The Damn Inner CriticSep 01, 2021
Do you know the voice? That inner voice that tells you that you are going to fail? The one that ways you will be stuck as a product manager forever.
It’s the one in your head replaying that awkward conversation with senior leaders and spotlighting the confused/frustrated faces at your presentation.
Let’s talk about ways to combat this voice.
The voice that reminds you…
…you will never be a product leader
… just how disappointed you are with your lack of success in your career
… how unsatisfied you are with the person you’re becoming, or NOT becoming.
… just how stuck you are and how you’ll never break free.
That voice is your inner critic — negative or self-sabotaging self-talk — and we all have one.
But here’s the thing…
The most dangerous thing about being held captive by your inner critic is you end up wasting your life. You stay in a job where you are unhappy. You settle for working in an industry that does not inspire you.
When you’re paralyzed by fear and self-doubt because of all the nasty things your inner critic is saying, then life just wastes away.
You are meant for more. You’re just settling for less.
How can you silence this inner critic?
STRATEGY #1 — ACCEPT IT
Probably the number one mistake I see people make when dealing with their inner critic is believing they shouldn’t have to deal with it.
Everyone has an internal critic. Everyone. No matter how successful. It’s just part of being human.
Still, so many people make themselves wrong for having negative self-talk. Of course, that just fuels the fire of the inner critic.
So, the first strategy is to notice and accept the critic. Don’t make it right or wrong. Just notice and accept it’s trying to call the shots. Then move on to…
STRATEGY #2 — SHIFT PERSPECTIVE
Your internal critic is like a magician on stage. It shows you one skewed perspective. It designs its act so you believe the deception.
However, if you were to step to the side of the stage, you’d see how what seemed like magic is actually just a series of clever mind tricks.
That’s why one of my favorite strategies is to pull myself “out of the audience” of the inner critic and shift my perspective.
Here are a few perspective shifting questions I use to see through the illusion my inner critic is trying to create:
- What’s REALLY going on?
- Where are these thoughts really coming from?
- What would I tell my child if he was wrestling with the same self-talk?
As soon as you notice and accept the critic is talking, fire back with these questions. The critic will fight back for a while. But the better you get at asking and answering these questions, the sooner you’ll see through the critic’s act.
STRATEGY #3 — GET PHYSICAL
Perhaps one of the fastest, most reliable strategies to shut up the inner critic is to simply get moving. To change your physical state.
Smile, stand-up, scream, walk around, hold your shoulders back, exercise. Your emotions and your physiology work hand-in-hand. You can’t force a smile and not start feeling good.
Once you’ve shifted your physical and emotional state, it’s a great time to …
STRATEGY #4 — ASK BETTER QUESTIONS
I don’t know why, but it seems like the default questions the inner critic serves up are always negative…
- What if my product fails?
- What if I look for a job and can’t find. one?
These are all weak questions. They are worst case scenario questions. And they create a downward spiral of doubt.
What’s far more effective is to ask better questions. Questions like…
- What is my product succeeds?
- What if I stand up for myself and start to be seen as a leader?
- What if I land a promotion and a fabulous job?
Notice how much better those questions FEEL just reading them?
STRATEGY #5 — DO WHAT’S NEXT
Your inner critic loves to complicate things. One of the ways it does that is to get you thinking too far ahead. Your critic will try and get you focused on step eight, or eighteen, when you’ve not even taken step one.
That’s why one of the best ways to silence the inner critic is to take the very next small action you can take. And while this is not new advice, it is timeless.
Do the smallest thing you can possibly do right now that moves you forward. Then, do the next thing. Then the next. One step at a time. Over and over.
You deserve to do what you love in product management. You deserve to wake up every day inspired about the work you do. You deserve to be a role model to your children on how to enjoy work. If you are tired of the inner critic, let me off you a ‘what’s next suggestion’.
My mission is to help product managers level-up and love what they do. My clients all start with the first step, scheduling a complimentary breakthrough call. Don’t let the inner critic hold you back.