Your Inner Audience

The silent crowd that judges me

They were all looking at me, everyone of them, and they were already judging me. They knew on my past performance that this was going to be a big lead balloon, that I wouldn’t get it happening and that if I did it was going to be my biggest failure yet. I waited for some sign, some indication that even one of them was on my side. Not a sound. Not a wink. Not even one of them. They waited, my next step already firmly a failure in their minds. I watched and waited, poised to begin, even though no one was there. Even though I was alone.

Original painting by Jan Allsopp titled Midnight Morning.

We hear a lot about our Inner Critic and how to deal with them, that voice that tells us that we are no good, what we are making is no good and that we never will be any good. But what about our inner silent crowd? I have one. The crowd that never says a word but lives in humungous numbers in our minds – our ‘audience’. Like our inner critics, our Inner Audience does us no good at all.

Unlike our inner critic, our Inner Audience says nothing at all, they are always silent. But the expression on the their faces is as clear as the Inner Critics voice ever is – their faces say it all. The are shocked, disapproving, verging on disgusted, but the worst is that they are disappointed. Disappointed in my work and in me. They undermine me. They sap my confidence and my will continue creating. They make me want to hide under a blanket and lose myself in a good book (someone else’s creation that passed the test of the Inner Audience!).

My Inner Audience shows it’s huge silent heads when I put something ‘out there’. They are the imaginary friends my inner critic brings along. Recently I’ve been putting myself ‘out there’ and as I have my Inner Audience has grown. I recently launched Creating for Happiness, a free online program designed to build the habit of a daily creative practice. At the time of launch my Inner Audience knew for certain that what I was doing was going to fail, that instead of helping people I could harm them, but mostly that it was just plain wrong. I knew what they thought was that I should just crawl back to where I came from and keep everyone happy that way!

Why do we do this to ourselves? I guess, like all our unconscious programming seems to, it harks back to our hunter gather days when we needed to be fully aware of how we appeared to our community so we didn’t make mistakes that led to us being lost or outcast. Not useful when you are an artist creating in the 21st century!

For most of my life I’ve responded to this Inner Audience as though they truly represented my audience. I held exhibitions where only a few pieces sold. My Inner Audience had predicted this – I had seen it on their faces. (“We told you so!” their faces said.) I wrote blogs which had a lovely small readership which I stopped writing (My Inner Audience knew no one wanted to hear any of that). I shared and shared and shared on social media and the big crowds just didn’t show up. Or I thought they didn’t, was it just that my Inner Audience was so enormous they made the rest of us look small? My Inner Audience didn’t buy my work, read my blog or like my posts because they knew my creations were all failures. I was not a winner. I never would be. I probably should just give up. And they were very very disappointed in me.

Now I realise my Inner Audience is as harmful as my Inner Critic. I managed to banish my Inner Critic a while back. Did getting rid of him (my Inner Critic is male) allow him to morph and mutate into my Inner Audience? I don’t really think so. He was perhaps their spokesman, but they were always there.  I’ll banish my Inner Audience too. I’m onto their game. I have developed a few strategies to fight my Inner Audience. Maybe you could try these when you feel judged by a crowd of people who simply aren’t there.

  1. I have a firm idea of what it is I want and why I want it. I keep this nearby so I can refer to it when I’m feeling watched by my Inner Audience. 
  2. I recognise my Inner Audience for what it really is, an over protective parent who just wants to keep me safe from humiliation and public failure by enacting it beforehand. I thank them for their time and concern and assure them that I will survive even though I might be afraid. 
  3. I’m using the phrase that helped me banish my inner critic – “I’m better than that.” They get confused looks on their faces when I tell them that but they’re getting used to it!
  4. I’m painting it out. I think any kind of creating will help too. I express the way they make me feel with paint and in the end see that there is something of value there, it’s not only the harsh judgement I thought it was. There is creative fuel there too.
  5. I watch them when something good happens, when I sell a painting, when I get a grateful email from a Creating for Happiness participant and when people respond positively to what I’m putting ‘out there’. You’d think they’d show the opposite of disappointment, but they don’t. They disappear in a puff of I-don’t-belong-here smoke!

Being creative is usually an isolating activity. We work alone but we are never really alone in our minds. We have an Inner Audience. A big part of the creative process is showing others what you have made and putting yourself out there. So I did. I put myself out there and launched Creating for Happiness on January 1 this year. There was no cheer from my Inner Audience, no pat on the back or flowers from even one of them, as you would expect. In fact, they disappeared into a back room in my mind to regroup and reformulate their attack for the very next day, to stop me from continuing. What charmers they are!

