Making Peace with the Inner Critic

Apr 28, 2021

Has your menacing inner critic ever kept you from taking a step forward by convincing you that you don’t know enough to reach for what you want?

I know mine has, and I’ve seen it happen in the lives of my clients, too. They’re bursting with energy about something they want to do or a longing they have to address a particular need or problem in the world, and the inner critic secretly moves in and casts a dark shadow over their momentary confidence.

Failing confidence is non-discriminatory. It affects women at all levels of success. Many times over my inner critic has whispered, “Hey, why should anyone listen to you? You don’t know enough yet.” Meanwhile, another part of me knows I have valuable life experience and natural gifts and talents to offer.

I used to indulge the inner critic until I learned how to mitigate it with acceptance. I wrestled with the notion that I was not enough nor did I know enough. Yet, I saw my clients thrive, so I had to know something. I heard other women speak of the same problem with their inner critic and I wanted to know why.

According to Sally Helgesen in her book, How Women Rise, women overvalue expertise. In Sally’s words, “… expertise will only take you so far. That’s because top jobs always require managing and leading people who have the expertise, not providing expertise yourself.”

I was leaning too much on recognition as a source of validation. Not surprising, women are often under-recognized because they’re uncomfortable claiming their achievements and grassroots experience. Once I learned to accept my inner critic and recognize the bodily sensations proceeding it, I had the opportunity to listen more to a very different voice, a voice I call the “inner advocate.” This is the voice that lets my life speak and recognizes the value of my natural gifts and talents.

Whether you know a little or a lot about something, the “know, like, trust” principle applies. You are far more likely to progress forward if people know, like, and trust you than if you wait until you think you know enough.

Overvaluing expertise can make you reluctant to invest time in building relationships. As your connections and confidence grow, so will the trust people place in you and the more they will want to work with you.

The source of true confidence is internal. We can’t control how other people think or feel about us, but we can control accepting the inner critic for what it is without allowing it to determine our choices. We can control showing up emboldened by our values. And we can step forward as our most authentic selves.

Think deep and hard about your strengths and weaknesses. Question the inner critic. What evidence is there that what it’s telling you is true? Stay curious. Be willing to not be the smartest person in the room. You don’t have to like the inner critic to accept it. Keep showing up and most importantly, keep believing in yourself.