Self doubt has been something I’ve always struggled with. It’s a pity I never joined a debating team because by the time I was in my twenties, I had plenty of practice! There was a never ending debate in my head about everything; it was as if I had a split personality. I would want to do something but then I’d have that little voice in my head saying ‘Oohh, be careful- you could screw it up and make a show of yourself’.
The more I wanted to try, grow, learn and experience, the more that little voice spoke up. It got to the point that on many occasions, I actually listened to it and I held myself back. I think one of those times was in fact the decision as to whether to join a debating society in college- the little voice in my head told me I’d make a balls of it so I didn’t even put my name down to try.
The inner critic is that internal chatter that tells you that you are not enough, it’s that inner voice that makes you doubt yourself, your abilities, makes you think you’re not ready, that you don’t know enough to offer an opinion. What I’ve learnt from years of coaching and working with other women is that one of the main reasons why women don’t behave in a loving and kind way towards themselves is because of an underlying belief of not being enough, worthy or deserving. The inner critic plays a key role in our ability to love ourselves as well as our ability to feel confident, take risks and trust our own minds.
All women struggle or as the case may be, battle, with self doubt. For some of us, the voice of self doubt and not good enough speaks up in relation to our career, for others it speaks out about being single or as a mother, for some of us it speaks out about our body, our weight, our aches and pains, getting older! For others, it speaks out about our passions, our dreams, our creativity. For most of us, it’s a combination of all the above!
The thing is that because most of us are so used to hearing this voice, we just believe that it is who we are! We believe it is our voice and since we don’t really chat to people about our insecurities and fears, we don’t learn or realise that other women – women we admire because they ooze confidence- hear the same mean, irrational, harsh crazy talk in their own heads too.
The inner critic costs us so much- think of all those times you stayed silent in a meeting, ideas you never put forward, all those times you didn’t ask for what you wanted or stated what you needed, all those times you didn’t ask the question, all those creative ideas that were parked, all those talents and strengths unused, gradually getting quieter and quieter. Think of all the joy and fulfilment women have missed out on because self doubt got in the way. It is everywhere and we have lost a lot because of it. That’s the bad news.
The good news is less well known. You don’t have to find a magical well of confidence, you don’t need to do past life regression to work through the roots of your insecurities and you don’t need to figure out how to banish fear and self doubt from the face of the earth! Instead, you simply need to learn how to live with that inner voice of self doubt but not be held back by it. To hear it, but not take direction from it. That’s what I want to talk to you about today!
Why do we have an inner critic?
The answer is that we’re hardwired for it. The inner critic is an expression of the safety instinct within us- the part of us that wants to stay safe from potential risk. It’s been with us since the time of the saber tooth tiger and various other animals with large teeth. Nowadays, we don’t have to contend with wild beasts but that instinct to keep us safe is still there and the biggest risk to us now is emotional risk. So these days, the safety instinct aka the inner critic tries to keep us safe from hurt, failure, criticism, disappointment or rejection from our community. It’s a smart cookie….
If your inner critic just said the words, ‘don’t apply for the job’. ‘don’t write the book;, ‘don’t fall in love’, ‘don’t put on a bikini’. These things are far too dangerous – you would laugh- if you listened to it at all in the first place! You’d probably tell the voice to get lost and that you were grand, thanks!
So the safety instinct has learnt to use a more effective approach, instead it says things like:
- ‘If you leave your job you’ll end up miserable and jobless, you won’t find anything else. You’re lousy at what you do anyway, how have they not caught you out yet? You know that every success is a total fluke’ ,
- ‘Your writing is mediocre, you really can’t compare yourself to the pros can you?’
- ‘If you let yourself fall for that person, you’ll have your heart broken, it won’t work out and you’ll waste time and you can’t afford to waste time, you want a family’,
- ‘How could he be attracted to you? You’ll look like an idiot if you let your guard down’
- ‘If you put that bikini on, people will think you’re mental, they will look and point, and judge and stare’.
The critic has learnt to speak with a sharp tongue of viciousness and brings in something personal- something that triggers a fear of embarrassment, rejection, failure or pain.
Loving ourselves and following our passions and dreams puts us in a vulnerable place. I know a lot of people don’t like the word vulnerability but the definition of vulnerabilty is ‘exposure to emotional risk’ so if you ever want to grow, try something new, have relationships with other humans then you’ll have to experience it. However our own safety instinct seeks to protect us from that potential vulnerability by mouthing off self criticism and self loathing so that we stay where we are.
Your safety instinct doesn’t give a monkeys whether or not you feel fulfilled or self actualised- it doesn’t care if you’re self comforting every night to numb the feelings of boredom or loneliness.
The safety instinct is happy as long as you stay in the zone of familiar. What it says to you to get you to stay there isn’t necessarily true.
Its job is not to be honest, it’s job is getting you to avoid perceived risk.
When we start to understand that our safety instinct, which has been with us since the dawn of time, uses the inner critic as a strategy to keep us in the zone of the familiar, and that what it says is not actual truth or reality, we start to take away its power. We can say to ourselves in the moment ‘I hear that voice, but I know that’s not the voice of truth and I choose not to take direction from it’.
Self doubt will always be a part of our lives as we move forwards towards our true desires and the mission is not to eliminate self doubt. It will never be gone so that’s a fight we simply can’t win. The mission is learning how to let the inner critic be who it is and do its things, without taking direction from it. The goal is to hear the inner critics voice but not to let that voice determine your choices. The mission is to build a relationship with it in which you understand why it does what it does and for you to step up, do some adulting and tell it that everything is ok, that you got this!
If you want to learn how to manage that relationship with your inner critic then join my ‘All You Need is Love’ programme! Week 2 is all about the Inner Critic and we will deep dive into it so that you learn the tools you need to manage and master that relationship once and for all!
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent..including you!
Doors close on Wednesday 1st March so just go for it!