According to our inner critics, we are not good enough, not smart enough, not accomplished enough, too old, too fat, etc. Sound familiar? I bet we could each add to this list.
Amazing how that inner critic can get in the way at work.
How often have we not spoken up at a meeting because we were afraid our idea or suggestion wasn’t worth it? How often have we delayed turning in a report because we were concerned it wasn’t good enough? Or how often have we not applied for a higher position in our organization or company because we didn’t think we were smart enough or experienced enough? When we let these voices dictate our behavior, it definitely limits our potential. Our limiting beliefs get in the way of our advancement and fulfillment. And they also harm our sense of self worth and our relationships. This doesn’t mean we need to boast or push our ideas forward – a healthy reflection and sense of humility are important.
It seems that women suffer from listening to our inner critic more than men.
For years I told myself I couldn’t draw – a self-fulfilling mantra that would come up each year when I got out my sketch book and tried to draw something only to stop after minutes out of discouragement. Yet several years ago I decided that that concept was no longer serving me and I took up a painting class. Now that I confronted that limiting belief and go beyond it, I love to paint.
Several girlfriends tell me in different words about why they can’t do something. When I suggest to one middle age friend who loves music that she take up piano, she tells me “I’m too old to do that”.
What can we do to tame our critic?
Our thoughts are our only power. They control our life in more ways than we know, yet the only thing we really have control over is our thinking. If we can learn ways to begin changing our thinking patterns, we can watch how our life begins to change, from our health to our work to our ability to give and receive love. Here are some things that have worked for me:
- Be aware of those critical voices. Acknowledge them, confront them and assess them. Be honest with yourself.
- Decide you don’t need them anymore. This is a conscious choice, and every time that critic surfaces, remind yourself of your choice. Grow beyond it, as I did with drawing.
- Visualize yourself doing what you’d like to do – playing the piano, drawing, stepping into a new position at work, etc. Visualization is a powerful tool for healing and growth.
- Be courageous, be bold. Step out of your comfort zone.
Sometimes this requires deep work.
We might want the help of a therapist or trusted friend. These inner voices can harm relationships, keep us stuck in a position that we’ve grown beyond, and run our lives in more ways than we know.
Rather than have that inner critic greet you rudely every morning and criticize you every time you fall short – perhaps causing harm to your personal success and relationships – reframe it and make it your friend.
There is at least comfort in knowing that most of us deal with this, so we are not alone. Yet we each need to do our own work to overcome the negative effects.
When your inner critic is at your service instead of against you, it gives you a tremendous amount of power.
So next time you stop yourself from speaking up, from applying for that next higher position, from taking that new class, from dating that special person, from writing that book, think again. Why not? You can do it.