Imagine this. You’re at an audition - you know the director, so you are particularly confident in getting a callback because this director knows your work. You walk into the brightly lit audition room and the director greets you and calls you by completely the wrong name. You’re a bit hurt. You brush it off, make a joke - they apologise, you all laugh. You go to your mark and as you step onto the mark - a thought hits you “oh man, she didn’t even remember your name! That’s how memorable you were. God, you’re unappreciated in this industry. How am I gonna get this part when I’m obviously so f**king forgettable!?” Before you know it, your audition is blown, you struggle to connect, the lines don’t feel secure, and you just know you didn’t do your best work. The director thanks you, apologies again for getting your name wrong, you both laugh it off and you leave feeling embarrassed and drained.
It was a terrible audition. You were totally derailed, but not by the director’s mistake - good and bad things happen to us all the time - but by your reaction to it.
The moment the mistake happened, the little voice in your head, pipes up and starts to negatively explain what the director’s mistake means. And that little voice is not your friend, they are not your inner cheerleader, not your inner parent, and never your inner friend - they are the Inner Critic - and they have nothing positive to add to any situation.
Over the years, you have learned to listen to this inner critic. And the problem with that, is that we have learned to trust their perspective. The problem with that - is that it is not a true perspective. It has a deeply negative bias and is almost certainly a pessimist. If you learn to rely on the thoughts and opinions of a negative and pessimistic critic, you will start to think negatively and pessimistically about what happens to you in your life and your career.
About 70-80% of what the Inner Critic contributes is a negative criticism. The inner critic has opinions on everything. On your audition, on the script you wrote, on the work you do, on what your partner just said, on the meal you made, on why they didn’t call you.
When we get disappointed, or hurt, it is often the Inner Critic who arrives and helps turn that hurt into anger. The Inner Critic helps rescue us from pain - often by turning it into anger against yourself and others.
The inner critic is not your friend. And you cannot trust it. Yes, it is part of you - it is a subpersonality of you, but it is a brutally judgmental part of you. It is probably trying to protect you from hurt and humiliation, but it does it in a way that you would never EVER accept from a real friend.
Most people aren’t even that aware that their thoughts are being that influenced by this subpersonality. They accept the fleeting thoughts - as their thoughts - and they accept their thoughts as the truth. But we would never welcome these same thoughts from a friend.
One way to counteract this, is to become aware of all the fleeting thoughts that swirl around your head like song lyrics stuck in your mind. Be aware that they come and go. And be aware that they often trigger feelings in you, strong feelings. But what is shocking is just how unverified, unhelpful and untrue these thoughts are.
Stop trusting the Inner Critic - they are not your friend.
Mark Westbrook is the Course Leader for the Professional Diploma Acting course at Acting Coach Scotland.