I am creative being and I will share that no matter how big and judgey my Inner Audience becomes. Putting myself out there is always uncomfortable, scary and feels untethered, but I’m going to keep doing it.

Join Creating for Happiness now and get daily assistance with issues of creativity, get creating daily and build a sustainable creative practice.

“Midnight morning”, original mixed media painting by Jan Allsopp
This painting recently sold. Make sure to let me know if you are interested in a particular work so you don’t miss out!

Your Inner Audience


Comments 10

  1. I know this audience so very well Jan. As I’m aging, gracefully, I might add, I don’t take too much notice of them. The are assholes, , who want to interfere with my happiness and reality has a way of doing that all by himself.
    I’m learning to believe in myself, my art and my loves. My art is for my sanity and if someone wants to buy it I’ll be tickled pink or red or green. Thank you Jan for all your help in giving me the permission to be happy in my life and creativity.

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      Thank you Clare for being such a wonderful and creative soul! I’m so glad you are believing in yourself. I’m glad I could kickstart your permission to be happy and I’ll leave it to you to give yourself that permission from now on! 😉

  2. Very well written …I had an image of a dark crowd and its fierce negative drowning look on you. As an ex-psychotherapist turned into a budding artist, I certainly know all angles of the inner critic and his fans. It is so much easier to deal with other’s inner critics than his own: when I began speaking to other artists (as I am writing, my inner critic is saying I should not call myself that…), I was amazed to hear them talking about their insecurities. Afterall, they were accomplished artists who sold their work! Would that not give them confidence??? Apparently not. I guess our subconscious is trying to protect us, as you wrote. But it takes a negative and destructive way to do so and in art like in life, each of us has to acknowledge that and find ways to challenge its negative edges. Its a must if we want to have inner peace and reach our goals. Thank you for writing about this and sharing your art.

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      Thank you Marleyne (the artist!). It does seem to be a never ending process this Inner Critic banishing. It’s great to talk about it and discover we are not alone. It’s also good to share techniques that have worked for us as they might work for others too. It’s almost as if we need to build a crowd of our own (not silent!) to fight off all Inner Critics together!

  3. I’ve been realizing lately that I feel disconnected from the work I create that feels closest to who I am–or I will deliberately reject it, push it away as inferior. And mostly that judgement comes from what I had previously thought was a kneejerk comparison to other peoples’ art, but you have accurately identified the inner audience as the true villain of the piece. Everyone has some basic fear that impedes forward momentum, and fear of failure (as well as humiliation) is mine. It keeps me from hearing and honoring my own voice–and how else will I share with the world?

    Thanks so much for your vulnerability and the wonderful formats you are creating for others, Jan!

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      Laura I know exactly this shirking off of our true work that you describe. I did it (perhaps I still do…) for many many years. How destructive our natural responses can be. It’s sad. I’m so glad I finally ignored my Inner Critic enough to do something about it! And I’m thoroughly enjoying it! Thanks for joining in!

  4. WOW. This one email really speaks to me. I think you have hit the head on the nail for me. So my February work is going to make naked these critics and get on with getting those creative juices flowing. January hit a snag as my partner was in the hospital for spinal surgery. Very scarey proposition. She now is at home mending and fusing and looking pretty damn gorgeous. I can no longer use that as an excuse so I guess I will just get on with it! Jan thanks for believing in the process and keep sending those emails! Hugs. Katherine

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      I’m so glad this has inspired to to keep going in spite of “them”. All the best to both of you! I look forward to seeing what February brings.

  5. Hey Jan! Thank you for writing this and encouraging me and your readers to charge on fearlessly despite the Inner Audience. I used to be an actor – once acted on a stage with 800 seats- full house! And I remember moments on stage when I would see a member of the audience and I read their face as saying “you are boring me, you’re not a good actor”. Its amazing what our minds can come up with in order to sabotage our given birthright to be creative free souls. And who knows, maybe that audience member was really enjoying the scene and getting lost in the story? It was completely in my head and being on stage night after night for many years has given me some perspective on this Inner Audience, but it is still hard to grapple with! But, the show must go on, right? And we must show up. Anyway, thanks for sharing. I related to this and I think what you’re doing is a wonderful service. Thank YOU.

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      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know my face would not be great to see when I’m in an audience! I go blank-faced but I’m thinking and experiencing! I never thought of what the actors might be thinking of their real audience. If I had I’d just have assumed they were used to it.

      I’m so glad you get the Inner Audience and it’s accompanying problems. It is hard to grapple with. I think awareness is the first step. From then on unfortunately it seems like an ongoing task of sending them out again and again!

      Thank you for your encouragement!

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