How to handle your inner critic

Most of us have an inner critic. They’re a little voice in the back of your head that makes you think twice about what you are doing, have done, or want to do.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; we have all witnessed the malarkey that comes with a leader whose inner critic is totally and utterly absent.  People with no self-doubt can be somewhat destructive and feel they are more invincible than they are. Questioning your actions and opinions is actually a really important part of being a leader.

However, when your inner critic moves from a valuable sounding board (are you 100% sure about those figures?) to a bully (‘There’s no way you got those figures right, you must have stuffed up,’) it’s important that you have the skills to put it in its place. Because while critical thinking, careful consideration and checking in with what you are doing every now and then is a good thing, constantly putting yourself down is another thing altogether.

Here are a few ideas for managing your inner critic:

1. Give it a name

Australian musician, Clare Bowditch does an excellent job of this. Her inner critic is called Frank. And when Frank is getting her down, Clare simply says to herself; ‘F off Frank,’ swiftly putting Frank back in his place. Personifying your inner critic is an excellent way to distance yourself from that self-doubt.

2. Keep a ‘wins’ file

Recently nailed a brief? Keep it. Glowing praise from your boss on a project you worked hard on? Keep that too.  Keeping comments, projects and results you are proud of on hand to have a look at when you doubt yourself is really important. They serve as a tangible reminder that your inner critic is wrong, and that you really can and will do a good job.

3. Find a sponsor, mentor or office buddy to back you up

When you are feeling a bit like a fraud, unsure of yourself or doubting your worth and value in your role, check in with a friend that you know will boost your spirits. Someone who will remind you about all the incredible things you have achieved and will be able to talk you out of a negative pattern. If you don’t have this person in your office, find someone like a mentor or sponsor who you can call on when you need to.

4. Remind yourself that half the population isn’t worrying about this.

Overwhelmingly, people who struggle with imposter syndrome, or who have to battle daily with their inner critic, are women. Remind yourself that Jeff in finance and Andrew in marketing are likely not wringing their hands over whether they are good enough to be in their role, or have done a good enough job on their report/presentation/article etc. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but we know from studies that the majority of employees who doubt their worth and capability are women. Take a deep breath, and do what you know best.

5. Acknowledge its concerns, then move on

If your inner critic is constantly pestering you, undermining you, or pulling you up on the same thing over and over again, take ten minutes to sit with it and see what it is that it is most worried about. Acknowledge the concern, and then move on. Once the concern is acknowledged, and something is put in place to rectify it (if necessary) you can move on- and also remind it that now everything has been addressed, it should move on too.

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