‘Battle Axe’ – that’s how one of my clients describes her inner critic explaining ‘she’s on my case the whole time’. We all have one – a critical voice in our head that talks to us in a way we would never allow anyone else to. Inner critics cause us stress, make us feel bad about our performance, damage our self esteem and generally erode our confidence.
They have usually developed over time as we attach beliefs about ourselves to them and, subconsciously look for evidence to support their views of us. They can be especially damaging to our career development and our approach to change, as they tend to become more vocal when we are thinking of stepping outside our comfort zone. They might say things like ‘ so what right do you have to put your self forward?’ or ‘People will laugh at you’ or ‘You’re useless at thinking on your feet’ – words that make us question what we are doing.
If you feel your inner critic is holding you back what can you do?
Well, understanding and accepting them can be a good start. We are never going to eradicate them and they do actually serve a purpose. As Tara Mohr describes in her book Playing Big, ‘they are an expression of the safety instinct in us – the part that wants to stay safe from potential emotional risk’. She also goes on to explain that ‘being accurate isn’t the aim of the inner critic, getting you to avoid emotional risk is.’ If we can understand that our inner critic is using every tactic under the sun to get us to avoid doing what we fear then we can make choices about whether we engage with it or not.
To make this easier you can:
- Give your inner critic a name so you can begin to detach from seeing it as your voice. For example, if you choose to call the voice say Tabitha, then when you hear the voice you can choose to respond by saying ‘Tabitha is very vocal today I wonder what I’m doing that is triggering her’. This detachment allows you to see that what the inner critic is saying is not your true thoughts but is instead your early warning system kicking in.
- Be grateful. You can start to see the inner critic as a tool that can be helpful. All the things your critic is throwing at you could be things that might happen. Start to respond to the critic’s voice by thanking her for her contribution and for highlighting what could go wrong but knowing that you’ve got it covered today and feel confident that it will be okay.
Of course, this will require mental discipline and practice. Like any habit it will take time and perseverance to quieten your critic’s voice. Keeping in mind the end result when you will be able to talk to yourself in a positive way and be able to build, not destroy your own confidence is a prize worth striving for. And you can start developing your inner coach simultaneously by:
- Being the voice of reason. If your inner critic says ‘but people will laugh at you’ counter it with hard evidence – ‘ they never have before’ or ‘I’ve done my preparation and know what I’m talking about, there is no reason for them to laugh at my idea’.
- Reach out with compassion to yourself. When your inner critic is being very vocal it’s often a sign you are feeling vulnerable. Acknowledge this and allow yourself to experience and sit with that feeling whilst reminding yourself all will be well.
If you feel your inner critic is holding you back in your career and you need some help reducing its power and feeling more confident get in touch for a confidential discussion about how I can help or for practical tips and exercises or sign up for my online course The Confidence Plan: How to be more confident at work, and use the code EARLYBIRD01 to get 20% off the price. or download my book ‘Develop your Inner Coach‘.
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