In my Artist’s Way Workshops, I often ask people to bring in a picture of their inner critic . . . the one that says things like:
“You’re not good enough:
“It doesn’t matter.”
“You’re wrong,” or “You’re doing it wrong.”
Their initial reaction to the assignment is that they don’t know what their critic looks like, but once they relax, they draw a stick figure or clip something out of a magazine.
Building contractor, Peter LoPresti thought it would be an easy assignment. “I am my own worst critic,” he said. ” I am demanding, harsh, ruthless and never allow myself to feel satisfaction with what I do.” All he had to do was draw a picture of himself!
As Peter drew, however, the self-portrait slowly turned into a portrait of his mother. Usually, when he thought of her he had lots of anger and hurt feelings. As he drew her portrait however, he began to feel her presence. Though he hadn’t spent any time with her the last forty years of her life, it was as if she was watching him. “I began to feel what her life must have been like,” he told us. “She’d been born in an orphanage in Havana, Cuba and raised by abusive nuns. She became pregnant with me at age 20, but for the first time I felt her fears, her rage, disappointments, and anger.”
As Peter drew into the night he gained more and more compassion for her; and as that happened, he began to feel less like a victim. “I removed layers of my own pains and sorrows, and replaced them with pride of my accomplishments, of my strength gained, of my ability to survive and produce years of amazing projects,” he said. “I realized what she had not been able to give me was the gift that pushed me, forced me to be critical of what I do. I demanded excellence of myself to pay her back for leaving me. I would never show weakness or allow her to stop me. The compassion and caring and love that surfaced during this seemingly simple class assignment was the first time in 40 years that I truly felt love for my mother.”
When we blame others for our lives, it holds us back as artists . . . as creators of our lives. As Peter gained a new compassion for his mother, he gained more compassion for himself. A few weeks after the assignment, he began to share his secret with people who could support him. He was an artist. He’d been painting for years. Luckily I was one of the people he chose to show his work. It took him over an hour and that was just a sampling.
CRITICS OUTSIDE OF US ARE REFLECTIONS OF OUR INNER CRITICS
One of the few people Peter showed his art before he showed it to me was his ex-wife. She came from a different culture and didn’t understand the darkness of his work and wished he would put more clothes on the figures in his drawings.
As Peter makes friends with his inner critic, he is allowing himself to show it to people who can truly appreciate it. He now has plans to exhibit his work.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A HARSH CRITIC
If your Inner Critics are like Peter’s …. harsh and demanding, perhaps they may even seem as if they want to destroy you …. then it is very important that you make friends with your Critic. To do this, it’s helpful to draw it just as Peter did. Your Inner Critic is not really YOU, not the real you anyway. Often it is the voice of a parent or someone else. You’ve inherited it and made it your own. For more about how to befriend your Critic, check back with this blog. I plan to write more about this.