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Dealing with Your Inner Critic — Handling the Tough Self-Conversations

Dealing with Your Inner Critic — Handling the Tough Self-Conversations

The hardest conversations are the ones you have with yourself. If you could listen to the conversations people have within themselves, you would be shocked. Most people today probably look at their leaders and wonder if they ever doubt themselves. Leaders doubt themselves all the time and they take it hard on themselves too. For example, a guy who leads a global company walks in the room and you can immediately feel his presence. He is full of energy, ready to tackle anything that stands in the way of their mission. It is hard to imagine him doubting himself at any one time yet it happens. If anything catches him by surprise, he might think, “You are smart, you should have seen this coming.” He berates himself after giving a keynote or after a customer turns down his proposal. So many questions linger in his mind making him doubt himself asking himself all the aching questions: “What’s wrong with you?” “Are you not smart enough?” “Is that all you could come up with? Lousy talk!”

Another leader, Dominique, an executive at a European company, has the same inspiring confidence and critical inner soliloquy. Once she enters a room full of people, they stop talking, turn and all their attention to her. These people look up to her with admiration, not fear, for she is a different force of nature. At the end of the day, her team is not confused about who makes the final calls and she hears them out. Despite her hard earned and admirable stature, she is pulled down by an inner voice that doubts every move she makes. Her team talks to her with respect but how she talks to herself is far from it. “You are a fraud,” she sometimes thinks. “Why should these people listen to you?” “Why didn’t you have more to offer?”

For these two leaders and other top executives, the most difficult conversations are the ones they have with themselves. They have no problem tackling any conversation with their colleagues or clients. They easily take them apart seeing them as just part of the job. They don’t shy away from addressing anything including other people’s issues.

These top executives might find it easy to deal with topics that most people find stressful and uncomfortable, but they struggle with how they talk to themselves.

The negative voice in the head wants something. It demands to be heard and it needs a bit of friendly reassurance and compassion. When you adequately provide these instead of silencing or denying that inner voice to be heard, the conversations within yourself start to get better.

You know that the best thing to do is not to lecture a person, but to have a dialogue with them. Take this up with your inner voice, too. Give yourself another chance and forgive small mistakes. It is not all the time you will hit it out of the park; sometimes you might miss the mark, but it is okay. Focus on the present moment and let your experience see you through. At one time in their lives, people feel like they are a fraud and they don’t deserve respect and attention from other people. However, this is normal just breathe and get on with it.

Conversations are made difficult by the desire to avoid them and the way we tend to lose it when we have them. Practice talking to yourself like you do with others and remember practice makes powerful.


Helena Demuynck is Founding Partner of Konsensus Leadership Coaching & Development and oxygen4leadership. Both platforms offer international expertise in developing Leadership Development Trails for Senior Leadership Teams and Executives in global organizations. She is a seasoned corporate leadership facilitator and a professional authentic leadership coach with over 25 years of experience. She facilitates powerful workshops that develop leaders at some of the world’s largest enterprises, including EY, Johnson&Johnson, Swift, Aleris, and Pepsico

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