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Here’s the deal … Everything we do as women(sorry, men) begins with managing our inner critic.

Make no mistake about it, this is primarily a women’s issue. In fact according to the Harvard Business Review, men will apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only when they meet 100% of them.

And according to the research, the number one reason women don’t apply until they meet 100% of the qualifications is “they didn’t believe they would be hired and didn’t want to waste their time and energy.” Funny enough it had very little to do with their belief in their ability to do the job well.

What does this statistic say? It says that we, as women, are the ones holding us back. Not the glass ceiling, not the old-boys network, and certainly not our lack of skill, talent or intellect. It’s us and our inner critic.

inner-critic

I found a new respect for my inner critic from the book, Playing Big by Tara Mohr. If you want to do some work on yours, you really should check out the book.

What Is Our Inner Critic?

Well it’s that voice in our head that doubts are abilities. It’s self-doubt realized through the inner chatter in our head. It is so common and has been around for so long that we don’t even recognize it.

Here are a few characteristics of the inner critic that Tara lists in her book:

  • It’s a Black and White Thinker.
    You are fat or skinny. You are smart or dumb. You are gorgeous or ugly. There is no room for grey – either you are or you aren’t.
  • It Pretends to Have Your Back.
    It appears to have your best interest at heart when actually it is finding reasons why you won’t succeed. It is trying to prevent you from taking risk (and we all know – or at least we should know – that you get ahead when you take some risk). It is what is stopping you from applying for that job until you meet 100% of the qualifications because you won’t get hired.
  • It’s Often a Broken Record.
    The inner critic almost always has a core narrative that you have been hearing over and over – probably for many years. I am sure you can hear it in your head as I speak.
  • It is Persistent.
    It keeps coming at us, even when we know it isn’t rational, until we give the voice power.

One of the big challenges of the inner critic, is that it might appear to have our best interests at heart. Back to applying for that job, on the surface it seems sort of logical not to apply for a job where you don’t meet all the qualifications, right?

Inner Critic or Realistic Thinking?

Well, hopefully by now, you are starting to see fault with that thinking. So how do you know if it’s your Inner Critic or just realistic thinking?

In a nutshell, the inner critic makes assumptions, while realistic thinking asks questions.

The inner critic responds in all or nothing or black and white scenarios while realistic thinking finds the grey and explores it more.

The inner critic focuses on the problem while realistic thinking focuses on solutions.

It’s interesting that when I begin to talk about the inner critic, most women respond back to me in defense of theirs. I will hear:

  • My inner critic motivates me.
  • My inner critic makes sure I’m prepared.
  • My inner critic prevents me from failing.

And while these may be true, it is costing you. It is costing in terms of personal and professional growth, the quality of life and even your health.

Here’s another exercise that will help you understand your inner critic a bit better. It’s a journaling exercise that helps you to notice your inner critic by naming it. Start by writing down some of the common beliefs of your inner critic. Find the common theme of your inner critic’s voice by creating questions that are relevant to where you are right now. You can start by answering some of these questions. What does your inner critic say …

  • When you look in the mirror?
  • When you come up with a big idea?
  • When you want to speak a differing opinion on a topic that matters to you?
  • When you enter a room and don’t know anyone?

I will admit, I am not one that normally buys into the woo-woo stuff and I never used to put much importance on journaling. It took me a long time to understand the importance of writing. Which seems funny as someone who writes and teaches about happiness.

But naming my inner critic and becoming clear on its voice through journaling was extremely helpful to my inner dialogue.

By the way, mine is named Mrs. Kravitz. I may be dating myself here but do you remember the nosy neighbor on Bewitched?That is so my inner critic. She butts her nose in where it doesn’t belong and questions everything that isn’t the way she thinks it should be.

And it’s funny, when I started to put a face to my inner critic, I realized how pretentious and irrational it often is. So take the time to work through the exercise. You will be glad you did.

How to Deal with Your Inner Critic

It’s funny when I began to write this section, I immediately thought of my teenagers and immediately came to the conclusion that the inner critic (or at least mine) and my teenagers have a lot in common.

  • Recognize It.
    The first thing you need to do is recognize when your inner critic is speaking and acknowledge it. So when I hear my inner critic speaking, I literally say to myself. “I hear you, Mrs. Kravitz.” It actually brings a smile to face when I do and I feel the pressure lift immediately.
  • Understand The Motive.
    Once you recognize your inner critic and it’s voice, when it speaks to you try to understand its motives. What is it afraid? What is it trying to protect you from?
  • Reassure It.
    Your inner critic deserves to be treated kindly even though it is misguided. Let it know you are good and that you can handle it. Actually say the words, “I’m good. Thanks but I can handle this.”
  • Find the Humor.
    Of course, finding holes in your inner critic’s reasoning is helpful but if those reasons are absurd or ridiculous even better.

As I wind down on this very brief introduction to your inner critic, let me just say this. Just like any other work you do, whether it’s towards living a happier life, being more confident or eliminating negativity – your work on your inner critic is ongoing.

There will be days when you think you have it under control and then there will be days when you just want to give up. It’s a struggle sometimes but just think of how many years of programming you are trying to reverse.