Are you your own harshest critic?

Posted on: January 8, 2018

I remember when I was learning to be a mediator my mentor, Richard, gave me this advice:

You need to be your own harshest critic and your own best friend”.

My immediate response to this was “I know how to be my own harshest critic!” 

And at that point I realised I had no clue how to be my own best friend.

Now that I coach women leaders I see I was not alone in this.  I work with women who appear confident and poised on the outside yet inside they are extremely hard on themselves.

Why does this matter?  The fact is if all you hear is a constant stream of harsh criticism, then it is difficult to flourish and give of your best.   Sadly, the consequence can be that you hesitate over opportunities rather than confidently stepping forward and you end up being passed over as a result.

Here are my tips for getting your inner critic under control:

Pay attention to your internal chatter. Do you have a voice in your head that says: “You were rubbish” or “You’ll never be good enough!”  If so, learn how to identify that negative inner voice and hear what it is saying to you. This gives you a choice whether to believe it and let it run the show or to counteract it with a more positive and realistic voice. If someone else spoke to you like that would you let them get away with it?

Accept compliments from others: If someone pays you a genuine compliment – accept it!  All too often I see women shrugging off a compliment, yet seizing on criticism and taking it to heart, whether it’s valid or not.   A practice I’ve done for years is to keep a file of compliments people have given me.  I’ll periodically read it and this gives me a lift and reminds me of all the great things about myself I have forgotten.

Give yourself compliments: Find ways to develop your “inner best friend” muscle. After a session with a client I’ll take a few minutes to write down both what I could have done better and what went well. The positives column is always longer than the ideas for improvement, yet it’s only by writing it down that I can see this. Take time to remind yourself of what you do well and might be taking for granted about yourself.

What tips do you have for developing your “inner best friend”? I’d love to hear them.