Quiet Your Inner Critic
Being a small business owner and entrepreneur is challenging. There are plenty of critics out there, and often we are our harshest ones. What if we could learn to tame that inner critic, or better yet use it for motivation, rather than a stumbling block in our path?
Life coach Sarah Curnoles walked CHAMPS members through just that process during the February entrepreneur meeting. Below is my summary from the discussion and resources that Sarah provided to help “quiet your inner critic.” Looking for more information or focused guidance? Reach out to Sarah directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.sarahcurnoles.com or (443) 720-6715.
Sarah started out by asking us – what does your inner critic sound like? What does it say, whose voice does it use? After we went around the table and responded, she noted that every time she asks this question, people respond that the voice is comparing ourselves to others. We never note that we didn’t hit our goal or achieve something we wanted to. We always compare our progress to what others are doing – someone else is crushing it at their entrepreneurial business, why aren’t I? Someone else has successfully competed for and won several contracts, why haven’t I? Why would someone come to me for x, y, or z when they can go to a competitor that is so obviously successful (insert every Instagram post ever here).
Why does this voice compare me to others? Sarah says it is because it is formed when you begin to develop your identity, around 5 years old. She notes that’s why the voice often sounds like a bratty kid.
You may also feel physical sensations when you hear the critic. She had us think of a moment of failure and then do a body scan (eyes closed, sitting quietly, focus on parts of your body from your feet to your head or vice versa and pay attention to what you feel). This helped us understand what sensations we feel in these critical moments. Flushed faces, sweaty hands, tight chests and throats, dry mouths are all sensations that we can feel as the inner critic dialogue starts.
So how can we start to quiet the inner critic? Sarah shared several tools.
First, acknowledge the critic. Sarah notes that the purpose of the critic is to protect you. It’s there to let you know that you’re standing out in the crowd, you are going against conventional wisdom, and that you are at risk. She also notes that like a kid, it will just get louder and more annoying if you don’t give it some attention.
Second, get curious about the voice. Why now? Who does it sound like, what exactly are you trying to tell me or warn me about?
Third, thank the voice. Recognize it is trying to protect you. The voice is associated with high stakes and is encouraging you to play it safe.
Fourth, take action. You are in control. You are the decision maker. You can listen to advice and recommendations, including from your inner critic, but at the end of the day, as Sarah says, “prove that you can take care of things.”
Fifth, communicate the plan. You’ve made a decision – now think through the plan to execute it, and get the critic on board. Sarah notes that by developing a plan, you can temper the critic and ease fears and concerns.
During this discussion, I found the most difficult question that Sarah asked – and the one I’m still pondering – is “how would I be different without the inner critic?” For me, I think the answer is that I need to learn from the inner critic. After the event or decision point, look back at what happened. Was the voice right or wrong and why? Take those lessons and apply them to the next challenge. And if it turns out the voice was wrong, recall those successes the next time the voice gives you pause. And try to recall those feelings and then the success that occurred afterward.
Sarah noted that “if you spot it, you got it.” She said we often we use comparison as a mirror, so those traits you admire in someone else are ones you can cultivate in yourself. Understanding what we want is the first step to cultivating those characteristics.
One last resource Sarah shared is a tool to help push back on the inner critic. It’s Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule . Essentially, you have 5 seconds to act instinctively on an idea before your brain takes over. She uses a countdown method to push yourself to take action, like counting down to a launch. 5-4-3-2-1. Try it and see how it works for you and what you can accomplish!
You can find a copy of Sarah’s strategies for quieting the inner critic below.