Make Friends With Your Inner Critic

Why on earth would you want to make friends with your inner critic? Most of us (and yes, we all have an inner critic) are keenly aware of its presence. We do or say something that didn't quite work out like we hoped and wham - there it is. What does your inner critic most often say to you? 

Recently, I gave a short presentation to an amazing group of women at the Quadruplicity conference in Charlottesville, which is sponsored by the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce and is the largest conference for women in the area. I asked the women in the room what they would like to take away from the presentation. I realized very quickly that these women meant business - they wanted high level, rich content and they wanted it now. My inner critic went to work. I heard the following messages in a span of 30 seconds:

  • Who are you to tell these women what to do?
  • You can't possibly cover all of this in 45 minutes.
  • You didn't prepare enough content.
  • You will disappoint the audience.

I knew this stuff (I will refrain from using the word I really want to use) was going through my head because I noticed the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach - that is where fear typically shows up in my body. But, because I noticed what was going on, I was able to do the following:

  • Use the antedote for fear - gratitude. I said to myself, "I am so grateful for being here with these amazing women. I am going to learn a lot."
  • Owned the fact that I was fearful and talked about it openly with the audience. Once you notice the fear and own it, its claws lose its grip.
  • Thank my inner critic for showing up and trying to protect me.

Now, you are thinking - "I get the first two things she did; WTH is up with the third thing?". One purpose of the inner critic is to protect us from getting hurt. We develop inner critics in childhood as a self-protective mechanism. As children, we were not as well equipped to deal with feelings as we are now in adulthood. Unfortunately, we tend to keep listening to our inner critics even though we don't need them anymore. My inner critic was trying to protect me from looking dumb and unprepared. If I had listened to it, at best my authentic self would not have shown up during the presentation. At worst, I would have gone screaming from the room and missed out on an amazing experience.

The next time you notice your inner critic speaking to you, take the time to ask yourself:

From what is the inner critic trying to protect me? What is the root of the fear?

Then, thank it for trying to protect you and decide what you want to do.