Is Your Inner Critic Holding You Back?

As you start to get into action to make your goals a reality do you sometimes hear a little voice in your head judging, questioning or even doubting your ability to follow through and have the success you planned?

Welcome to the world of the inner critic.

We all have one and in fact they are probably the voice we recognize the most since they have been around so long. The alarming thing about our inner critic is that we let it get away with appalling behavior! Would you say those things that you say to yourself to any one else? Imagine if your friend said ‘you should give up this business idea, you can’t run a business, go back and get a real job” or “you can’t charge that! What gives you the audacity to think you are worth that much?” Chances are you wouldn’t remain friends for long.

Yet we put up with this shabby behavior from ourselves! I had a very bad case of this self-sabotage recently when I launched my new newsletter. My inner voice was hectoring me with a wide range of unsupportive and critical thoughts as I went to sleep the night before the big launch. It was then that I recognized my destructive pattern. Lying in bed, my inner critic was telling me “You are crazy to launch a new business” and “you should just stay doing what you are doing – it’s so easy”. And then “WOW!” I recognized this pattern from a few years ago when I left corporate to set up my own business – yes, the words were slightly different but the big idea was the same – which was “don’t change” and “keep playing small”.

I felt grateful that I caught it – yet, surprised that I still had it, after all aren’t I a Coach, helping people with their inner critics?

So why did this voice come and haunt me that night? And why does it come into your mind as you stretch out to reach your goals?

The easy answer is that your inner critic is trying to protect you as you stretch and change. So your subsconscious mind kicks into overdrive and sends you these unhelpful thoughts, which it hopes will protect you from harming yourself.

The good news is that we can override our subconscious and choose new thoughts that will help us to get what we want. Let’s look quickly at a little neuroscience to understand how this all happens.

Let’s get Brainy!

The brain is an amazing connection machine taking in all new information milli-second by milli-second since we were born. It then connects the new information  in the long term memory with what is already there. It does this to save energy (by clearing it from our thinking brain) and to allow relatively easy retrieval of new information by connecting it to a strong neural pathway.

Neural pathways are essentially thoughts. They are formed by the little electrical impulses we have when we think . When we think the same thought over and over again that neural pathway gets stronger and deeper. Thus it becomes the easiest piece in your brain to connect with.

I like to think of new neural pathways (new thoughts, new beliefs, a new goal) like a little, tiny country lane. Just being formed in the grass as you walk on it for the first time. Deeper, stronger neural pathways (thoughts you may keep repeating to yourself over and over again – yes, like the inner critic tirade) are more like the M1 – a wide, concrete solid motorway.

When we are attempting something new (getting ready for a sales meeting, about to launch a new newsletter, launch a new product) our thinking about the event will be naturally drawn to the biggest neural pathway. If you have a habit of beating yourself up or a repetitive thought that you know holds you back, this is the thinking that will win through. It wins because it is the strongest, deepest thought you have about that subject. And in most cases we let this happen quite unconsciously!

The good news is that we can change this. We can control our inner critic and start to have an ‘inner supporter’ instead! Imagine that! Imagine having your little voice say things like “you are great at sales”, ‘ people will love your new product’ or ‘ you have been successful before, you can do it this time”. What a difference that would make!

The way to do this is to make those little neural pathways that are like a freshly trodden path through the grass into strong and deep pathways like a huge motorway.

Try this simple process:

  1. Choose A Supportive Thought
  2. Write it Down
  3. Put it somewhere visible
  4. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

The key with this is to repeat these thoughts frequently. You want to create a very strong and deep neural pathway so this new, supportive thought is the one that pops into your mind unconsciously.

One more thing you need to do is to observe your thinking. We can control our thinking and the first step to doing this is to actually notice what we think! Slow down, be mindful and observe what you think.

Then when you do notice your inner critic speaking, say ‘thanks for sharing’ and then replace that thought with your new supportive thought.

These will both take practice until they feel natural and easy to do. Persevere – it will make all the difference when you start stretching out to reach your goals.


About the Author: Wendy Kerr is an expert in Corporate Crossovers® –  women who have left corporate careers to start their own businesses. Her company, Corporate Crossovers®, offers coaching, mentoring and resources to enable these women to thrive in their businesses and their lives. Every month she offers free Momentum Masterclasses over the phone with relevant topics to give you a burst of momentum for your business!


Wendy has been coaching for over nine years and has worked with hundreds of clients to help them achieve their goals.  Before she became a Corporate Crossover herself, she spent 20 years in corporate, including as General Manager of high profile internet start-ups, and and marketing global brands including Apple, Smirnoff, Tia Maria and Colgate.


Through her company, Corporate Crossovers®,Wendy works with women business owners to help them get more focus in their business, feel more in control of their work and to make more income. For more information, and your free e-book to “Discover the Four Blocks that Stop You From Earning What You Used To and How to Overcome Them ”, visit



Wendy Kerr

Director for The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Auckland University.The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is the hub for the development and promotion of innovation, commercialisation and entrepreneurial activities within the University.We create experiential programmes, workshops and events to unleash the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, to transform the mindsets of our students and staff to support the growth of New Zealand as a prosperous and creative nation.

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


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