Is Your Inner Critic Holding You Back? 5 Tips to Managing That Inner Voice.

“You’re not smart enough to do that!” “You don’t have enough experience.” “You’re not ready to make such a big move.” “You’re not as good as THEY are.” “You’re not attractive enough.” “You’re too old.” “Who do you think you are??”

Sound familiar? This is the voice of your Inner Critic. It’s also known as the “Imposter Syndrome.”

What impact does your Inner Critic have on your motivation when you’re planning to make a big strategic leap? Does it hold you back from moving forward after a big career transition or life transition? Does it keep you from reaching your full potential and doing what you know you’re capable of achieving?

Rest assured, we ALL have an Inner Critic … the voice inside your head that tells us we’re not ____ enough. (You can fill in the blank.) Our brains were wired that way during childhood as a self-protection mechanism against perceived threats or dangers. That voice may have served its purpose at that time, but we’re adults now. We have enough education, skills, and real world experience to know what we are capable of handling. But that Inner Critic still comes up when we’re planning to make a bold move or stretch outside our comfort zone. So what do to about it?

Here are 5 tips for managing your Inner Critic and preventing it from running your life:

1) Listen to what your Inner Critic is saying.
Self-awareness is the first step to making a big change in your life. Become aware of the inner voice when you feel stuck, and tune into it carefully. Listen to what it is telling you. Is the message really true? Or is it an outdated self-protection message from 40 years ago? Is it saying the word “should,” telling you what you “should” do, which may be different than what you want to do?

2) Notice the more subtle forms of resistance.
Sometimes the Inner Critic speaks, but rather than being fearful, your subconscious reaction is to procrastinate from working on your big project or opportunity. This can show up in various forms of internal resistance, such as:

  • Feeling sleepy and wanting to take a nap
  • Being compelled to do all the trivial tasks on your To Do list
  • Getting a sudden urge to clean or decorate your home or office
  • Deciding that this is a good time to reach out to friends you haven’t contacted in years.

When this happens, ask yourself if this is a form of internal resistance generated by your Inner Critic.

3) Understand the root cause of your resistance or fear.
Is it a fear of being wildly successful? Or a fear of failure or of being criticized? Is it a reluctance of standing out from the crowd? If you examine your capabilities logically, is this opportunity something that you are truly capable of doing? Or are you being overly critical of yourself? In Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” book, she mentioned a Hewlett Packard study that found that many women apply for jobs only if they think they meet 100% of the criteria listed, whereas men apply if they meet 60% of the requirements (because they assume they will learn on-the-job). What’s the root cause of your resistance or fear?

4) Know what impact your Inner Critic has on you.
Similar to if you had an external critic, the negative judgments foisted on you by your Inner Critic impedes your open-mindedness to change, your vision for possibilities, and your ability to generate creative solutions. Generally, your Inner Critic will keep you playing small because it’s “safer” than playing big. The truth is that our growth lies just outside our comfort zone. When we overcome our Inner Critic and push ourselves to play big, we get new insights, see new possibilities, and get new results.

5) Manage your Inner Critic.
Who does your Inner Critic’s voice sound like? One of your parents? A stern grandparent? Your grade school teacher? An anonymous gremlin? Give your Inner Critic a name, based on who it sounds like. When you can personify your Inner Critic into a character, you can take away its power over you. You can say “Thank you Grandpa (or other name), but I can handle this now.” And when you’re about to make a huge leap forward and it starts screaming at you, you can do what you’d do with a car radio that’s too loud … Just turn down the volume knob, or turn it off.

Our Inner Critic is one of our basic survival instincts and has served a valuable purpose. Its messages and warnings need to be re-wired and updated so that it doesn’t keep you playing small. Follow our 5 Tips to raise your awareness of the Inner Critic’s impact. Through repetitive practice, you’ll begin re-wiring your Inner Critic to be your ally, not your enemy.

Need some additional help in controlling your Inner Critic? Consider hiring a personal coach to help you develop your internal resilience and self-confidence, especially to help you navigate a big transition in your career or life. For a complimentary consultation, go to

Keiko Hsu
Wings for Women

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