Does your inner critic prevent you from Speaking in Public assertively?
When you want to speak up in meetings do you have a little voice telling you people will judge you or find you stupid or incompetent?
Or maybe you feel like everyone else has something of value to say except you?
The hundreds of women and men I’ve been coaching over the past 10 years have come to me precisely because their inner critic stops them from expressing themselves confidently and impactfully.
Often my clients tell me they suffer from the impostor syndrome and they can’t express their opinion convincingly because they’re afraid of not living up to other people’s (and their own) expectations. In fact, the impostor syndrome is a symptom of the inner critic.
Let’s, therefore, delve a bit deeper to understand what your inner critic really is.
It’s the voice telling you things like: “You’re stupid”, “Other people know how to do it better than you”, “How dare you say that?”, “Who do you think you are to be talking like that?”
It’s important to understand that your inner critic is telling you those things because it’s scared. It has bad memories from the past, probably from childhood, and it’s trying to protect you from experiencing those unpleasant, even traumatic, situations again.
Maybe it’s afraid that when you express your opinion, people will laugh at you. That you have nothing important to say or you might even upset someone you value. Sometimes it might tell you that if your idea is actually carried out, it won’t be as good as you thought it was.
I’ve noticed that clients who have had a bad experience Speaking in Public have a strong inner critic telling them that they’ll just make a fool of themselves if they try to speak in front of an audience again. This then causes them to blush, tremble, forget their words, sweat or stutter.
I’ve also observed that clients who were made fun of as children or told they were stupid by family members or teachers, find it extremely difficult to speak up spontaneously in meetings or even in social gatherings.
The most successful of people are affected by that inner critic. Usually, they manage to cover it up but they become uncomfortable as soon as they’re in the spotlight. Sometimes it gives them the drive to work hard, to try to prove to their boss (and themselves) that they’re not an impostor, but it can also cause them to put too much pressure on themselves, maybe even leading to a burnout.
So what can we do about our inner critic?
The temptation is to tell it to shut up and go away. This won’t work, though, it just causes it to scream out even louder and make us feel even worse in ourselves. Remember, it’s the part of us that’s scared and wants to protect us from living a bad experience again. So, it needs to be listened to, to be understood. The solution, therefore, is to quieten the voice, not banish it.
Here are 3 useful tips on how to quieten your inner critic:
- Refer to it as “my inner critic” rather than “I”. For example, rather than saying to yourself: “I’m scared of speaking in front of 80 people in next week’s panel”, say instead: “My inner critic is freaking out about speaking in front of 80 people in next week’s panel!”
In this way, you separate yourself from your inner critic and reinforce that it’s just one voice amongst many others that talk to you.
- Give it a name to personify it. You could choose a name like Cruella, Slave Driver, Darth Vader, or otherwise a first name, maybe one you don’t particularly like. This will help you to remember that your inner critic isn’t the core of you, it’s just one voice with its own personality and pathology. Each time you hear it talking, step back, observe what it’s saying and notice how nonsensical, even ridiculous it is. You might even be able to laugh at the absurdity of what it’s saying!
- Be compassionate towards your inner critic’s motives. Learn to question and understand what danger it’s trying to protect you from. Once you’ve made your inner critic into a character with a name, you can more easily talk to it in order to understand its intentions and motivations. After you’ve given it listening time, you can then reassure by saying something like: “Thanks for your feedback but I can handle this just fine!”.
My inner critic (Miranda from The Devil Wears Prada) tells me: don’t publish this article, no one will be interested in it!! I listened to Miranda’s arguments, understood that she’s trying to protect me from making a fool of myself, and reassured her that I know my subject well enough to be able to share useful tips with my readers and offer them tools to help them overcome their own self-doubts.
How about your inner critic? What’s it trying to tell you? How do you quieten it?
Would you like to learn more about how my coaching approach can help you overcome your self-doubts and gain greater fulfillment in your life and career?
Please do get in touch for a free 20-minute phone appointment to discuss your needs. I’ll describe in more detail my specific coaching approach.
Let’s work together to release your inner voice!