Tips for handling your inner critic in improv (and maybe even life!)
The concept of the inner critic isn’t a new one. It’s that voice inside your head that whispers what you are doing wrong or scares you away from taking chances. When not handled it can lead to bigger issues such as anxiety and depression. As everyone at some point is going to struggle with the inner critic, having some tips on how to handle it can be helpful!
Name your inner critic:
Yes! Give your inner critic a name. Make it more tangible. Use those improv skills and get creative. Giving this critic a name can help because it feels less scary as it is now something specific versus some big blob of meanness.
Catch your inner critic in action!
Often we are so caught up in our fast-paced lives that we don’t notice our inner critic even talking. We’ve become so accustomed to the buffoonery it tries to sell us that it becomes this given that doesn't serve us. Slow yourself down and when you catch yourself make a mental note of what the voice is saying and then release it.
This can be a bit more difficult if you have spent a lifetime criticizing yourself so you might need some help. There are plenty of apps and podcasts out there to do just that. The point is to catch yourself and then you can work on stopping it or reframing the thoughts.
Say the thought out loud!
Yup, catch the thought and then say it out loud. Once you do ask yourself if you would say this to your friend or even your scene partner (especially if it is improv related). Chances are you would think it’s quite harsh and instead give a pep talk about how improv is all about process and product, taking chances, taking risks, and there are no mistakes. If that’s the case then why is it okay to say these things to yourself?
Set a timer and stick to the schedule!
Sometimes you really do have a terrible show, workshop, or class. It happens to all of us. It’s super easy to go on about how awful you are and really allow that inner critic to take shots at you! If you find it difficult to let go then set a specific period of time or schedule that is for lamenting and when the timer is up move on. This can be by yourself or with other improvisers. The point is working on letting go of the criticism which might mean getting strict with yourself!
These are 5 things!
It takes just one negative thought to bring us down. So when your inner critic pops up and says something then challenge yourself to say 5 nice things about your set, class, or yourself. Do it “these are 5 things” style and make it into an improv game while giving yourself some much-needed self-compassion.
Finally, when you catch your inner critic say “new choice” out loud (using a bell is optional) and reframe your thought!
“Ugh, my edits were terrible tonight”
“While my edits were not as sharp as I intended, I did make an effort and I’ll have another opportunity soon to work on this skill again”
Even if you record every improv show, you aren’t going to do that show ever again. That’s why so many of us love improv. It’s a brand new opportunity every time we take to the stage. So try not to let that inner critic hold you back from growing, trying new things, and most importantly having fun with improv!