Entrepreneurship 101: Eliminate The Inner-Critic
The world needs empowered women now more than ever before. That's why I've decided to write this guide. As a recovering perfectionist, I know from firsthand experience that an overactive inner critic can stunt our creativity and confidence. In fact, I'll tell you a little story...
In high school what I wore and who my friends were mattered more to me than curfews and grades. In college, my inner mean girl became louder and more demanding; pressuring me to take on extra projects that helped solve other people's problems.
The funny thing is, I thought I had gotten rid of my inner critic or at the very least learned to live with it. I had a healthy social life and eventually reached the normal milestones; job, financial independence, boyfriend.
It wasn't until I faced a huge transition in my career that I realized I was still carrying around the baggage of my inner critic.
Thankfully I began life coaching, a process that peeled away the layers of hurt and shame that I'd inflicted on myself for years. I soon realized that the need to be perfect had led me down a path of unhealthy expectations, relationships, and tons of negative self-talk. In essence, my self-criticisms had stolen my inner light.
I remember asking my coach, "am I the only one?"
I didn't know if anyone else felt the same pressure and self-doubt because I never confided in anyone to find out. Maybe I feared rejection or perhaps I'd become numb to how I demanded so much of myself, I don't know. What I do know is that everything changes when you shine a light into the darkness.
These days I'm perfectly fine with being imperfect. I value myself and embrace my strengths, but recognize that my flaws are what makes me unique.
I still have to be intentional about curbing the negative tendencies, which is why I use this guide when the stresses of daily life take its toll. I've shared it with friends who loved it, so now I'm sharing it with you! Before you dive in just remember this: your inner critic doesn't define your worth.
The first step is recognizing the emotions that result from being overly critical of oneself. Most often these include feelings of unworthiness, stupidity, shame, and resentment.
The next step will be to understand the words/behaviors that trigger your inner critic.
The final step is to identify and stop the behaviors that are triggered in you. Most often these include self-doubt, lack of boundaries, comparison, a distorted sense of reality, and negative self-talk.
Understanding your emotions and behaviors is essential for developing resilience. Being aware of the triggers will also help you respond calmly rather than with toxic or erratic behavior.
When we can’t recognize our emotions and understand our triggers our inner critic blindsides us. Often the experience is so pronounced that it completely overwhelms us and takes over our entire day. In contrast, if we recognize our triggers, we can make conscious decisions about how we’re going to respond.
The emotions that result from our inner critic have physical symptoms. They might show up as sweaty palms, an increased heart rate, cotton mouth, a sensation that your words or movement are slowing down, uncontrollable fidgeting, and brain fog.
Everyone is affected differently. By learning how you present physical symptoms, you'll be able to identify when your inner critic has been triggered which helps you to know when to disengage from the situation.
Begin with identifying the physical symptoms and sensations:
Physically, I can feel__________________ in/on my _____________________________________.
My symptoms include:
Exploration + Processing
Our inner critic affects our behavior everyday so it's essential that we get real about it. I'll be the first to confess that an overactive inner mean girl can drive us crazy!
For example, if a friend, parent, or partner says anything that sounds remotely similar to the what our inner critic is berating us with, chances are that person better run in the other direction! However, it's important to recognize when this occurs because our perception creates our reality.
Being constantly triggered means that we're constantly living in an altered state of reality. What's concerning is that this causes us to live in constant high alert which can take a physical and psychological toll on our bodies over time.
Let's figure out the words and behavior that trigger a response:
When someone says__________________________I feel______________________________. When someone says__________________________________I feel_______________________________. When someone says__________________________________I feel_______________________________. When someone says_________________________________ I feel_______________________________.
When someone does this________________________I feel___________________________. When someone does this_________________________________I feel___________________________. When someone does this_________________________________I feel___________________________. When someone does this_________________________________I feel___________________________.
By now you might start to recognize patterns. Perhaps a particular situation, word, or person is a constant trigger. Be sure to make a list of any similarities or themes that you identify.
Now comes the most important part. You get to take an open and honest look at your own behavior.
