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How to tackle self-doubt and silence the inner critic

Tip Published Wednesday 27 September 2017
Viv Fantin is an accredited personal coach who works with people who want to identify, set, and achieve realistic goals.

Your negative thoughts are not reality

Differentiate your inner critic and be aware of how much airtime your critic is getting

Challenge your inner-critic and find evidence to support or oppose your negative thoughts

Next Act Coaching's Viv Fantin shares advice on silencing the inner critic

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” - Sylvia Plath

What story do you tell yourself, about yourself, over and over? Maybe that other people are better than you, more clever and creative than you or that you’re no good at your job or you’re a bad friend. Chances are you’ve told yourself this story for such a long period of time that it feels like the stylus is stuck on the worst song of a really crap album. And it’s hung around for so long, it feels like the truth.

The story remains and sometimes you have to consciously resist the critical voice in your head that keeps perpetuating the same old tale. When the inner critic has won the toss, it can present as crippling self-doubt.

So, what shall we call that little sucker that sits on your right shoulder, tormenting and telling you you’re not good enough or smart enough? Some people call it ‘the gremlin’. I call it my ‘inner critic’.

I used to believe my thoughts. After all, they were my thoughts, coming from my brain. If I couldn’t believe those thoughts, what could I believe? So, if my inner critic said something, I paid serious attention.

It was during a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course I did around 10 years ago (to counter said burnout) that I learned something very profound. Our thoughts are not our reality. To me this was nothing short of a radical proposition. I had spent my entire adult life up to that point believing every single thought that popped into my head. And with this knowledge and newfound perspective, I found ways to silence the inner critic and lead a more peaceful life.

Self-doubt is a tricky emotional state, but with awareness and a change of perspective, can be reduced.

Here are five things you can do to silence your inner critic:

1. Be aware of your inner critic

Don’t judge it but know that it exists and make the distinction between ‘your’ thoughts and the critical voice in your head that is constantly trying to shut things down on your behalf. Negative self-talk is our own language but it comes from the messages we were given in childhood, that have been reinforced over time.

2. Understand what your inner critic is trying to do.

Is it trying to stop you from getting hurt or being embarrassed in front of others? Is it protecting you from putting yourself out there so you won’t fail? Our comfort zone is comfortable for a reason. But there are lessons to be learned, even from failures. So, the question to ask yourself is this: Do you want to stay stuck or move forward, even with the innate risk that things may not turn out as planned??

3. Notice how much airtime your inner critic is getting

Allow positive thoughts to get a good balance of airtime and try to replace negative thoughts with more accurate ones. Which leads to…

4. Finally, throw down the gauntlet and challenge your inner critic

This means looking for evidence that the voice in your head is actually right. Where is the hard proof that you can’t achieve what you want to achieve? Where is the proof that you lack talent in a particular area? Can you find the evidence to back up your inner critic?

5. Can you recognise the futility of worry?

Marketing guru Seth Godin often says that worry is “experiencing failure in advance over and over again.” How much space is worry occupying in your brain? Is it helping or hindering?

I use this trick when the inner critic is trying to dominate my thoughts and dictate my actions. I try and imagine saying what my inner critic says to me to a really close friend. “Yeah, you’re really shit at that. Not talented at all. You’d better give it up”. I mean really! You just wouldn’t say that. Would you?

Remember, the story in your head isn’t really the full picture. If your mental chatter is causing distress and robbing you of happiness and opportunities, consider that it’s hit its expiry date. It might be time to change the record.

Coach Viv XO

Want to go deeper? Links to check out:

Psychology Today

Elizabeth Gilbert's Ted Talk

About Viv

Viv Fantin is an accredited personal coach who works with people who want to identify, set, and achieve realistic goals. She has seen all kinds of crazy as a music and festival publicist. Now in her second act, she is passionate about stress management and is on the never-ending quest to find the perfect work–life balance. She loves chai tea, music, reading and sitting in a dark cinema on a hot day.

For more info visit or Next Act Coaching on Facebook