My Inner Critic doesn’t care about mustaches

by Tamara Teeter Knapp

Last week, I went to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Dali Museum in St. Pete. It was an amazing exhibit that told a rich story of pain, courage, and untethered creativity. I didn’t get to see all of the paintings, especially the ones that graphically depicted her pregnancy loss and the excruciating pain she felt throughout her life (because my son was with me and it was best to stay with the “Family Friendly Tour”). But, I saw enough to feel connected to her as a person, as a woman, and as an artist willing to be transparent and bold. I left with the question, “What if Frida had listened to her inner critic and not painted?”

Frida kahlo exhibit

What will go unexpressed and remain unknown not only to others but to myself if I heed the Inner Critic’s voice inside of me? I wonder.

The Inner Critic speaks in whispers and sometimes shouts, but is usually present when I try to step out of my comfort zone and do something new and different. Lately, there are so many new possibilities that I want to explore, but I remain quiet, don’t step out, and hear the voice of my true self. My Inner Critic is strong, sneaky and relentless at times.

My son (almost 5) and I went together to the exhibit and we met our dear friend and partner Kathleen. It was a fun day, but after lunch Caleb wasn’t convinced that he wanted to go upstairs to see the Dali exhibit. For a moment, I heard a voice “why did you think this would work to bring a 4 ½ year old here? You’re not going to get him to go and you’ve spent all this money to get here and see the art.” Yada yada yada. I met the voice with the spirit of surrender and said, “Okay, if we don’t go see more art upstairs, it’s okay. We did get to see the Frida exhibit” and suggested we go to the family activity room for a little while before we left.

Caleb and I ended up in the room by ourselves for a while and relaxed, enjoyed some quiet and then watched the  little film about Dali that was narrated by two flies. This inspired us to  make mustaches from pipe cleaners (one of the activities set up for the kids). I convinced him that it would be fun to go upstairs wearing our mustaches to see the Dali art and off we went to get our headphones. We looked at the art, listened to stories about Dali and his life, and laughed (as did others) when we occasionally remembered we had mustaches on our faces!

I think about it now and realize that in some ways, I don’t listen to my inner critic – or maybe my inner critic doesn’t care about certain things like pipe cleaner mustaches in public. I would have missed a lot had I decided that was “silly” or “ridiculous” and “I shouldn’t do that”. It’s the same in my art, my movement, my voice, my life. I can choose whether to show up fully, have fun and be inspired with joy and new experiences OR I can choose to stay home and be safe and unseen. Even just typing those words make me cringe and feel sad. I don’t want a life unlived, a song unsung, or to miss out on simple joyful moments with my son or anyone in my life.

Sometimes my inner critic’s “voice” is not in words, but in feelings – resistance, exhaustion, fear, even anger – and I don’t always recognize it. I notice that when I check-in with my art, I can see what the feeling is and if I move the image or feel where it is in my body, I can access the words or message it is trying to convey. Choosing to listen to one’s own inner voice, to soften the critical and deepen and expand the truest voice inside is courageous and bold, like Frida.

I choose the path of most resistance, the path that brings me closest to my edge, the place of most discomfort and allows me to grow beyond it. Turns out this path is laden with joy, peace, and love and leads me to flow (a place of ease) each time I notice and accept, then choose to surrender and trust.

Note: I wrote this post last week, right after I went to the exhibit. I want to share the irony of why I am just posting it today – a whole week later. My inner critic was so active all week about this and I didn’t post it because I heard “you need to edit it more”, “what if no one can relate or it seems ridiculous?”. So, here it goes. I am just going to start. Step out. Speak up and share because what I think about all of this is so different from what I know, which is that it is more important for me to be authentic and real than to worry about what will happen next and I want you to know it’s okay too.

Interested in more? 

Transforming Your Inner Critic Workshop

May 4-6, 2017

Details and registration

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