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4 Blocks Draining Your Leadership Power: Part IV

Inner Critic (aka Gremlin)

This month, we’ll discuss the last of the Big 4 energy blocks. If you’re not achieving what you want to, it’s most likely one of these four that’s keeping you stuck. To recap, we looked at limiting beliefs - things that you accept about life, about yourself, about your world, or about the people in it, that limit you in some way; assumptions – expectations that, because something has happened in the past, it will happen again; and interpretations – opinions and judgments that you create about an event, situation, person, or experience and believe to be true.

It is now time to examine the last, but certainly not the least, of the big four energy blocks. *Drumroll please* The final block we’ll talk about -- the inner critic -- is the most difficult to overcome, because it’s the most personal and holds the most energy. Before you can embrace authentic leadership, you must recognize this block from within as it often becomes the prevailing message that people hear when they are experiencing stress.

This barrier is like a gremlin within every one of us: the inner critic. Freud called it the Superego; a psychological part of you that holds impossibly ambitious standards and criticizes "you" for failing. Most experts agree the inner critic forms in early childhood as a defensive response to an overwhelming world of expectations. For many, the inner critic takes on the voice of a critical parent or authoritative figure. In other words, we internalize perceived criticisms and spend much of our life spewing negativity.

You know that little voice in your head? That voice that tells you not to try, never to take a risk, always to take the safe road, and to compromise your life by playing small? That’s your inner critic, and the message is that you’re just not good enough to reach the summit of success. And if you remember the 80s cult-classic movie, just one drop of water, expose it to light, or feed it after midnight and the damn thing stops being cute, multiplies, and wreaks havoc on your life.

Regardless of any evidence to the contrary, the inner critic will continue to narrate moments when you are out of your comfort zone, feeling unsafe, or insecure, whispering: “It ain’t gonna happen.” This taunting, debilitating message bubbles up in many forms: “I’m not smart enough, experienced enough, and attractive enough.” It all comes back to a simple and quite vicious block: “I’m just not good enough to cut it.”

Your inner critic is highly personal. It is rooted deeply inside you and carries the most intense emotional charge of any of the blocks we’ve explored. Your inner critic thrives on fear. When you hear its whispers, your motivation to make any attempt at trying withers. You dread failing, feeling pain or being hurt, and being embarrassed. You can even be scared of succeeding if the inner critic convinces you that you’ll fail eventually.

There are two ways to know when your inner critic is at work: 1. It may address you directly (“You are going to fail.”) 2. The tone of its message has an air of finality. So what are some typical gremlin statements? Do you hear any of these statements from your own inner critic?

I’m not effective.

You're a failure (and you always will be).

Who am I kidding, here?

You're going to blow it (and you always will).

I’m not smart enough to really do this job right.

I don’t have enough experience.

You're not up for it (and you never will be).

I don’t deserve great success.

They are going to find out I am a fake.

DIGGING DEEPER: Where do you think these thoughts are getting in your way? Where might you have some unrealistic expectations of yourself? What might your inner critic be trying to protect you from?

Being aware of your inner critic is the first step towards lessening its power. Once you realize that your inner critic exists, give it an identity. Name it – and then, if you’d like, make it even more real by drawing it, sculpting it, or seeing it in your mind – whatever works for you. Don’t forget, your gremlin never dines alone, so it will often have accompanying critic messages that support the overarching theme. In doing this, you discover that the inner critic is only a part of who you are, not your whole identity. By seeing it in objective terms, you sap some of its strength. Excavating your inner critic can be quite involved and is most effective when you are guided by a certified professional coach.

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