Taming Our Inner Critic
By Caroline Diamond
How often do you talk yourself out of reaching for that big dream – starting that new business, going for that promotion, writing that book… for fear of getting it wrong?
How often do you resort to dipping your toe in the water rather than diving in, staying safe and playing small.
Exhausting, isn’t it? Whether you procrastinate or prevaricate, the negative voice in your head wears you down often repeating the same negative messages over and over.
You are not alone. In all the work that I’ve done with women – bright, inspiring women – the biggest barrier to their success has always been inside their own head.
That voice is not you. It is your inner critic, and she is a different thing altogether.
She’s the voice that tells you: you’re not qualified enough, smart enough, or good enough to get that job, write that book, speak up in that meeting, start that business, or ask for the pay rise.
She’s the voice of self-doubt that we are each so intimately acquainted with. And she’s the single, biggest barrier to making the impact that we want to make in the world.
I have two pieces of good news.
1. You are not alone. Everyone has an inner critic. Facebook's Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg says she struggles with profound self-doubt. Ariane Huffington, JK Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Brené Brown… the list is endless.
2. Taming your inner critic and putting that voice to work for you is completely possible. How can I be so sure? Because I’ve been there. I used to hold back, stay quiet, play small and want to make everything perfect. But finally, I learnt to distinguish the voice of the Little Miss Perfectionist from my inner voice. To see that her desire to keep me safe was keeping me small and that facing my fear of failure and taking leaps into the unknown can be exciting, exhilarating and the single best way to learn and develop.
How has this manifested itself? In my case, an impromptu performance of King George from the musical ‘Hamilton’ led to the confidence to volunteer to speak onstage; walking blindfolded along a 12-foot-high wooden beam with heart-racing vertigo has become the metaphor for facing any fears in business and doing it anyway. Posting my thoughts on the growing loneliness epidemic and sharing how it has affected me brought a landslide of support and inspiration. Whenever my inner critic pops up to hold me back, I thank her for her concern and tell her that I now know the benefit of taking risks and playing bigger. Most importantly, I’ve learnt that each occasional mistake is actually a critical learning point in my personal and professional growth – a big stepping stone for a recovering perfectionist!
So, you may ask, do you recommend everyone heads for the nearest stage or ‘Go Ape’ adventure park? Absolutely not, we’re all unique and need to find what works for us. But I do recommend working with a coach to identify your inner critic and work through what’s needed to tame her.
For some women, the inner critic may be a people pleaser putting themselves last, for others a workhorse putting them at risk of burnout, or an avoider who delays commitment and is permanently stuck. At Electric Woman we called these voices the ‘Miss Guideds’, and there are discussions to be had with each of them so that say, the workhorse can stop riding you and go make stuff happen for you or perhaps your people pleaser can take a spell pleasing you for a change.
I leave you with a final word from Sheryl Sandberg on daring bigger:
"Over my many years in school and the workforce, I have seen so many people hold themselves back. I see people sit on the side of the room instead of sitting at the table. I see people sit in the back rather than at the front. I see people lower their hands rather than keep them up.
And that's why I force myself to sit at the table, even when I am not sure I belong there — and yes, this still happens to me. And when I'm not sure anyone wants my opinion, I take a deep breath and speak up anyway."
Caroline Diamond is a CTI-trained Electric Woman coach. She works 1:1 with women who want to make a difference in the world around them, helping them to define and reach their goals. Her experience as a corporate business leader, entrepreneur and mother of four gives Caroline deep insight into the challenges and opportunities facing women today. Caroline blends this insight with her coaching skills, leadership expertise and deep intuition to help women become their most confident and authentic selves. Learn more about Caroline and her coaching here.