Quieting Your Fearful Inner Critic


Sarah Spencer

How to Quiet your Fearful Inner Critic | SongFancy

If you are living and breathing, you have heard your inner critic.

(Pulse check)

It’s that very loud voice in the back of our minds that demeans and belittles us, usually when we’re trying to create.

It’s antsy. It’s frenetic. It’s demanding.

It incites panic. It guilts you.

It tells you that your songs aren’t any good and no one cares. “Why even bother to write them?” it asks.

You inner critic has the razor-sharp ability to bring up the exact things you fear the most, and cut you down with them.

It’s like your anti-cheerleader, megaphone in hand at the back of the bleachers, heckling your every move.

We don’t like her.


Your inner critic is fear with a megaphone

A few specific phrases appear over and over again for the writers in the SongFancy community. They’re very real, and very limiting.

Have you ever said any of the following to yourself while writing:

  • That’s a bad song idea
  • I’m really bad at melodies, I shouldn’t even try to write them
  • That line is “too honest,” no one wants to hear that
  • There’s no way I could ever play this out
  • I’ve written all my best songs already
  • I’m a terrible writer
  • This sucks

Packed inside these phrases that your IC whispers in your ear are some common themes:

  • Not getting validation from our peers or others
  • Being found out as an “imposter” songwriter
  • Being called out and publicly humiliated
  • Your music/you having no value

Your inner critic is the voice of your fear... with a megaphone. Here's how to put her on MUTE.

Our inner critic is constantly keeping us from the joy that writing music brings. It seems backwards, doesn’t it? Songwriting brings you joy, so why the heck would the brain have a mean little voice in the back of it that keeps us from experiencing that joy?

{PSST – Want to take courageous action against your fears and write a bunch of songs with me? Sign up for The 5 in 5 Song Challenge!}

Why the heck do we even have an inner critic at all?

“The critical inner voice is formed from painful early life experiences in which we witnessed or experienced hurtful attitudes toward us or those close to us. As we grow up, we unconsciously adopt and integrate this pattern of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others.”
Lisa Firesone, Psychology Today

Did you read that above?

Really, sis, did you read it?

It means that your IC was learned, because at certain times in your life you were criticized harshly, or saw someone else being criticized harshly, and you concluded that it was a perfectly normal way of doing things. Someone else gave you this harsh example so you picked it up, not knowing any better.

I hope understanding this helps you to treat yourself with a little more grace. 

There is some good news here:

We learned how to say these mean things to ourselves. That also means that we can learn how to quiet it down and get back to writing!

There are some simple steps we can take right in the writing room to edit what our inner critic is telling us.

How to Quiet your Fearful Inner Critic: Step 1, listen to what your fearful voice is trying to say.

1. Listen to the core fear your inner critic is trying to tell you about

What is it that your IC is trying to keep you away from or warn you of? Knowing the root fear at the center of the criticism will allow you come up with a better solution. When you are looking for this core fear, it’s also helpful to understand that the criticism is not a reflection of reality. (Remember, you learned it in the middle of a bad situation. You did the best you could at the time.)

For example, if your inner critic is going on and on and on about how “None of your ideas are good enough to write down in a song,” then perhaps it’s trying to save you from terrible public humiliation if you were to share a bad song.

The fear at the core of the message is “I’m afraid I’ll be humiliated, or worse, labeled as a bad songwriter, or worse, someone who should never write or share songs, or worse…”

But – you haven’t even written a song yet!

Right away, your IC is trying to keep you out of a hypothetical situation by preventing you from even writing a song.

You’re not only robbed of the opportunity to write the song, but the choice to even share it or not.

If you write the song and share it, could it flop live on stage in front of a crowded room? Absolutely. But if you don’t write the song, then you’ll never have the chance to see it make a positive impact, either.

Not fair, dude.

Acknowledge what your IC is trying to save you from, and then you can thoughtfully dissect wether or not it will help you or hold you back.

