In my book, #ENDURANCE tweet Book 01— A Little Nudge to Keep You Going, I explain the concept of inner critics and how they relate to preventing us from achieving our goals.
Inner critics are those voices in our head that hold us back, make us question our decisions, instill fear, sap our energy, place doubt in our minds and criticize our failures.
Inner critics will always be with us and that means we need to be able to channel them into positive, rather than negative, actions.
Fear is a powerful motivator. It’s a basic emotion that protects us from the dangers around us. It’s also a major reason a lot of us don’t achieve what we want to achieve.
Our inner critics amplify our fear by rehashing all the times we failed. This is their primary job since fear protected us way back when our existence was fragile at best.
Nowadays, we don’t have as many threats to our wellbeing as before but fear still rules our lives.
Fear is a protection mechanism. We have not yet evolved to separate real threats from perceived threats (just as the 74% of people who are afraid of public speaking.), so fear rules our lives if we let it.
Our inner critics also accelerate our anxieties about certain situations. They remember when we embarrassed ourselves at a party, said the wrong thing to an attractive girl or boy, flubbed an important presentation or sent the wrong check to the wrong person.
All of these anxieties weigh heavy on us since the emotions we felt during those embarrassing times we don’t want to feel again.
Self doubt is the way our inner critics keep us from taking risks. They stir up all the fears and anxieties into an elixir of doubt that we readily drink since who wants to feel all that fear and anxiety.
Doubt holds us back. Doubt keeps us in the status quo where we feel we are safe and secure. Doubt is what we have to overcome to quell our inner critics.
Self Loathing Cheerleader
We all get down from time to time. It’s an unfortunate reality in our fast paced, winner take all world. When we get down, our inner critics are their to reinforce this self loathing by rehashing all the bad and awful feelings we have experienced.
Our inner critics happily cheer on this loathing because it keeps us from taking risks — one thing our inner critics loath.
Our Inner Critics Safe Harbor
The status quo is our inner critics safe harbor. This is the place they have the most power over us. It’s hard to nudge ourselves out of this safe harbor because our inner critics have a tremendous power over us.
At times, it’s great to be in a safe and comfortable environment but that will never allow us to grow.
The problem with our safe harbor is if we stay their too long. Ships were meant for sailing. If they stay too long in the harbor, they collect barnacles, start to decay, leak and become unseaworthy. Only by sailing the ship does it remain seaworthy.
We need to leave our safe harbor and sail in order to prevent ourselves from decay. I know, it seems a little extreme, but spending too much time stagnate will make us unseaworthy for the seas of life.
Overcoming Our Inner Critics
Every system in our body is meant to protect us, nurture us and help us achieve our best and highest good. Our inner critics protect us from danger and thus must be both respected and thanked for the service they perform.
Without our inner critics, we would simple not know what we should fear or how to push our limits.
Even though our inner critics are meant to protect us, we still need to push ourselves or we will become stuck in a rut. Consider these methods to both thank your inner critics for their help and guidance but yet be able to sail on the seas of life.
Feel the fear: Instead of pushing our fears aside, we should feel and acknowledge them. That way, we can deal with them.
Channel the anxiety: Anxiety can be channeled to positive action if we embrace the feelings and then turn that energy to our an advantage.
Acknowledge the doubt: Just like feeling the fear, acknowledging the doubt will lessen it’s influence on us simply because we can now either recruit others to help us past it or work on it ourselves.
Recruit others: Sometimes it takes others to help us overcome our inner critics. Good allies in our inner critic struggles will be those friends or mentors that encourage, teach or coach us through the tough parts of our lives.
Give yourself a break: Most people are hard on themselves. This is a manifestation of our inner critics power over us (the you’re “not good enough” inner voice). Try and give yourself a break. Acknowledge that things are tough but also pat yourself on the back for dealing with the issues head on.
Encourage others: We can derive a tremendous amount of satisfaction from encouraging others to endure on and overcome their inner critics. This can give us the needed boost to overcome our own struggles.
Be thankful for the advice: Our inner critics are their to protect us. Thank them for the valuable service they perform.
Practice: Nothing reduces our anxieties, fears and doubts about our capabilities like practice. Sure, if we are ill prepared then practice may just increase our anxieties, fears and doubts but determined and regular practice will make taking on our challenges much less scary.
Push your limits just a little: We can “trick” our inner critics by pushing our limits just a little out of our safe harbors. By doing this, we can incrementally build up to take on bigger and bigger challenges. We should think of these limit pushing exercises as just another form of practice.
Life is a Vast Ocean
Our lives are like a vast ocean — we really can’t see far beyond the horizon. It’s important that we sail towards the horizon by leaving our safe harbors in order to gain the skills and confidence to achieve what we want to achieve.
Without pushing ourselves, we will begin to decay and wonder why opportunities have passed us by.
A special thanks to Alex Doniach for her wise and insightful observations about inner critics. She was the person who gave me the idea to write about our inner critics and how they prevent us from enduring our challenges so that one day we may triumph.