Are You Blocking Your Own Success?
Complete Wellbeing|March 2016

How to stop your inner critic from sabotaging your success and happiness

Danny Gregory

Do you find that success always dodges you, no ma er how much you try? Do you find yourself frequently plagued with indecision, self-doubt and lack of confidence? Has lasting happiness and fulfilment begun to seem like an impossible dream? Take heart, for you are not alone. Millions who possess the potential to achieve great heights of success are struggling with one enemy—the inner critic. Learn how to defeat this enemy at its own game and find the success and happiness that you desire and deserve.

Here you are, minding your own business. Maybe you’re gazing out the window, daydreaming about your future. Or you just got briefed on a new project at work. Or maybe it’s 3am and you are just staring at the ceiling, much too wide awake.

Pssst!

Your attention shifts inward, to a spot behind your eyeballs. A little voice starts up back there and it’s murmuring, just to you. It says: “You can’t do this. Don’t even try it. This is a mistake. You’ll lose your job. Your home. Your loved ones… Here are a hundred reasons you will fail…”

The voice makes you second-guess yourself before you even start. You can go from the verge of making a decision to backing away, to asking others’ opinions, to questioning your judgement, to trashing everything you have ever accomplished, doubting yourself to the core.

This voice squirts adrenaline into your blood stream, ties your guts in knots, releases butterflies to flop around your tummy, and gushes cold sweats down your pits and brow.

It knows you well. In fact, it sounds like a friend, concerned and just here to protect you from a horrible decision. It’s a familiar old voice, one that’s been whispering in your ear as far back as you can remember. It’s the voice of the inner critic, the worry wart, the voice of doom.

If you hear this voice, and I know you do, you’re not crazy. You’re not a loser. You’re not alone. You’re just human.

But despite how common this predicament is, it’s also very damaging. The voice has the ability to limit your potential, crush your happiness and derail your dreams.

It’s time to stop it.

The voice and the maker

More than anything, the voice messes with all forms of creativity. New ideas, new directions make it jabber loudest. Why? Because the voice hates change and risk, and whenever we rearrange the mental furniture of our lives, it protests.

This is an important thing to remember: when the voice starts up, it’s because you are trying to change something. And if you are going to be a functioning person on this ever-turning planet, you will have to eventually make change too. So to be happy [or even functional], you are going to have to learn to shut that voice down.

Listen to the voice

So what does it sound like? What’s the quality of its voice? Does it whisper? Does it have an accent? An echo? How old does it sound? Is it high-pitched or low? Does it sit right against your ear or is it deeper in your head?

Now, try to put a body and a face to that voice. Make it a creature. How big is it? What does it smell like? How does it move? Is it an animal? Is it a demon?

I imagine it looks a bit like Gollum, from The Lord of the Rings. It’s whiney and creepy and lives back in the dark cave of my skull. It never rests and has big, glowing eyes that constantly dart around in fear. It has a mouthful of sharp li le teeth to nip at the edges of my mind and it smells musty, of cold sweat and old fish. So, like Gollum, but meatier and covered in grey-brown fur, fairly oily like an unwashed mutt .

I call this lovely thing, “the Monkey”. It jabbers and hoots like a monkey and it smells like one too. Only worse.

Maybe my picture fits your creature too. If not, just substitute your species in for the rest of the descriptions I’ll give you. I’m pre y sure they’ll still fit whether you imagine you’re carrying around a snake or a gargoyle, a gremlin or a gopher with a chainsaw.

Meet your monkey

The monkey is a formidable foe. It is more devious than you and it has plenty of time on its hands. It can use everything you know against you, push every bu on, pull every lever, and is unrelenting. Don’t let that get you down. But don’t underestimate it either.

And the monkey has opinions about most things. It can think of a good reason to be afraid of most decisions, of any impending event, big or small. It can give you umpteen reasons to do something tomorrow instead of now, to ask more and more people’s opinions before you make a move, can tell you what that stranger at the cocktail party will reply if you say “Hi”.

That shirt makes you look like a fat dork.

You don’t floss enough.

What do you suppose the client meant by that look?

That pimple could be atumour.

Do you smell smoke? And so on…

Behave like a monkey

The monkey can make you behave a bit like a monkey yourself. If you find you are quarrelling with others and venting emotion inappropriately, chances are that you are not creating, not thinking, not doing. Or alternatively, you may find yourself overworking, nights and weekends [on projects fuelled by drudgery and obligation, not passion] living out of balance, out of harmony, out of fast food containers, far from your true self.

In my career as a creative director, I’ve run into a lot of people who are driven to melodramatics by their monkey puppeteers. They act out. Client questions your decision? Throw a fit. Need to cover up a blunder? The best defence is self-righteous indignation. They’re always drawing attention to themselves, making excuses, being prima donnas, making outrageous demands. A bigger office, a longer title, no brown M&Ms in the dressing room!

One more thing… the monkey will always find you one more reason to delay. Do more research. Ask others opinions. Find an agent, find a publisher, get a contract, get a new desk chair… It can be never ending. All this activity makes it seem like you are doing something, but you’re not really. You’re just frittering away time and defeating your creative impulse with thoughts of fine art, chocolate, naps,sex… The illusion of productivity is the bone the monkey throws you.