2. Look for your specific opportunities to be courageous in the face of your fears

There is a beautiful truth about fear:

Fear begets courage.

You can’t have courage without fear.

Let’s talk about heroes and brave people for a moment:

Every hero out there was absolutely terrified before they were brave. They were shaking in their shoes, sweating, saying, “No, no, no, I can’t do this. Not me. I’m not meant for this.” But they then did it anyway because they knew it was the right thing to do.

Heroes are not heroes because they don’t get scared.

They felt the fear, and did it anyway, feeling completely overwhelmed and under-qualified for the task at hand.

Fear comes first, and is followed by the opportunity for courage.

What makes someone truly brave is when they decide to take that courageous action, despite their fear.

How to Quiet your Fearful Inner Critic: Step 2, find the unique opportunity for courageous action inside the fear.

Let’s look at those common fears around songwriting again. This time, we’re going to follow them with courageous action:

Common Fears around Songwriting followed by Courageous Action

  • That’s a bad song idea
    Fear says that the idea will make you look dumb in front of your co-writer. Courage wants you to say it anyway.
  • I’m really bad at melodies, I shouldn’t even try to write them
    Fear compares you to every other songwriter out there and tells you you’re not better than them. Courage encourages you to experiment with melody and grow your skills.
  • That line is “too honest,” no one wants to hear that
    Fear tells you that you’re just embarrassing yourself. Courage wants you to “Say it, it will speak to the exact right hearts.”
  • There’s no way I could ever play this out
    Fear tells you that you’re not entertaining enough. Courage wants you to book the gig.
  • I’ve written all my best songs already
    Fear says you’re done risking your heart. Courage knows you have so much more to say, to give, to write, and wants you to write the next song.
  • I’m a terrible writer
    Fear cannot separate you from your work. Courage knows you are a beautiful, infinite soul in constant co-creation with the universe.
  • This sucks
    Fear’s sucker punch. Courage ducks.

Another amazing truth about fear: it’s antidote is action.

How to Quiet your Fearful Inner Critic: Step 3, take that courageous action and switch your brain's focus from fear to action.

3. Take courageous action with your songs

Action can condition your brain for new results that cancel out the twisted values of you inner critic.

It’s actually neuroscience (you can read more about how it works here, including a link to a study).

What the heck does that mean?

To summarize, it’s like this:

The brain can only focus on one thing at a time. And fear is really great at grabbing your brain’s attention.

When you take action, your brain switches focus to that action, rather than the fear.

And in the long run, the more action you take, the more you prove to your brain that it’s worth focusing on, and it becomes easier to shift focus away from your fear.

You can practice this every time you sit down to write a song.

Is your inner critic holding you back?

Here are the quick steps to silencing your inner critic:

  1. Acknowledge the fear, and investigate what it is trying to tell you
  2. Find the courageous action that can come from this fear
  3. Take the action and take your focus back

Even in those times where you’re the most scared, where you’re wondering “What will they think of me for sharing this song? Who am I to even try this songwriting thing?” take courageous action and do what brings your songwriter’s heart joy.

Take action – your thoughts and feelings will catch up.

Looking for a courageous leap to take?

Come join us inside The 5 in 5 Song Challenge. It’s literally designed to help you take that courageous action, silence your inner critic, and get back to writing.

We write 5 songs in 5 days, to a series of immersive songwriting prompts.

It’s a fun time, and you’ll be in great company – there are over 1000 other SongFancy songwriters who are writing right there alongside you.

For more info and to sign up, click below!

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Sarah Spencer

Sarah Spencer is an award winning singer/songwriter based in Nashville, TN.

Born in the Sunshine State, Sarah Spencer writes vibrant, shining americana/pop music. She works in Nashville TN as a singer/songwriter, as well as a UX designer for a marketing firm.

Follow Sarah on Spotify to get her latest releases.

You can jump on her email list at SarahSpencer.com or purchase her debut EP, "Freshman Year" on iTunes.