! We just have to learn to ask the RIGHT questions and then listen quietly for the RIGHT answers.

Thanks as always for your wonderful inspiring posts ! You are a gift to me today.

Happy Friday !

I think the major function of my inner critic is to keep me safe – safe from rejection, safe from embarrassment, safe from ridicule, safe from being hurt or having my feelings trampled on. Especially when trying something new, our feelings are often very tender and fragile. When our inner critic kicks in, we often don’t express ourselves and therefore we can’t be hurt. Unfortunately, then we can’t be encouraged and nurtured either. I think we need to acknowledge the inner critic’s need to keep us safe, and then gently move forward. Baby steps will often keep the critic calmer. Great post and discussion, Leah, it gave me lots to think about.

Very interesting–I drew my inner critic and it was a terrifying monster with huge teeth! AK! Frightening! I try to keep a wall up between us, but maybe I would learn something if I listened. BUT too bad the inner critic can’t be a little gentler!

Thank you for sharing this. It is exactly what I needed to hear and understand today.

Hi Leah,
Oh..I like your drawing, and glad you have a feedback tool that you like. It shared some wise words with you! And, your lead line: “It’s amazing how much wisdom we hold, if we just give ourselves the chance to answer.” Often before we can “give ourselves a chance to answer” we have to be able to “hear” our “selves”, each one of them! They’re all vying for the lead voice in us. SoulCollage is also a powerful, creative tool for separating-out the clammor, and giving voice to all our parts. Yes, I too learned (in coaches training) that the critic is really looking out for us. How liberating to discover that~! –

Voice Dialogue, as Hal & Sidra Stone named it decades ago is and incredibly powerful. An in-person session (with a trained Voice Dialogue facilitaor) helped me heal years of bludgeoning from my critic…and I’ve been more alive since. Wow, what a relief!

The beauty of it is that Voice Dialogue allows the “energy” of that voice to have its say and to dis-appear. And so it is with SoulCollage, speaking from the image and energy of the card. So much is revealed in this inner-exploration isn’t there! Sharing my inner-critic SoulCollage card w/you here: http://dancingwiththeshadow.blogspot.com/2007/04/inner-critic.html

Congrats on your session with SARK – she’s amazing.
May all of your days…be creative ones.

Fabulous work with your inner critic!

And by the way that dialoguing with parts of oneself is central to SoulCollage too if you fancy making a collage of your critic too…

S’funny you should have be doing this… I had a fabulous dream a little over a week ago about my inner art critic… it was incredibly encouraging…

Leah – I love these questions. Wow! I’ve had some dialogue with my inner critics but your questions and how you journaled is a great way of creatively giving those critics a voice. Recognizing that the voices want you to succeed and love you is very powerful. My inner critics are usually based on fear and scarcity. Often their voices echo words they learned from family members who also love me and want me to succeed but don’t always understand or are afraid themselves. Thank you for sharing your brilliant discoveries.

{soul hugs}

My inner critic is always a pissy, sophisticated New Yorker Art critic with a holier than thou attitude. Hmmm, interesting.
Anywhoo, I loved the answers you got from yours.

I’m looking to start journaling again (but with images as well as words), & I think that this will be my opening entry. I’ll certainly let you know what I discover. Thank you for this exercise!

Leah, this is one of the posts I wanted to comment on when my computer was giving me a hard time with your site. I am planning on doing this but today in front of my camera a small voice kept saying you can do this and your words “dig deep and let go” stayed with me. Maybe our inner critics know each other or maybe I just adopted that fabulous piece of advice from yours…thanks again!

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HI Leah,
I’m so glad your comment on my blog somehow led me to this post :) – I’v experienced the STone’s work via a facilitator…it’s amazing. Even though I’ve conversed w/my inner-critic before…reading this reminds me it’s time for a summit. HOw wonderful that yours gave you blessings and insight. I appreciate the inspiration. Hope you’re enjoying the Winter :)

Just came accross this gem quite accidently while surfing through the NET. I am so impressed! Thank you very much!

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