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Understanding Your Inner Critic (Part 2)

December 18, 2014 Susan MacKenty Brady

In my last post, I shared that if we women don’t stop the madness of feeling like we are not good enough, or believing that those around us at work and at home aren’t doing it right (leaving us with no choice but to step in to control it all, step back and critique, or BOTH) then we will see little progress in our efforts to advance both professionally and personally.

This is why learning how to coach your Inner Critic is so important and why I wrote The 30-Second Guide to Coaching Your Inner Critic. Learning this moment-to-moment practice gives us the chance to stop the harshness so we can step in, up, and out. Here’s how it works: The Inner Critic is that voice inside your head that’s either whispering or screaming that we are no good or “they” (name a person, group, team, whatever) are no good. The fuel is contempt and the noise sounds a lot like criticism. The result? We are causing someone else unnecessary pain (“They’re stupid”) AND/OR we are causing ourselves unnecessary pain (“I’m stupid”).

Our Inner Critic plays the blame and shame game – “He just doesn’t get it” (critical of others) and “I can’t believe I said that…” (critical of self.) On the one hand, the Inner Critic is fueled by the belief that we know the “right” path forward, or the “best” solution to the problem, or the “correct” new hire for the job, etc. We come off like we are – and know – BETTER than others. It goes without saying that believing that we are better than others feels good to us, bad to others. No need to say a thing – when we indulge in this self-righteous thinking, we offend others even with our body language and facial expressions.

Conversely, the fuel behind the voice that’s critical of ourselves is the belief that we “should” know the right path forward, that we are “supposed to” come up with the “right” solution, that we can’t possibly voice our opinion because – well – we aren’t X (fill in the blank.) We act – and believe – like we are not good enough, or less than others. It goes without saying that believing that we are less than others feels bad to us, and limits our ability to fully engage and give our “all” at work and elsewhere. Feeling not as good as others keeps us from giving our all, taking risks, and leaning in, and can be a deceptively safe and potentially painful place where we keep ourselves small.

To make matters worse, we move frequently (multiple times a day) from feeling like we have it all figured out – Oh yeah, I know how this should go and if these idiots would just listen to what I have to say” – to feeling like we suck – “Did I really just admit I didn’t have the answer? What was I thinking? Who will think I am credible now? What an idiot I am.”

There is a WAY OUT of this harshness – taking responsibility for coaching your Inner Critic.

Those of us who are sick of feeling shame of some variety and a deep sense of “not good enough” would welcome liberation from that hellish state of thinking. It is those of us, however, who may not suffer most frequently or obviously from feeling “not enough,” who air on the side of “knowing better” that I’m talking to here. And here’s the reality that many of us women need to face: in our desire to do it all, do it well, and keep everyone happy and others believing in our capability, we are undoubtedly offending others. Last I checked others don’t like to feel controlled, rushed, or talked down to.

Lastly – and to deepen the challenge for those of us who manage and lead – we are confronted often daily with another person’s Inner Critic. I maintain that many of us avoid giving feedback, accept lackluster results, and moderate our expectations so that we don’t have to deal with the Inner Critic of our colleagues (no matter if it is verbalized or not.)

Ready to learn how to coach your Inner Critic (and perhaps help others coach theirs) so managing and leading isn’t so darn hard sometimes? Read this (and stay tuned for part three).

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