By Maria Molfino
What’s stopping you from following your calling? From doing your most meaningful work? It’s *not* time, money, or any other external resources. It’s the inner critic.
The inner critic is the voice inside that wants us to avoid risk and the discomfort that naturally comes with growth. The best way to reduce the power of the inner critic is to recognize when it comes up during our innovation process. When we are able to identify it, we can create some space between what we truly want (e.g., expansion and freedom) versus what the inner critic wants (eg., safety and protection).
Many of us, however, have a hard time recognizing the voice of the inner critic because we have certain beliefs about how it behaves and sounds. In this post, I want to share five myths about your inner critic that will support you in understanding how it really works.
Myth #1: “My inner critic primarily criticizes me.”
The inner critic wants to avoid risk more than anything else. It loves comfort and safety. It loves what’s tried and true. It doesn’t think about what you could gain, but focuses on what you might lose.
As a result, the inner critic doesn’t always criticize you. It’ll give you reasons why you shouldn’t expand outside your comfort zone. Often these reasons sound really logical, nice, and considerate.
For example: “It would be unfair to my partner to start my own business right now—it’s best for us if I stay in my job.” That could be the voice of the inner critic for someone who is feeling afraid to start their own business. Notice it’s not necessarily criticizing you, but wants to keep you safe and finds any reason to do that.
Myth #2: “If my inner critic is showing up, I must be doing something wrong.”
False. The inner critic will show up when you are moving towards a positive direction of transition and change—that’s why it shows up! It doesn’t want you to take that risk. Often if you feel like the inner critic is coming up a lot, it means you are onto something and even though it might feel uncomfortable, you’ve got to move in that direction.
Myth #3: “I need to eliminate the inner critic completely in order to be happy or do my most meaningful work.”
Perhaps this is the most important of all the myths about your inner critic. The inner critic is a natural part of change and progression. You can never eliminate the inner critic. The inner critic is an important part of you and It will *always* be there in the form of some kind of self-doubt. You’ve got to learn to move into action despite (and because of) the self-doubts. That’s the key. So it’s not like one day you wake up, and the inner critic has vanished. It’s that you’ve become wiser and more aware of her voice and narratives.
We shift our relationship to something more compassionate with ourselves. In my upcoming group program Iris, we work specifically on retraining ourselves to see these thoughts as a natural part of our progression, so we can move forward.
Myth #4: “I have to resist, argue, or distract myself from my inner critic.”
Just being aware of the inner critic reduces her power. Insight can work wonders here. Definitely don’t try to resist it. Because it will resist back. Surely, you’ve had the experience of getting mad at yourself for being hard on yourself, right? That’s an example of trying to fight or get angry at the inner critic, which just makes her stronger. Don’t argue with it, because it will only win the battle. Distracting yourself is only a temporary solution until it comes back up again.
Myth #5: “More than my inner-critic, barriers such as lack of money and time prevent me from innovating.”
“Lack of time” comes from an unclear vision of yourself. Have you designed your life around your priorities or have you designed your life around something else? Why haven’t you designed your life around what you truly want to create? Probably, because you don’t know what it is (yet). So, it’s a clarity problem. Or you know what it is, but you’re scared. And then you have an inner critic problem.
Reframe lack of money as a fear of scarcity (which also comes from the inner critic). For a lot of us innovators who want to carve our own paths, it’s not about lack of money as much as negative emotions or pride we feel in asking for support. There are ways to support our goals to create a meaningful product or business, like saving up, having a transition plan, getting a part-time bridge job, or asking investors, our partners, and our families for support. So it isn’t that we lack money as much as we have decided not to go for what we want.
Here’s a question for you to reflect upon or free-write about:
What is one thing you could say to your inner critic when it comes up, that does not include resistance, argument, or distraction? (Remember, the inner critic is trying to keep you safe, so what would you say to someone who is trying to keep you safe?)
Feel free to share your reflections in the comments below!
About the Author
Maria Molfino is the director of Iris – a program that supports women in gaining the career clarity to make the difference they want. She is a certified yoga instructor, tea enthusiast, poet with a Masters in Design from Stanford University and BA in Psychology from McGill University.