Honey, Don’t Argue with Your Inner Critic

By April 17, 2012 8 Comments

Teaching a workshop this weekend, I was reminded of a very important truth:

It is *not* a good idea to argue with your inner critic.

Because here’s the thing: if you are arguing, you’ve already lost. The critic is happy to argue with you till the cows come home, because if you are busy arguing with it, you are not doing the things your critic is trying to prevent you from doing: Putting your voice out there. Breaking the mold of your limiting beliefs about yourself. Sharing your voice. Risking failure to fulfill your big dreams.

The critic is like one of those people in your life who you know that if you’ve gotten sucked into the argument with them – you’ve already lost. I know you’ve got a few of those peeps in your life. The critic is the same way. When we get sucked into arguing with it, we’ve already gone down the rabbit hole.

You can’t win arguing with someone who doesn’t respect you and isn’t listening to you, and the critic is the same way.

Plus, have you noticed how the critic will keep producing new reasons, one after the other, about why you shouldn’t do whatever it is you dream of doing?

It might start by saying:

You don’t have the time to write the book right now.

But when you knock down that excuse and carve out the time, it will say

You don’t have the right room to do write in. You need a good space.

And when you finally create the writing corner in your home, it will say

You aren’t good at this. It’s too late. You needed to become a writer earlier.

And if you can get rid of that one, it will say

Too many other people have written about this same topic. There is no market for it.

And if you get over that it will say

This is an indulgence. This is selfish. This is a time when other people need you too much for you to be doing this.

And if you can get rid of that one, it will come up with something else, and something else, and something else.

Meditation teacher Sylvia Boorstein describes our minds as like popcorn machines – they keep popping off new thoughts – true or untrue – because that is simply how the mind functions.

The inner critic is the same way, which is to say, the voice of fear (of failure, of change) within us is the same way.

When it is determined to prevent you from leaving your comfort zone, it will cycle through excuses like someone flipping through a Roledex.

A = This is arrogant of you.
B = You are too busy.
C = There is too much competition.
D = You lack the self-discipline.
E = You need more education first.
F = You are a fraud.
G = It’s not good enough.
H = It won’t make you happy anyway.
I = It’s impossible.
J = People are going to judge this harshly.
K= The kids will be deprived if you do this.
L = You are too late. You needed to start earlier.
M= Wanting this is materialistic.
N = No one cares about this. No one will listen.
O = This is the wrong order to do things in. Better do x, y, and z before you go for this.
P = You are unprepared. Better do more preparation first.
Q = Doing great work quietly is enough. No need to speak up or be aggressive. Just wait.
R = You need more financial resources before you can do this.
S = You don’t have the right space to do this in. Reorganize your house to create an office first.
T = You don’t have the right tools. Buy special pens instead of writing, shop for a new computer before launching the business, get the perfect website designed before telling anyone you are in business.
U = Your voice is not unique. Everyone’s doing this.
V = If you promote yourself in that way, people will think you are vain.
W = You need the perfect website before you can start (fill in the blank: seeing clients, running your business, etc.)
X = You need more experience first.
Y = You are too young. No one will take you seriously, especially not people older than you.
Z = Well, maybe your critic has nothing to say with z.

You might picture your critic as flipping through a Roledex, each card a new excuse to try on you. Or maybe it’s a deck of cards, and each time you start to leave your comfort zone, the critic draws a new one.

The inner critic will just keep going, with one argument after another. It doesn’t worry too much about choosing arguments with any relationship to reality, it’s just looking for one’s that will cause you a big “ouch!” or “ack! that would be terrible!” or “oooh, good point….” and cause you to send yourself right back into your familiar status quo.

If your plan is to argue away each argument it shows you, you will never finish the argument. The critic will keep you stuck at the gate – arguing with the gatekeeper, and never able to actually get on that plane that is going where you want to go.

Do you notice an area in your life when your critic, or your fears are just cycling through one excuse after another? I’d love to hear about that if so.