Perfect is the enemy of done

At first glance, perfectionism doesn’t seem like one of the monkey’s tricks. After all, it’s not unreasonable to want to do things well, to have high standards, to do your best. The problem is that the monkey insists you do everything perfectly. Not just your job, but your laundry, your parallel parking, your push-ups.

But no matter how high your standards, the monkey will still make sure perfection is always just out of reach. As your ideas begin to bubble to the surface, the monkey insists on judging immediately, pointing out how far below perfection you have fallen. Even though you know most ideas don’t hatch without some room for improvement, the monkey can make you sling them on the trash pile before they catch their first breath.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM COMPLETE WELLBEINGView All

Why You Should Stop Beating Yourself Up!

Are you your own biggest critic? Do you always berate yourself for your weaknesses? Beating yourself up is a terrible habit that does immense harm to you: it makes you doubt your capabilities; you suffer tremendous emotional pain; you feel despondent; but worst of all, you lose out on your inherent potential for love, happiness and success. Cultivating compassion for self can help you unlearn this tendency of self-bashing so that you can learn to relax and open up to possibilities you had hitherto no access to.

10+ mins read
Complete Wellbeing
June 2016

The Big Enemy Of Your Happiness Is Your Ego, See How

An octogenarian tells you why your ego is at the root of most of your problems.

4 mins read
Complete Wellbeing
May 2016

Yes, You Can Now Remove Your Tan Naturally

Six face packs with the goodness of natural ingredients to remove the most stubborn tan and nourish your skin.

4 mins read
Complete Wellbeing
May 2016

This Is The Perfect Gift You Can Give Your Child

A life-long love for reading is the perfect gi you can give your child

4 mins read
Complete Wellbeing
June 2016

Is Your Shyness Robbing Your Happiness?

Leave behind your inhibitions and live with confidence.

10+ mins read
Complete Wellbeing
May 2016

Building A Right Connections

Business networking is not just about making introductions and pocketing business cards. If done right, it could be the key factor that can help your business take off.

3 mins read
Complete Wellbeing
April 2016

Chia Seeds- Fad or Super Food?

Many manufacturers and health food advertisers have been crediting chia with a number of health benefits: aiding weight loss, lowering cholesterol, controlling sugar levels in diabetics and preventing heart attacks. But are these just tall claims? A nutritionist answers.

3 mins read
Complete Wellbeing
April 2016

Watch Out! 9 Lies We Speak In An Interview (And What We Really Mean)

Purba Ray reveals how job interviews have become great opportunities to exaggerate your insignificant skills, veil the not-so-impressive truths about your previous jobs and appear as confident as a lion even though you are more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

5 mins read
Complete Wellbeing
April 2016

5 Ways To Get Your Kid's Innocent Childhood Back!

With the number of gadgets that are available, it is becoming increasingly hard to keep our kids off them, even for a short while. Here are some ways to get kids back to enjoying the innocent pleasures of childhood.

5 mins read
Complete Wellbeing
April 2016

Burned-Out Or Bored? Get Over It!

Burnout is not necessarily caused by excessive stress. On the contrary, it is often the result of boredom due to a paucity of challenges that test your mettle. According to research, work that has stopped engaging you can be harmful to your wellbeing. But it is possible to insulate yourself from the phenomenon that affects millions of unsuspecting executives 

10+ mins read
Complete Wellbeing
February 2016
RELATED STORIES

5 Sure-Fire Ways To Nail That Job Interview

Experts let us in on the secrets of success to get the job you want every time

3 mins read
New Idea
September 21, 2020

Reach Your Goals

Let’s talk about setting goals and achieving them. I’ll share some of my personal goals and the process I went through to achieve them.

4 mins read
FHM Australia
May 2020

The Secret of Success

Madhusudan Reddy explores how success comes through discipline, and provides simple effective ways of cultivating that discipline in daily life.

3 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
April 2020

Why You Should Be A Morning Person!

If to snooze or not to snooze is the question, we tell you why the early bird catches the worm. (Or does it really?)

6 mins read
Cosmopolitan India
March 2020

9 Tricks To Improve Your Life

9 tricks to improve your life*

2 mins read
Reader's Digest US
March 2020

Five Strategies For Franchise Growth

Every year, a few companies show massive gains in our Franchise 500 list by either leaping hundreds of spots or making a strong debut. How do they do it? We called them to ask.

9 mins read
Entrepreneur
January - February 2020

How To Succeed In 2020

We’re not just about to enter a new year. We’re heading into a whole new decade. That means plenty of fresh opportunities, new challenges, and the chance to build businesses that will create a better tomorrow. Thirteen entrepreneurs and experts talked us through the trends to come—and offered advice on how to navigate your way to a successful future.

10+ mins read
Entrepreneur
December 2019

100 Powerful Women

Women know how to fight the good fight—and they won’t back down until the job is done. Get to know 100 female-led businesses and brands that are creating change and redefining the rules of success.

10+ mins read
Entrepreneur
October - November 2019

Build Your Brand - Like A Boss!

Want to kick career goals? Leadership coach Michelle Sales says reputation is everything

3 mins read
OK! Magazine Australia
October 21 2019

The Joy Of Messing Up

The fear of failure can hold us back from many opportunities. But, says Kate Graham, embracing mistakes can be the key to success

7 mins read
NEXT
November 2019