She’s the voice in your head who whispers
“Who do you think you are?”
“I can’t believe you did that!”
“That won’t work.”
She has many names; your Inner Critic, your Judge, your Saboteurs. She is the band leader of Imposter Syndrome and Perfectionism. I have a friend who calls hers FOLS (Fear of Looking Stupid) and Lana (Anal spelt backwards).
We all have one (or more). We all hear her but the question is how much do we let her hold us back from pursuing our dreams? How much weight do we give to her voice? Do we allow her to paralyze us into indecision? Do we let her stop us from taking that risk? Do we hear her and descend into a cycle of rumination and recrimination?
The first step to releasing the hold that your Inner Critic has over you, is to notice the voice for what it is. To notice and label those thoughts and feelings as belonging to your Inner Critic. She is not you. She is not the truth. She is often a protective mechanism that we have developed over the years to keep us safe; from failure, from embarrassment, from hurt.
Once you can notice and acknowledge the existence of your Inner Critic, then you have several strategies at your disposal for softening her voice, helping to minimize the impact she has on your life. You can personify your Inner Critic with a name and characteristics that allow you to see her as separate from yourself. You can show her some compassion, asking her what she is trying to protect you from. You can imagine walking away from her, or turning down the dial on her voice. Find something that works for you to quiet her voice inside your head.
My loudest critic is Penny the Perfectionist. She tells me constantly that I am not worthy unless I am doing everything, and doing it well. She berates me when I make a mistake. She keeps me playing small, lest I try something and prove myself less than capable. She is having a rollicking good time as I try to learn to cross-country ski, let me tell you! She is the shadow side of my Excellence value and left unchecked, she keeps me stuck in place, unwilling to do the scary things or to try something new.
Your Inner Critic is almost certainly a life-long companion. I have yet to find anyone able to completely banish their Inner Critic. But it is possible to strike a truce with her. To recognize her for who and what she is, and to take steps to ensure that she is not ruling your life. You have the power to choose how much influence she has over you.
Lingering Thought: How do you know your Inner Critic is present and holding you back from being your fullest and most authentic version of your self? What could you do to quieten her voice the next time you hear her?
*Exploring strategies for taming your Inner Critic is the focus of Session 5 of the Women’s Coaching Circle that I cofounded with Laura Bennett. This program is designed to help high achieving women develop a deeper sense of self as a way to bring more meaning and fulfilment into their lives.
The Spring cohort of the program begins on April 1. See here for details and registration information.