The Inner Critic – A Success Story

That dreaded Inner Critic.

We all have one. That little voice in your head. That whisper in your ear. That moment of hesitation.

We know we shouldn’t listen to it, yet for some of us it remains as persistent as our shadow on a sunny day. Always there. Not stopping you from going about your day but never completely gone either.

What if we had the ability to lessen those moments of self-doubt that get triggered when our Inner Critic decides to get a little louder? What if we were able to replace those seeds of doubt with feelings of confidence and courage?

I want to share a story of a woman who was able to do just that. For the purposes of this story we’ll call her Anne. Anne is a wonderful person with a heart of gold. She doesn’t have magical powers. She doesn’t have an above average IQ, or vast amounts of money or limitless power and influence. She’s a happily average person living her life. Yet Anne always had that feeling she could be doing so much more. She wanted to be doing so much more.

Anne had a very strong start in her career after she graduated college. She got good grades, worked harder than most and had a job offer before she even graduated. In the first five years of her career she was outpacing her contemporaries and kept getting all the best assignments and projects.

Then she got promoted. That’s when things started to change for her. While Anne had the credibility to get promoted, she was lacking the confidence that would help her continue on that strong path she had started. She was suddenly thrust into all kinds of new situations she wasn’t sure how to handle. She had new decisions to make and new problems to solve. But she never asked for help. Anne just quietly kept figuring things out as she went.

The promotions kept coming but her confidence never caught up with her career. She struggled with her Inner Critic recounting all the mistakes she had made in the past. She would focus on all the opportunities she missed out on, or things she could have done differently. Those thoughts morphed into a belief that she wasn’t quite good enough to be where she was; that she wasn’t quite smart enough to tackle all the problems she was assigned and she wasn’t quite clever enough to navigate the increasing level of politics she was experiencing.

After a really hard day Anne was having a much needed martini with a colleague and she finally decided to confide in her about the things she had been struggling with all these years. Needless to say her colleague was shocked. Anne never let an ounce of her self-doubt show when she was in the office.
As they were talking, Anne’s colleague asked her several compelling questions that really stuck with her. She asked Anne to share what her inner voice would say during her biggest moments of self-doubt and they talked about what triggered them and why. They talked about her moments of low self-confidence, trying to figure out which were triggered by a lack of skill, and which were triggered as part of an emotional response. Together they built a plan for how Anne could work to close a few skill gaps she had and what successes she could draw on to reframe her emotional responses.

This newfound way of dissecting and analyzing her Inner Critic was a total game changer for Anne. She’d never thought of things in those terms and never really understood how much her Inner Critic was holding her back from reaching her fullest potential, and from the happiness that more confidence brings.

Her colleague happily stepped in as her ‘accountability partner’. While Anne’s Inner Critic hasn’t gone away, over time she has been able to lessen those moments of self-doubt and get back on track with greater ease.

It turns out Anne was right: Even though to everyone else she appeared successful, she could do more. And by thinking about things differently, putting in the effort to change and relying on a colleague for support, she went on to do so much more. If she can do it – you can too.

Women in Leadership
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