So, what to do?

1. Notice. Notice when your inner critic is talking to you, and label it as such. Use this list of 7 qualities of the inner critic’s voice to help you recognize when your critic is speaking up.

2. Name the critic when you hear it. This is as simple as inwardly saying, “Oh, I”m hearing my inner critic talking now. Hi, inner critic.”

3. In your own way, wave hello to it. Blow it a kiss. Acknowledge it’s voice. Say, “Thank you so much for your input, but I’ve got this one covered.”

Move forward from the part of you that is desire, dreams, longing, aspiration, impulse to self-realization.

Welcome the part of you that is petrified of failure as your traveling companion, not as the one steering the ship.

Just one passenger onboard. A hysterical, overreactive, afraid one always pacing about and predicting disaster and crying salt water tears of worry onto the deck.

She isn’t going anywhere, but her hysterics do not need to direct the course of journey.

p.s. I talked with Tamarisk about connection – to self, to others, to spirit – at her blog HERE. Come visit.



Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Linda Burke says:

    What a wonderful entry! Thank you for putting it just this way — I really needed this and will remember this as I move forward to publish the book that I am compelled to write! Thank you so much for living your life on purpose!!!

  • Nina says:

    thank you so much for these words. Your emails always make me feel better and I love the way you write, it really speaks to me. I have my final exams in two days and I am beyond nervous since I have failed at one exam last time. So I will try to heed your advice and wise words and really step up and do this for myself and not listen to the anxious voice inside my head.
    Thank you and keep up the great work,

  • Barbara says:

    thank you so much for this and for so much good inspiration here. My inner critic is constantly talking to me and I am just starting to realize, that she´s not me.

  • Prime says:

    Thank you so much for this post. For years, I listened too much to my inner critic. In fact those things that you listed – “you are not good enough”, you are not ready, your voice is not unique, no one cares etc…- I heard all those things not from other people but from my inner critic. it took me years to finally let go of my inner critic and went forth to create what I always wanted to do -an online publication for solo female travelers. that’s it. I’m now a mediapreneur.

  • Lori says:

    Hi Tara,
    Your posts are always so apropos! I’ve referenced you and them on my new blog a couple of times. I loved your a-z list and think that it’s a great fit and resource for the work I’m doing. I hope that’s okay?
    Thanks for all the good work you do and for enhancing the lives of your readers.

  • […] Mohr taught me that the voice that tells me “Best not bother” is my inner critic. Per her advice, I’ve named my inner critic. His name is Karl. He is old, portly, and bald, and he thinks he […]

  • Nancy Lamb says:

    Hi Tara,
    I came to you from a friend’s comment on FB. I’ve got to say you hit the right message. As I read your article I came to see my inner critic as I did my worrisome Mom. I’d think her worries were overblown and about nothing. You know how that goes? The troublesome teen wants permission to do something and Mom frets that it’s dangerous, but the teen is adamant!

    Somehow – my IC is really the voice of my Mom. Oh, boy did we fight — and more often than not, she won. Her logic put fear into me and that stopped me dead in many tracks. Her words: What makes you think you can do that? You can’t do that! You aren’t skilled enough! Why do you think you can do that?

    All those comments and questions would discourage me from taking on some risk — or I’d fail anyway because the haunting words put fear in my heart. What if I’m just not good enough became I’m not good enough or I’m not ready or I’ll fail…..

    Because I literally heard them from certain people who were important to me, each failure made their words sink in deeper.

    I LOVE YOUR ARTICLE ! I’m working with women who have decided it is time to overcome the torments from their past. I will be sharing your blog with them because its so much a part of the healing process.
    Nancy Lamb
    Health and Life Coach
    Website Designer

  • Heather says:

    I feel like this article is speaking directly to me. Thank you for posting it. I’m pretty sure I’ll be reading and re-reading this to myself again and again.

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