6 Tips for Dealing With the Internal Critic

Join me on these Tips for Dealing with the Internal Critic to make sure you find your happy and don’t let doubt derail your day! It’s easy to think up some of the best ideas, but it’s easy to follow through on those ideas. Turn down the volume on negative internal dialog so you can live your best life. Follow these tips to become your best you!

Finding Happy: Tips for Dealing with your Internal Critic so you don't let doubt derail your day!

I’ve been feeling more than a little doubtful lately. It’s enough to drive a creative person into the depths of despair. That’s why I’m sharing this post on Tips for Dealing with the Internal Critic. I’m determined not to let doubt derail my day. So, if you feel the same way, read on.

I don’t feel so good today. I mean, physically I’m fine. In fact, I actually feel great physically. But mentally? I’m a little off. It’s not like I’m running off the deep end or hearing voices or anything. Or am I?

Because there is a voice in my head and she’s speaking loud and clear. She’s telling me what a loser I am. OK. To be completely honest, she’s not quite that vicious. She’s actually a little more clever than that; soft, subtle, manipulative. She sits in the corner of my head in her rocking chair, and tilts her head down to peer at me over her glasses as she asks these questions in her unabashedly judgmental voice:

Are you sure you can do this?
Are you sure you want to work this hard? And to what end? There’s no guarantee this is going to work out. Right?
Don’t you miss those corporate job paychecks?
And the benefits? I mean what if you get a toothache? Have you forgotten how easy cavities were on corporate dental?

She had me going for a minute. Right up until that last one. Cavities? Easy? Ha! I’m a white-knuckled flier and dental chair sitter. I need nitrous oxide just for a cleaning, let alone a cavity!

That’s how I know the voice in my head is actually my Internal Critic. She likes to romanticize the things I’m not doing at the moment. So that corporate job with the great paycheck and dental? It also came with a toxic working environment and a dog-eat-dog promoting, Dilbertesque CEO. My Internal Critic will try to make me remember only the good stuff — like the paychecks — and cause me to spend a day on Monster.com instead of pursuing my real dream of building and creating my own stuff.

Most likely if I were back at a corporate job she’d be reminiscing about the glory days of owning my own business. She’s never happy. [Insert frustrated eye roll here]

Truth be told, she’s not entirely all evil. I know she’s only trying to protect me. She’s worried about how disappointed I’ll feel if I fail. She’s concerned I don’t have the chops for this. And wouldn’t it just be easier to take the road more travelled?

She’s also thinking about other things. Important things. Like what if I become one of those bloggers who only says what everyone wants to hear? Or even worse, what if I’m a hypocrite? What if I say or do something that later I’ll regret? And wouldn’t I just be happier if I were in a comfy, cushy corporate job that shielded me from some of this worry and responsibility?

In a lot of ways, she’s right. A corporate job would protect me from worrying about the day-to-day responsibility of running my own business, including making enough money to cover my expenses. But there’s a lot of stuff she’s just plain forgetting — like the soul-sucking colleague who steals your ideas and openly criticizes you in front of others in staff meetings. She’s forgetting the mind-numbing commute through twice-daily bumper-to-bumper rush hours. She’s forgetting the boss with “shiny-button syndrome”, constantly sending staff down a million meaningless rabbit holes.

Most importantly, she’s forgetting the passion and drive I have for building my own path.

I thank my Internal Critic for helping me be on my toes and for reminding me about my WHY (I’ll write more about that soon). So I say a little thanks for her and then practice these steps to help curb my Internal Critic’s enthusiasm for derailing my passions:

