Live Your Best, Bravest Life by Respectfully Telling Your Inner Critic to Kick Rocks

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA,

“I’m doing so horribly with managing my inner critic!” is an ironic comment I’ve heard from many of my clients when I ask them how things are going. “I am constantly putting myself down. I don’t think I am getting any better at stopping it,” he or she adds.

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We are so used to that inner negative voice that it’s easy to miss—even if it’s criticizing your newfound self compassion!

Did you know that EVERYONE has an inner critic? You are not the only one. Everyone’s inner critic is a little different, but the motive is the same: to protect you! Your inner critic is trying to keep you safe by preventing you from making changes. By putting thoughts into your head that you can’t do something, that an action you take will be risky, that you risk being judged, that other people are doing better than you are, you might fail or face some other dismal outcome, your critic keeps the status quo in place. In theory, the status quo is “safe.”

Unfortunately, many of the choices you might make that are highly condemned by your inner critic are the very courageous, bold, strong and necessary actions that you need and want to take! Don’t let your inner critic bully, criticize, belittle, shame, scare or talk you out of taking the step or steps you know in your heart are right for you. Your inner critic is fueled by fear from your strong survival instincts.

First, thank your critic. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, your critic is just misguided. He or she really does want you to stay safe. Unfortunately, his or her best intentions often cost you. You end up not pursuing your goal, dream, life change or first step because the critic can sound very authoritative, correct, wise and protective. If you can start to hear the critic, simply for what he or she is: a fearful part of you who does want to avoid risks and getting hurt. Thank that part of you for caring that you’re okay.

Second, let your critic know that you are okay. “Thanks, but no thanks—I’ve got this,” you might say once you notice the typical tone and messages of this part of you. Turn to your authentic self—the most genuine part of you that has only your highest good in mind. Let this part of you lead as you respectively acknowledge and then move right past the critic.

Third, rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. This is not a one-time conversation! Most of us need to get to know our critic more to be able to even identify what’s happening. Once you understand that it’s only your critic spouting fear and doubt, you can do something about it.

Here’s where most people get frustrated! The Ladder of Competency that we all go through when we learn causes us to feel very helpless once we figure out a pattern that we’d like to break. We see ourselves doing the thing we’d like to change and are unable to change it…yet. Just give it a little time and practice. “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” writes author and coach Martha Beck. Give yourself permission to suck at working with your inner critic! Breathe into the process and know that eventually, recognizing and sending your critic packing will be second nature.

As you set out to have the best life possible, your dream practice and dare to take on what many people would not even attempt, know that you will face a fierce inner critic. Thank him or her, let him know you’re the leader and move forward boldly into a life that is safer and more exciting than you can even imagine.

Coaching Tip In addition to thanking the critic and then asserting your leadership, it may be helpful to have some additional tools. When you hear an unhelpful thought, disarm it by adding the words, “I’m having the thought…” in front of the critic’s comment. Compare these two statements: “I’m having the thought I’m going to fail out of the business” versus “I’m going to fail out of the business.”

Another way out of a negative thought spiral is to say “I’m a banana” at the end of the painful thought. “I’m going to fail out of the business. I’m a banana.” It will take your brain right off the track.

Give yourself the benefit of the doubt that every single thought you have is not true. In fact, many of them are coming straight from your critic.