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3 Steps to Turn Your Inner Critic Into Your Inner Coach

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Everyone has one – a critical voice in your head that talks to you in a way you would never allow anyone else to. Inner critics cause stress, make you feel bad about your performance, damage your self-esteem and generally erode your confidence. They have usually developed over time as you attach beliefs about yourself to them and then subconsciously look for evidence to support those views. 

How do they affect your work performance?

They can be especially damaging to your career development and your approach to change, as they tend to become more vocal when you are thinking of stepping outside your comfort zone. If you feel your inner critic is holding you back at work you may feel that you are not fulfilling your potential or stretching yourself.

What can you do?

Well, understanding and accepting your critic can be a good start. You are never going to eradicate them and they do actually serve a purpose. They want to protect you from possible hurt or failure. If you can understand that your inner critic is using every tactic under the sun to get you to avoid doing what you fear then you can make choices about whether you engage with it or not.

To make this easier you can follow these steps:

Step 1

Give your inner critic a name so you can begin to detach from seeing it as your voice. This detachment allows you to see that what the inner critic is saying is not your true thoughts but is instead your early warning system kicking in.

 Step 2

Be grateful. You can start to see the inner critic as a tool that can be helpful. All the things your critic is throwing at you could be things that might happen. Start to respond to the critic’s voice by thanking her for her contribution which highlights what could go wrong. Remind yourself you have already anticipated those things and you feel confident everything will be ok. Of course, this will require mental discipline and practice. Like any habit it will take time and perseverance to quieten your critic’s voice.

Step 3

Start to develop your inner coach simultaneously by:

  • Being the voice of reason. If your inner critic says ‘but people will laugh at you’ counter it with hard evidence – ‘they never have before’ or ‘I’ve done my preparation and know what I’m talking about, there is no reason for them to laugh at my idea’.
  • Reaching out with compassion to yourself. When your inner critic is being very vocal it’s often a sign you are feeling vulnerable. Acknowledge this and allow yourself to experience and sit with that feeling whilst reminding yourself all will be well.

So say goodbye to your inner critic and focus your energy on developing and nurturing your inner coach. Imagine your own personal cheerleader, supporting and motivating you when things are tough. They will help you develop your career, and can be your secret weapon for success at work.

About the author: Sarah Archer runs a successful coaching practice ( specialising in career change and confidence at work. She often appears as a career expert for Guardian Careers live Q&As, and writes on careers for various sites. She holds an MSc in Career Coaching (Distinction) and is a Fellow of the CIPD. Connect with her on Twitter @careertreetips or by email You can also get career updates at

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Developing your Inner Coach

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