I want to be very clear; this isn't about deciding whether your behavior is right or wrong.
The goal of self-analysis is to identify the behavior that you no longer wish to live with. Try to be 100% honest with yourself when answering the following question:
When I feel___________________________I respond like this____________________________. When I feel__________________________I respond like this___________________________. When I feel__________________________I respond like this___________________________. When I feel__________________________I respond like this___________________________. When I feel__________________________I respond like this___________________________.
Are you beginning to have flashbacks of past incidents? Breathe! Remember that your inner critic is not in control of you nor does it define you. Approach this part of the exploration with as much self-love as possible and take as many breaks as necessary.
Another interesting thing that might occur during this part of the process is that you will begin to identify behaviors that you wish you responded with instead. WRITE THEM DOWN! In fact, write them as if they were your present way of being sort of like this:
I am _____________________________.
I am _____________________________.
I am _____________________________.
I am _____________________________.
(Pro Tip: Use post-its for this! I like to stick them anywhere I'll see them on a daily basis to help remind me of the strong and confident person I really am. Note that this is your authentic self peeking through, you just need a little encouragement to see it.)
Practices + Solutions
By now you should have a better understanding of how your inner critic tends to operate. The next step is to exercise your confidence muscles! Below are five practices to help you improve and develop a fierce confidence!
Stop the cyclical process of constantly assessing your actions, picking apart your physical appearance, or mental abilities. Instead be compassionate with yourself, remind yourself of all the things you love about yourself and all the"I am" statements you previously listed.
2. Don't Be Logical:
Stop trying to reason with your inner critic. It cannot be reasoned with! The best approach is to stop engaging. For example, before publishing this my inner mean girl said "Don’t publish this. People might think you’re crazy." When similar self-doubt pops up for you DON'T ENTERTAIN IT. Instead listen without reacting or talking back with logic. Begin to breath deeply and slowly into your belly. Follow your breath, in and out and verbally tell it to go away. (I do this out loud whenever possible.) Continue to focus on your breathing until your mind returns to a calm state.
3. Let Go:
With the acceptance of thyself comes the acceptance of the fact that sometimes we cannot control outcomes. Rather than focusing on what could go wrong if you don't control the situation, trust that the situation will work itself out. This doesn't mean you don't care, but rather that you're surrendering the worry and stopping it from controlling you. ( Pro Tip: I usually call a friend or go for a walk when I feel the urge to control a situation or my environment.)
4. Shift Your Perspective:
Studies have shown that what you think you become. Additionally, research has shown that our thoughts have energy which can be measured. Without getting too technical this basically means that we can change our mood, and even our reality, by simply changing how we see the world. To change your current perspective start practicing gratitude! I like to use the 5MJ journal for this. Additionally, practice self-care activities such as meditation, painting, or working out. I try to start my day with 20 mins meditation which always sets a positive tone for my day.
5. Set Boundaries:
Setting boundaries helps you eliminate the unhealthy interactions, relationships and environmental situations that trigger your inner critic.
Begin by creating a list of what actions/relationships/situations you don't want. You can use the list you made of the behaviors that trigger you to help with this.
Now make a list of the positive actions/relationships/situations you want but don't yet have. Finally, create a plan of action and implement your boundaries. If you've identified you need to rid yourself of a relationship, set a deadline and be direct. Don't offer a long explanation and don't apologize. Always remember that it's not how you say it, it's that you say it.
Repeat the process until you've implemented every boundary on your list. You'll begin to notice that each time you set and uphold your boundaries your true fiery and confident self will begin to flourish.
My goal is to help you realize that self-doubt and the negative emotions come with it are not real descriptions of who we really are. Your worth is not based on how productive you are, what dress size you wear, or even how many people you help in a day (telling this to myself TBH). You and I are invaluable because of who we are; unique imperfections and all.
Disclosure: I am not a licensed physician. These are practices that have personally worked for me but should never replace seeking medical attention! Always consult with your doctor prior to commencing any mental, physical or emotional self-treatment practices.