When Spooking Your Inner Critic Isn't Working

Your inner critic.  That self-defeating, trash-talking voice that tries to convince you that you aren’t good, smart, prepared, [whatever] enough to take on that big project, have that difficult conversation, rock your upcoming speaking gig, start a new thing … go after your dreams.

You know who I’m talking about, right?

If my inner critic were dressed up for Halloween today she’d be Claire Underwood from House of Cards.

Uber driven.  Competitive.  Never misses her morning run.  Successful.  Perfectly dressed.  Skinny.  B*tch.

I’ve tried for years to fight her off.  I’ve told her to go take a hike (it not such nice words), puffed out my chest and argued for my own self worth, bashed her over the head, kicked her in the face, you name it.  And I was never quite able to kick Claire out from the driver’s seat and regain control.

Until I tried a different approach that allows me to manage my manage my inner critic like a champ.

Are you losing the fight against your inner critic?  Here are some simple, practical steps that will help you show your inner critic who’s boss:

1.  Understand that you’re inner critic is not you

Good news – your inner critic is not you!  She is simply a voice that you are hearing – a voice that is trying desperately hard to hold you back.  You see, your inner critic’s job is simple – to maintain the status quo and sabotage any of your plans to the contrary.  So it’s no wonder she gets really loud and extra harsh when you’re trying to step forward, make a change, or pursue your dreams.

That negative voice is not you.  You are the one with the dream, and the courage, wisdom, and imagination to pursue it.  You are always stronger, smarter, and more resourceful than your inner critic – you just have to know how to manage her.

So, how do you do that? ….

2.  Get to know her

So, since you’re inner critic isn’t you, who is she?

One of my favorite tools for inner critic management is to really bring her to life.  Personifying your inner critic helps you brain to understand more fully that she is not you.

Bring your inner critic’s voice to mind.  What does she sound like?  What’s her favorite line?  If your inner critic were dressed up for Halloween, who would she be?  What does she look like?  What does she wear?  What’s her name?

Give yourself permission to play and get a little weird with this.  The more absurd, the better.   Laughing is another great tool for shifting your inner critic!

Side note: You’ve probably noticed I’m referring to your inner critic as “she/her.”  I’m not intending to exclude the male inner critics! This is simply to avoid having to write she/he or her/him every time.  If your inner critic is a man, just go ahead and substitute the masculine form for all of these references.

3.  Try to understand her

At some level, your inner critic’s motives are sincere.  She is trying to keep you playing safe, to prevent you from doing something she believes is dangerous or unwise.  She is speaking from a place of fear and deep concern for you.

Now that you have a character for your inner critic, imagine you are sitting down with her for a chat.  Ask her what she’s trying to achieve?  What’s her motivation?  What is she afraid of?

And then, listen for her answers.  When she’s not weaving her ridiculous stories intended to hold you back, she can actually be quite endearing.

4.  Let her know you’re in control

Now that you have a deeper understanding of your inner critic’s motives, you can see that you don’t need her.  She may think she’s protecting you, but she’s actually keeping you small and holding you back from your dreams.

Tell her that.  I usually say something like, “Thank you for trying to project me, but I’ve got this.”

Your inner critic may still be there, watching what you’re up to, but you are now in control.  If she pipes back up, simply acknowledge her and tell her again that you’ve got this handled.

5.  Be prepared for her to morph – those inner critics are tricky

Right when you think you’ve mastered your inner critic, she will change her tune.  I noticed this with Claire.  Her old favorite line was, “you’re gonna screw this one up.”  Every time I’d sit down to prepare for a big meeting, write a blog, or start creating a new idea … there she was with that line.

Using the techniques above, I started to become pretty good at keeping her in check.  But then I noticed, she found a new playground.  Every time I would start a relationship with a new coaching client, she would try to keep me from getting too close.  She’d say, “ooh, you don’t want to go being all vulnerable and open with that person, you’re going to scare them away.” Or, “they’re going to think that’s weird!”

She is so tricky, that Claire. She had learned exactly what became important to me (building deep, intimate, safe relationships with my coaching clients), and she was going to do her damndest to sabotage that.

Be prepared for your inner critic to change her story, or morph all together (some people have a couple, or a few inner critics). Inner critics are really good at picking up on what we want the most for ourselves, and trying to sabotage our dreams.  Keep your senses alert.  Whenever you hear a voice that evokes fear, or an energy that grips you at your ankles and keeps you from moving forward … get curious.  Is this your inner critic, and what’s she up to now?  Then, use the same techniques above to shake her.

6.  Practice, practice, practice

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your inner critic will never go away.  Managing your inner-critic is life-long work.  The good news is, as you practice, it gets easier with time.  You’ll be able to spot your inner critic from a mile away.  You’ll learn what type of activities or thoughts are most likely to bring her out.  And you’ll get to know her motivations so well that you can always negotiate control.

You are infinitely smarter, stronger, and more resourceful than your inner critic – and don’t ever forget that.

Now, I’d love to hear from you!

Who is your inner critic?  And what techniques do you use to shake her (or him!)?  Leave a note in the comments section below.

Thanks, as always, for reading and sharing.  Happy Halloween!

Jen xo