  1. Walk it Out. My preference is for an early morning walk, but any time of the day works so I can clear my head a little and take in some fresh air (aka, breathe!). This is especially true if I’ve spent too many days in front of the computer. There’s something about being physical that helps curb my internal worries. Julia Cameron said it best (always), We need our bodies if we are to establish solid, workable, long-range careers. Not only must we exercise our judgment…but we must exercise, period. Exercise clears the mind, steadies the emotions, alters not only our serotonin levels but also our perspective. When I walk I sometimes listen to an inspirational podcast or do a walking meditation. Sometimes it’s my only time to myself for the day, so I prefer to go it alone, not even taking the dogs along. Time alone, my feet to the pavement; that’s how I rejuvenate.
  2. Meditate. I spend at least 10 minutes meditating to quieten any and all voices in my head — good or bad. Ten minutes is a minimum, but it’s a good way of derailing Monkey Mind and to forge a path into a more positive, proactive, and productive day. One of my favorite tools to help with that is HeadSpace. You get 10 free 10-minute guided meditations to help you get started.
  3. Journal. Morning pages, aka, brain dump, is a part of my typical morning routine. Sometimes when I don’t know exactly what to write, I’ll simply write down everything my Internal Critic is saying. I might expand on them; let them play out to their next dramatic step. I find that writing them down kind of gets them out of my head. Seeing them on paper makes me feel free of them, at least for a little while. You can write whatever you want in your morning pages, but write something. Done day-after-day, morning pages can be a powerful tool in your journey to a more creative life.
  4. Drink. No, don’t get out the booze just yet. I’m talking about water. Drink some. I try to have at least two 8 oz glasses of water when I walk into the kitchen each morning. How does this shut up my Internal Critic? Dehydration is an energy buzzkill. Starting your day out with two glasses of water will be a great start to making sure you’re fully hydrated. Drink more throughout the day to make it a guarantee.
  5. Inspirational Reading. For me, a few minutes reading Steven Covey or Julia Cameron or Martha Beck makes all the difference in my day. Look, I’m on this path of creating my own stuff for a reason. I want to make my life — and the lives of the people around me and of those who interact with me through my business — better. It’s a tall order. I can’t do it alone. My daughter is in college studying as a cello performance major. And guess what? They don’t put her in a room and say, “Ok, play the cello and then you’ll be ready for a symphony.” Nope. That’s not how it works. She has a professor who works with her and gives the specific lessons that address areas to help her improve. And she’s in an orchestra where she’s learning how to perform complicated pieces of music with other musicians. She takes classes on music theory. The way I see it, that’s the same kind of mission we have in front of us. We want to be continually growing as people and business owners. So that means we have to take the time to learn. Hiring a life coach or business coach is a great way to do that. However, if you don’t have the funds for that right now, buy a book. Or get one from the library. Whatever it takes, just find ways to be constantly learning and growing. You don’t have to read the whole book in one session either. My world changed when I found Audible and now I can get books and listen to chapters while I’m cleaning or gardening or whatever. But there’s something about reading words on the page so in addition to listening to audiobooks, I also take the time to read pages from a book (either digitally or on paper). This morning I read a couple of paragraphs from Martha Beck’s Finding Your North Star. Here’s an excerpt: “You probably don’t remember it, but ‘no’ was one of the most fabulous discovers of your childhood. Two-year-olds go absolutely crazy over this word. They use it constantly, loudly, fervently. We call this behavioral stage the ‘terrible twos’ because our job [as parents] is to socialize children, and socialization doesn’t work well when individuals run around screaming ‘no’ all the time. In fact, socialization basically consists of learning to say ‘yes’ to all cultural demands, whether you want to or not…Take your age and subtract two. That’s the number of years you’ve spent forcing yourself to say ‘yes’ when your essential self wanted to say ‘no’. If your environment was hostile to your true desires, you were forced to say ‘yes’ when you meant ‘no’ time after time after time, until you stopped even feeling your inner resistance. Your social self no longer knows what you want; it’s fully focused on forcing you to fit in. But your essential self cannot be corrupted. It knows ‘no,’ honey, and it will fight you like a trapped tiger—or a trapped two-year-old—every time you make a decision that takes you farther from your North Star.” Powerful words, right? And it was just what I needed to get my day started and my Internal Critic in check.
  6. Make a List. A friend recently recommended the app Teaux Deaux as a way to stay digitally on top of my “to do” list. Whether you go digital or old school pen and paper, the point is, create your list. Go ahead. Do it now. I’ll wait. List everything you want to get done today. Make it good and long if you’d like. Then go back through and circle or make a mark next to the ones that you have to get done. The essentials. Then be focused and get them done first. Tackle them like a defensive end after a running back with the ball. Then anything else you get done from your list today will be a bonus! And who doesn’t like bonuses!
Not only must we exercise our judgment...but we must exercise, period. Exercise clears the mind, steadies the emotions, alters not only our serotonin levels but also our perspective. - Julia Cameron Inspirational Quote

Also, don’t forget to say a little thank you to your Internal Critic. She has a role in your life; causes you to think through things a little more, um, critically. So she’s not entirely bad. She is, for sure, a bit of a worrywart. And if you let her have free range in your head, you can become paralyzed in fear, leading to day after day of inaction. I’ve been there before—like yesterday—and it’s not pretty. But take the steps above, even if it’s in the middle of your day, and you’ll find your Internal Critic can take her place in her rocking chair for a bit. Sure, she might still have a frown on her face—that’s kind of how she is. And then you’ll find yourself, like me, with some breathing room to tackle your wildest dreams!

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6 Responses to 6 Tips for Dealing With the Internal Critic

  1. I just LOVE this. Thank you for your honesty and strength. You are inspiring me to really go after my dreams! I never thought of how my inner critic romanticizes whatever I am not doing and remembers only the good parts of things past and have often said no to because they sucked the life out of me rather than energized me. Thank you also for the reminder that my inner critic is someone who can play a vital role in my well being if I know how to relate to her in a life affirming manner.

    • Thanks, Christine! I’m so glad you liked this post. I first read about learning to appreciate the inner critic from Cathy Yardley in her book Write Every Day. She talks about understanding our fears and learning to listen to the internal critic and then move on. I interviewed Cathy Yardley on the Namely Marly Podcast – it’s a great listen if you’re interested. High energy to you!

  2. Martha Beck is one of my favorites. I haven’t read her book(s), but it sounds like I should. And I’m getting more and more comfortable with “no”, which is really empowering. Who else is going to protect my time if I don’t?

  3. Hi, Marly! So glad to have found this post; you have know idea how much I needed to read this today. I took a journey similar to yours, trading my pencil skirt and high heels for yoga pants…a corporate job for the stay-at-home glamour, and eventually for blogging. Although my blog is on a steep growth trajectory (or so I’m told by smarter folks), my darn inner critic still takes me back to the “glory” days of world travel and a steady paycheck. And because I am currently in the middle of a big move across the country, and as a result have kinda slowed down my blogging activity, I have felt disconnected and more doubtful. For me, taking a little break is fine, but I would add to the tip list, “keep going!” Just keep going. Place one foot in front of the other, and soon you would have walked many more miles toward your goal. I guess I’m speaking of grit here, which is really something I need especially when feeling doubtful and lost. Did I just write all this in a comment?!! 🙂
    P.S. I listen to your podcast. Thank you for all the great work on that too! XO

  4. Needed this today. 🙂 Thank you so much for the inspiration. I also use and love Headspace. I am going to put some more of your tips into action! 🙂

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