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Learning From Your Critical Inner Voice As A Life Coach

June 25th, 2014 | 19 comments


I’m delighted today to be hosting a guest post from Beautiful You Life Coach Libby Thompson. Libby is not only an incredible life coach, but a psychologist as well and recently she has become interested in the incredible role that self-compassion can play in our lives. She has been learning from the ‘Godmother’ of self-compassion based work, Kristen Neff, at a retreat, who is the best of the best in this field.  I love Libby’s post on how as life coaches we can harness the power of self-compassion in our lives more.  You can connect in with Libby further and her wonderful work at All You Can Be Psychology. 

We all have it.

(Yes!  Even as a life coach who is trying to ‘help’ people be their best and live an amazing life.)

A critical self.

That mean voice in your head that tells you that you are not good enough as a person or as a life coach, and that you need try harder, or do more, or that you simply aren’t measuring up. Your harsh inner critic can seem determined to keep you small as a coach, sometimes nearly every day.

Is it trying to destroy you though?  Or is it actually trying to help you?

Though it may be strange to hear, your inner critic is probably trying to help you in some way by doing things such as shining a light on areas of your life and business that need your loving attention.  In trying to keep you safe, your inner critic might prompt you not to take risks and step up into who you really are as a life coach.  It may make you nervous to share with a client what you intuitively feel is right – even if it may be challenging for them to hear.  It can also hold you back from reaching out to other amazing coaches to develop partnerships and relationships because you feel you aren’t ‘good enough’ or as successful’ as they are.

When we are fearful of doing something wrong or making a mistake, we are suffering.  And when we suffer, it is important we care about ourselves in exactly the same way we would someone else such as our clients or a loved one.  We all need kindness, compassion and forgiveness, especially if we are in the business of trying to help others cultivate these exact same things in their life.  We so often show kindness and concern – especially as a life coach who is passionate about people all the time – to others, but when we need it ourselves we often seem to come up short, being far less understanding and far more judgmental.  This is when our inner critic is undoubtedly being too harsh and we become in need of self-compassion and understanding.

What will serve us as a life coach and a person in managing and even learning to love our inner critic?

Being a good friend to yourself is a great start.  And the best way to do that is through self-compassion.  The good news is self-compassion is a skill and like any other, it can be developed with practice. I know before I started learning about self-compassion, I was really hard on myself.  I would be scathing and say things to myself like: “You idiot. You are not good enough.  Don’t even try.  You’ll just make a fool of yourself.”

Ouch!  Sound familiar?

My inner voice would keep me safe, but it would hold me back as well.  And it would make me feel bad about myself.

These days, I am much more self-compassionate and I don’t call myself an idiot any more. I accept I am not perfect and that at times I am afraid, but I give things a go anyway and I am kind to myself if it doesn’t work out as planned. As a result, I am more compassionate not only to myself, but to those around me, including my clients. I find I can turn toward, rather than avoid painful feelings, and accept that I am human, and I don’t always get it right. If I treat myself with kindness and compassion, and try to soothe myself when I am feeling sad or in pain, I may not always immediately feel better, but I find I suffer much less than if I berate myself.

Want to give it a go?

Try this simple exercise.

Next time you are being really hard on yourself, think about what your critical inner voice is really saying to you.

Is it trying to protect you in some way?  Allow yourself to listen to your inner critic and accept it may be trying to help you, but perhaps in a way that is too harsh. Turn toward yourself and in listening to your inner critic as someone who loves and is self-compassionate, ask yourself what is really going on and what it’s really trying to say.  Do you need to try again?  Go for a walk?  Let something go?  Forgive yourself?  Stand strong?

Try saying to yourself “May I learn to accept myself as I am. May I give myself the compassion I need to deal with this situation.”

It is more than okay to be compassionate toward yourself, to be kind and forgiving, and have a deep felt wish for your own wellbeing.  This is especially the case as a life coach who is trying to manage a growing business and the ever changing needs and desires of your clients.  If you can develop the skill of loving yourself more compassionately, you won’t need the approval of others because you will be meeting that need within yourself.  You will be your own best friend and coach too. Welcome to a new type of personal power!

