3 steps to outsmart your inner critic


Does your inner critic stalk you, waiting for the perfect moment to throw a bucket of cold water over your dreams and goals?

Whether you call it your inner critic, gremlin, or inner voice, you sure know when it shows up. It’s that little voice that pops up when you think about stepping out of your comfort zone. Maybe it whispers quietly. Maybe it shouts. But you can hear it loud and clear:

you’re not good enough...not smart enough...not strong enough...you’re too old...you’re too young…what are you trying to prove...

Your inner critic messes with your mind and self confidence.

That gremlin can shut you down if you let it. That’s exactly it’s intent. It’s trying to protect you from publicly failing by privately stopping you before you even get started.

What can you do when your confidence-shaking inner critic shows up telling you to play small?

Try these three suggestions for outsmarting your inner critic by flipping the energy into something positive. Be unstoppable!


1. Know that your inner critic is trying to keep you safe

Your inner critic’s mission is to keep you safe and protected (even when that’s not what you really need or want). This voice lives deep inside, and is always watching out for you. Pay attention to what it says, and how it makes you feel. With practice, you’ll tune in to the difference between you and the voice of your overly protective inner voice.

It’s lying when it creates paralyzing fear or self-doubt.

Your gremlin works hard to protect you from the risk of falling on your face or, to stop you from feeling the pain of abandonment or rejection.

Its mission to keep you safe and protected. Childhood experiences leave trauma imprints that make us want to avoid shame or embarrassment.

One of my clients was terrified about applying for a new and challenging job that was absolutely within her reach. All she could hear was that little voice reminding her how she froze and forgot her lines when she was in her first school play. It was reinforced again last year when she was passed over in the final round for the last promotion she applied for. Her inner critic was going wild. She didn’t want to go through feeling mortified again.

We explored how different she is from that youngster who couldn’t remember her words onstage. And how she prepped for this job opportunity with her new resume and polished interview skills. When she realized how her inner critic was trying to keep her from the risk of embarrassment, she was empowered to let go of the hold it had on her.

We learn from past disappointments, even while our protective inner voices watch skeptically. Your inner critic doesn’t understand that difficult lessons can lead to growth. You may know this, but your inner critic wants to fight you to protect you from pain and shame.

2. Stand up to your inner critic

Why not just ignore your inner critic? It’s ruthless, getting under your skin and into your psyche, expertly creating self-doubt.

It’s like trying to ignore the tickle in your throat during a meeting. The more you ignore it, the more powerful it becomes until you can’t think about anything else.

It’s time to stop the negative chatter before it takes over your life.  

Your inner voice will try to knock you down before someone else does. It’s a form of self-protection from embarrassment, shame or failure.

When you hear it say things like worst mom ever...wow, you really screwed that one up!...who do you think you are, anyway…Bingo! That’s your inner critic’s fear trying to stop you dead in your tracks.

When you keep circling back to “I’m not good enough,” your inner critic is trying to undermine you. Don’t let that voice bully you.

Rather than silencing the voice, listen to it and take the time to realize how far you have actually come. Growth happens one step at a time, and with each step forward you become more resilient.


When you hear your gremlin saying that you’re not enough, tell it that you are grown up and capable of taking care of your life now. It’s time for you to take control.

3. Give your gremlin a new job

Flip the energy! Now that you understand that your overprotective inner critic is here to help you, put it to work in a way that will actually be useful.

With love and compassion for ourselves, we can begin to work with the powerful inner voice and give it a new, more helpful job.

Picture your inner critic shrinking to a very manageable, unthreatening size. Picture your inner critic sending you good vibes and believing in you as you confidently step out of your comfort zone.

My own gremlin has a kind, worried look with big deer-in-the-headlights eyes as he watches me. I mentally shrunk it right down to pocket-size, and told it to stop worrying so much. Instead, it’s new job is to send me positive energy and to believe in my strength and courage to take on new opportunities.

These days, my gremlin is (usually) more of a buddy, watching over me as I step out of my comfort zone. Sure, there are moments when it still wants to run the show. But I keep showing up, keep challenging myself, keep reminding my inner critic that we’re on the same team. Along the way I’ve learned that I’m smarter than I ever gave myself credit for.


You see, inner critics don’t ever go away. They’re meant to keep you safe from going out on a limb. Have a talk with it, and let it know that you’re in charge now.

Tell your inner critic that you’ve got things under control, and it can skip the worrying. Picture in your mind’s eye that little guy watching you with excitement as you try and succeed! Let it pull you forward into action, instead of pushing to hold you back.

Go ahead. Turn your inner critic into your inner advocate. Who can’t use another advocate their pocket?

PS - If your inner critic is really shouting at you, I have some tools in my toolbox that will help you. Book a session here and start living with more confidence!

Denise Fountain is a Life Transformation Coach and Certified Professional Coach. She works with women going through transitions to rediscover themselves and create lives that are happy, healthy and whole again. Together with her clients, she explores the connection between stress, health and happiness, and guides her clients to move forward to make lasting and sustainable changes.

Denise is passionate about helping women live their best lives. Denise provides coaching for clients living anywhere by phone or Skype, and is available for speaking engagements and workshops. Sign up for updates. Contact her at denise@denisefountain.com to learn more about how Denise can partner with you to create the life you dream of.