Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Inner Critic

February 12, 2018 by John Andrew Williams

The Inner Critic is that negative self-talk that holds us back. It’s the voice of doubt and fear. Its message makes us feel bad and saps motivation.

Even the most successful people wrestle with Inner Critics. (See the Anxiety Dreams of Olympic Athletes.) One of my favorite books Do the Work by Stephen Pressfield ushers the reader through the stages of battling with the Inner Critic, termed Resistance, in writing a story.

While a healthy dose of fear is helpful in making us pay attention, we can face the fear and keep moving forward. Addressing the Inner Critic is one of the strongest tools available to a life coach, and the first step is to understand how the Inner Critic works.

Where the Inner Critic Comes From

Once upon a time, that voice was meant to keep us safe. A fearful message is useful when you’re thinking of exploring a den of a sabertooth tiger. It’s useful when you’re about so say something offensive or insensitive.

But like too much of a good thing, too many safety warnings take up too much bandwidth of mental/emotional energy. Inner critics work to stop any risk taking, which works counter to your efforts to build a life coaching practice.

Tools to Manage the Inner Critic

Using tools such as empathetic motivation and motivation styles helps get you out of your own way. Shifting focus away from your own personal gain of establishing your life coaching career and putting the focus on the service you provide to others, abates the Inner Critic’s message.

Those tools, however, don’t directly address the critic. Using the Inner Critic tool in the 1.0 Coach Training Programs gets to the heart of the matter: often the Inner Critic is most powerful because it’s not defined. Without the mindfulness and awareness of the Inner Critic exercise to define the source of such negative self-talk, clients often equate negative self-talk to truth or to themselves.

Like a great villain, an undefined Inner Critic lurks in the corners unseen, yet profoundly powerful. We feel the effects long before we actually catch a glimpse. And the imagination fills in the dreaded details far more effectively and creates a much scarier picture than the reality.

Think of how many books Voldemort was present in Harry Potter without actually seeing the dark wizard. Or the plastic bodies in Jaws where the shark makes a run at the boat at full speed and the shark dives below the water. We’re left thinking that shark might be huge.

The challenge the Inner Critic – or really any villain has – is that once exposed, once seen completely in the light of day for what he, she, or it really is, the Inner Critic’s power diminishes. The Critic might fight harder and say mean things, but the reality is that once named, once clarified, the Critic looses the element of mystery and anonymity.

This Week’s Prompt

If your Inner Critic were a super villain, what would it be?

And if you – or a characteristic you have – were the super hero rising to best the villain, who would it be? And what action would you take?

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