If you’re especially lucky, you will meet a human who repeats the sayings of your Inner Critic without your prompting. You will recognize this person by how everything she says gets under your skin and how obsessively you hate her. She will spew all kinds of contradictory mean things to you, and you will feel defenseless to fight back because you believe all the same things about yourself. You will be made miserable by how intimately this person seems to know your every flaw.
This is the Outer Critic.
Congratulations! Believe it or not, you are in luck. As much as you would like to plan an elaborate revenge scheme where you co-opt all her friends and humiliate her in public, be grateful for your Outer Critic. The Outer Critic is your own gremlin in human form.
The Outer Critic is a blessing because she will help you recognize the Inner Critic. When you hear the Inner Critic speaking, you may hear its criticism in the voice of the Outer Critic. And then you can realize that the gremlin’s voice is not your own voice, but something outside of you, this ever-present human fear of our own humanity.
When the Outer Critic speaks to you, notice the fire in the pit of your stomach. This anger will feel unbearable and seem to demand uncharacteristic things of you, like slashing tires and drugging your Outer Critic so you can get her an embarrassing tattoo. To stay out of jail, you will be tempted to stuff your anger down into the pits of helplessness. Don’t give into it, but don’t deny it either.
This is your life force.
This scorching rage toward your Outer Critic is evidence of how desperately your Creative Voice wants to live. You have found the fight inside you, a strength of will that can surely take on your own little gremlin.
The Outer Critic is terrified of the beauty of your vulnerability. She picks at your flaws because she is afraid of her own darkness. Have compassion for her and how unhappy she must be with herself. Her own Inner Critic must be so loud. Send your gremlin off to keep hers company.
Then go out and make great art.