What are your experiences of dealing with your own inner critic and the power of self-compassion for yourself as a life coach and your clients too?

Please comment below – I’d love to hear from you.

19 people have commented
  1. Dear Libby, thank you for writing this and sharing your thoughts and insights, reading this has given me a great start to the day.
    Kind regards, Gillian

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Gillian. Libby is fantastic and this is such an important topic.

  2. Such a lovely post Libby, thank you. I definitely feel I put a lot of pressure on myself, and have been guilty of comparing my journey to others. I’ve been seeing this topic pop up from time to time, and it always makes me feel so much lighter and happier. I’m learning to ‘give myself a break’ and acknowledge all the great stuff I’m achieving. Thank you Libby and Julie for the friendly reminder 🙂

    • You’re welcome Elizabeth. There is so much power in being more kind to ourselves, just as there is, if not more than with and to others.

  3. Libby this is a great and important topic. I especially loved that you challenged the idea of us to get stuck into the depths of what it is trying to illuminate by saying “Is it trying to destroy you though? Or is it actually trying to help you?”

    Turning anything around and seeing it with new eyes is such a valuable skill and combined with what you have shared will definitely help me with being much more kind and compassionate to myself. I am my own worst critic for sure, and now I have something to really help with this.

    Thank you x

    • So glad you liked the post Ainslie and yes – learning to not always take things (including our ego and inner critic) at face value but challenging ourselves to go deeper can be so illuminating.

  4. Thank you Libby, I think this is my greatest hurdle – as a woman, a mum and a small business owner… But I am challenging my inner critic everyday, and practicing being kinder to myself – just knowing I’m not alone helps!
    Thank you x

  5. The inner critic is usually an authority figure maybe a teacher or parent that had the best intentions of keeping you well and safe. Some how we internalise and confuse those messages. Once I would look in the mirror and ask myself “Am I Enough?”. Today I know that I am.

  6. Thank you so much Libby for bringing such an important topic into the spotlight. Learning to be self compassionate towards myself has been life changing. It’s great to have this conversation elicited because I think there is a general consensus “out there” that as life coaches or as someone in the helping profession that we have it all together and are ‘perfect’. Letting others know that we too have an inner critic bridges that gap and allows us to connect in a real and more authentic way! I remember meeting Kristin Neff in Sydney many years ago and was so touched by her work – it is fabulous that it is becoming more ‘mainstream’ and more people are seeing the benefit of it. Thanks for a timely reminder today x

    • We are our greatest teachers aren’t we Jenny? However I must admit meeting Kristin Neff would have been nice!

  7. Wow. Thank you all for your comments. I really appreciate them all.
    Elizabeth – I am so glad you found this useful. Taking time to love and care for yourself helps everything else fall into place. I am glad you are realising that putting pressure on yourself is not always what’s needed……

    Ainslee so true that our inner critic is often trying to protect us in some way.

    Melanie – It can be a problem for us as life coaches if we get critical of ourselves for having a critical inner voice! We all have it – so I am glad you are reassured that you are not the only one!

    It is best not to add your inner critic to the list of things to be hard on yourself about because that is kind of self defeating. Better to listen to it and acknowledge the safety message behind the critical voice and then proceed anyway – with love and kindness toward yourself…..
    Fiona – it’s true that your inner critic is often the voice of some authority figure in your life. I am so glad you now know that you are absolutely enough. You go girl 🙂
    Jenny – Kristen Neff is amazing. What a lucky one you are to have met her! Thanks for your comment.

  8. Great post, Libby! I encounter this ALL THE TIME from friends and clients and I’m still working out how to explain to them how important self compassion is. I think I’ll just point them to this post from now on!

    • I’m sure you’re doing a brilliant job of explaining it to them Katherine but a little extra support from this post surely couldn’t hurt.

  9. Hey Katherine. I agree with Julie. I have no doubt you do a great job of explaining it but I am happy that you think this post will help your beautiful clients. They are so, so lucky to have you!

  10. Definitely needed to hear this today. The inner critic has been roaring lately so at the moment I’m just ticking off the things on my to do list and it’s already making me feel better 🙂 There can only be one you so you may as well be the best you can be
    x