Taming the inner critic

It’s a little secret that no one talks about so we can easily assume we’re the only one that suffers from it. It holds us back from our goals, our dream job or meeting our ideal partner… it’s the inner critic.

The inner critic is the voice inside our heads that says we’re not good enough so we shouldn’t even bother trying. It says that so and so doesn’t like us because why would they like us anyway?! It tells us that we’ll never amount to much and it’s much safer to keep things exactly as they are. No grand plans or daring actions, thank you.

We might think that when we reach a certain level of experience and success that this voice will go away. In fact the more successful we are, often the stronger it is.

I heard that after the director or the latest Star Wars film, J. J. Abrams, showed his first edit to the production company and they said the loved it, he walked away thinking, “They would say that. They’ve invested £3 billion in it. It’s not good enough.”

It’s not that successful people don’t have an inner critic, they’re just good at dealing with it.

You’ve probably tried a few times telling it to shut up and go away. You’ve probably just accepted that what it says is true, many times in your life, even though it didn’t feel good. But how can you deal with this voice effectively, so that it doesn’t hold you back?

I recently listened to a great podcast in which Coach Jennie, a specialist in this area, gave out a few tips.

  1. Don’t fight it

You may well have experienced that the harder you try to ignore or avoid your inner critic, the more it comes back. Like trying to push a ball under water in a swimming pool.

Actually your inner critic is your friend. They don’t want you to do anything that would threaten your relationships, your status or your safety. They’re trying to look out for you. The key is to develop a good relationship with them.

  1. Give it a name

I called mine Negative Nelly. I’ve also heard people calling them Barry, Hilda or Fred. This is helpful so that you’re clear that this voice isn’t you. It isn’t the truth. It’s just a voice in your head.

  1. Draw them

I put a stickman in the middle of the paper with frown on his face. I then wrote down all the most common things he says. For example, mine sometimes tells me that I’m not qualified or experienced enough to do what I do. I even hesitated in writing that in case it made it more likely that you thought that about me!

  1. Remember the opposite perspective

For example, when I have thoughts about not being good enough I remind myself of all the feedback and testimonials I’ve had from individuals and groups that have told me that I’ve had an impact on them and therefore I am good enough. Remind yourself of that every time the critic questions you, without telling it to F*** off. It is good to question whether you could improve or could do with more training sometimes!

  1. Just do it anyway and look at the results

My critic used to tell me that I shouldn’t offer people coaching or mindfulness because they’d think I was only doing it for the money. But I approached people about it, even though I still had that fear.

My friend Adam Woodhall promotes the idea that action creates belief. The more I could see that when I approached people, my fears were totally unwarranted – more often than not they wanted to be offered my services – the more I changed my beliefs.

  1. Remember it’s a good sign!

My favourite thing to remember about the inner critic is that it surfaces more when you’re doing something outside of your comfort zone – reaching for a promotion, setting up a business or trying something new. When you’re in your comfort zone, they don’t show up much. So them being present is a sign that you’re pushing yourself and that’s a good thing!

Just think what you could achieve if you didn’t let that negative voice in your head hold you back. The sky is not the limit. That’s why there are footprints on the moon (a bit cheesy I know, but it’s true!)

Would you like to set some goals for this year? Are you free tonight at 7pm? If the answers to those questions are yes, then you might like to join my webinar tonight at 7pm: Creating My Dream 2017.

We’re going to be reflecting deeply on what we want this year, creating a drawing of it and then committing to some bold actions towards it. You can sign up here.