Working Woman's Guide to .... Befriending Your Inner Critic

Do you want your inner critic to have less power over your life and leadership?

Do you have a powerful, critical voice that shows up and makes you doubt your brilliance? Filling your head with reasons why you can’t do something, what might go wrong, how you could spectacularly fail? Is this you? If it is, you are in good company!

One of our clients told us recently that she was analysing all the 360 data from a leadership development program – where participants receive feedback from those they manager, their peers and industry stakeholders and from their boss, and score themselves against various criteria. She noticed a striking pattern. Consistently all the women scored themselves lower than their colleagues scored them.

This is a stark illustration of the confidence gap between how we as women see ourselves, and how others see us and the potential we could offer into the world.

So why is this? There are multiple reasons and one of the biggies that we want to talk about today is our inner critic. Our belief at Catalyst Colletcive is that our inner critic plays a huge role in holding us back.

Katy writes…

I was at a meeting recently where there was a great shiny new opportunity …. I could see the potential and that what I had to offer would be relevant to what was being discussed.

And yet I held back and left the meeting without saying anything.

I reflected afterwards on why, and what was happening inside me that meant I didn’t step up on that occasion.

Here is the dialogue that was in my head:

IC: ‘You’re not good enough for that work … This isn’t for you… There’s more experienced people who could do this better...’

IM: ‘No actually I can do this, it’s a really exciting opportunity and I’m in the room right now, so I’m going to go for it! I‘m going to say something about my idea!’

IC: ‘But you’re not ready …. You’re not sure yet what to say …. It would come out wrong if you said it now … It won’t be clear or impressive if you say it now … how about you think about it a bit more and then can come back to them ….. and anyway the moment has passed and we’ve moved on already….’

Do you recognise this kind of dialogue in your own head?

How often does this kind of inner dialogue go on for you – every day? When you are stretching yourself in new directions?

We all have an inner dialogue. This consists of an inner critic voice who points out all the negatives and risks, (we've labelled it as 'IC' in the dialogue above) and an inner mentor voice who supports and encourages us (labelled as 'IM' above). It’s completely normal and human to have these voices. BUT, if we let it, the inner critic voice can be so loud, dominant or powerful, that it can really hold us back, as you saw in Katy's example.

For hundreds of years women have been conditioned by society to stay safe by ‘fitting in’. Our inner critic voice played an important role in this by powerfully and loudly making us aware of anything which might make us stand out. We now have different choices about how much we need to fit in – but our conditioning hasn’t quite caught up and our overly loud inner critic voice remains.


What does the inner critic sound like?

There are lots of different ways to label the inner critic voice – we’ve identified five below:

  1. Perfectionist voice, with its unreasonably high standards and fears of how we are received by others

  2. Rule Book voice, keep us safe and protects us from harm by sticking to rules

  3. Work Hard voice, fears that we will fail unless we keep driving ourselves hard

  4. Stay Small voice, worries we’ll embarrass ourselves if we step up

  5. Conformer voice, makes sure we stay safe by fitting in


How do we deal with our inner critic ?

Knowing how our inner critic shows up is the first step to befriending it.

When you notice your inner critic and notice its intention is to keep you safe, you can say to the voice: ‘Thank you, I hear you and I’ve got this’.

You can tune into your inner mentor. Our inner mentor is the voice inside us that encourages and supports us – she is the wisest, most compassionate, most free version of ourselves. By learning to dial up her voice we can access her wisdom more often, and this helps us quieten our inner critic voice.

We’ll share more practical tips about hearing your inner mentor more loudly in next month’s blog – sign up at to be first to receive it.


Practical experiment:

So we invite you to experiment with us and tune into the presence of your inner mentor and inner critic this week.

Every day reflect back on your day and connect with your inner dialogue (the conversation inside your head).

  • What was the tone of the dialogue? What kind of words did you hear? What times and places were these most noticeable? Can you sense what that impact was? How did you think and feel in response to this dialogue….

  • Can you recognise the inner critic present with you today?

  • Which, if any, of the inner critic voices were most present for you? What is the impact of this in your life?

  • Can you recognise the inner mentor present with you today? What wisdom did she offer you?

Note down your answers. We invite you to do this for a week and see what patterns you notice.


Coming soon:

 ‘Confidence Cocktail’ is our powerful online program to equip busy professional women like you to close your confidence gap, so you can lead at your best. We do the inner work with your inner critic and your inner mentor, and we resource you with practical strategies to deal with fear, rumination and increase your self-compassion. It’s incredibly powerful stuff, it’s all online and includes video-based modules to access at your own pace and location, as well as some live calls direct with us. The program is priced at £399 per person, so it’s super accessible. We also offer group pricing for whole teams. Confidence Cocktail will be available again soon.

Sign up at to be the first to hear about future programs, as well as receiving monthly free tips and resources straight to your inbox.

Further resources:

Freedom from Your Inner Critic: A Self Therapy Approach, Jan Early and Bonnie Weiss

Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself: 40 Ways to Transform Your Inner Critic and Your Life, Lori Deschene

Playing Big, Tara Mohr

Make Peace with Your Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You From Your Inner Critic, Mark Coleman