We all have that voice inside our head that tells us we are not good enough. Sometimes, it can feel like a bully lives inside your head in a rent-controlled apartment and won’t ever move out. I came face to face with my own inner critic in 2015 as I set to start my company. Back then, this voice didn’t know how things would turn out – which was rather well. And so, this voice would go on and on, about how I couldn’t possibly be starting and building a company. But then, as I began to lay the first few bricks of my startups foundation, and customers began to show up, I got the ounce of strength I needed to hear this voice for what it was – just random thoughts generated by fear – and found a way to shut it up. I want to show you how.
First, Locate Your Inner Critic
For most of us this is an easy task. It’s that voice we hear in our head that says we are not good enough, we can’t possibly do this, and we certainly should never even begin. Sometimes, the Inner Critic may bear the voice of another figure in our lives – a parent, a sibling or a partner – but it’s not their voice. Your Inner Critic is your own voice, and like all of our inner voices, it needs to be heard. So take a moment to hear all the garbage it has to say about you.
Second, Write A Letter to Your Inner Critic
Now that the Inner Critic has spoken, begin to write it a letter as if you were a separate person, which helps to add some distance between the true you and this pesky voice. The letter goes like this:
I hear what you are saying, that (insert your name) is (insert X, Y, and Z negative self-talk here), and can’t possibly be able to do (insert A, B, C goals and dreams).
(Insert your name) is at a point where s/he really wants to leap into creating this new venture, and s/he would really appreciate it if you could give her/him the benefit of the doubt. S/he’s just starting out, you know? S/he wants to do this, and s/he trusts s/he will figure out a way. Yes, of course, there’s a pandemic out there, but this is still a good opportunity to begin to take my first few steps.
In the case that you are unable to give her/ him the benefit of the doubt, then just shut up completely, about X, Y, Z, and A, B, C, and whatever else you may have to say about (insert your name).
Just shut up. I’ll reach back out in twelve months with an update.
(Insert your name)
There you go: you just bought yourself a year of silence.
And Finally, Repeat with me “Yes, I Can, and I Will Work To Create That Which Only I Can Create”
This is the truth. Yes, you can. You can certainly do anything that you’d like to do. Your inner critic is on a silent retreat. So get to it and go create the company, book, community or project of your dreams, on your own terms.
How it Turned out for Me.
I wrote a letter similar to this (sans pandemic speak) to my own inner critic in 2016. And then, day after day with a silenced inner critic, I showed up to be a beginner at my startup. And guess what? Quite soon, I woke up to a startup that was growing and thriving, customers were coming and staying, our employees saw value in their work, and my startup was making an impact connecting millions of patients to clinical trials. See, with my inner critic on mute, my startup itself had a chance to show me the way.
This article is adapted from New Startup Mindset: Ten Mindset Shift to Build the Company of Your Dreams.