How to Tame Your Critical Inner Voice and Fuel Your Success

Your Critical Inner Voice:

Tells you how unlikely it is that you will ever get that tenure-track job. What a failure you are as a researcher. How no one will ever take you seriously. How you are sure to die, homeless, with a slew of unpublished papers, and the sound of all those successful people roaring at your laughable attempts at being a scientist.

Photo of two street signs at an intersection. One street is Success Lane. The other is Failure Drive.
You can fuel your own success by taming your critical inner voice! Photo courtesy of StockMonkeys.com via flickr.

I call mine Fran. She’s my critical inner voice. She’s the one who once made me so nervous at an audition that my knees visibly shook and my throat shook so severely that I couldn’t finish my monologue. Thanks, Fran. Fran is destructive and mean and she’s always looking for a way to make me look bad.

When I was an actor, she was the pretty girl who got every part while being a perfectly awful person. A perfectly awful person whom I listen to….

Now that I am an academic, she’s the one who publishes in every top journal, gets invited to talk at every conference, and got tenure way before me. She is smarter, more creative, and more productive than me and she lets me know about it every time she can.

She has stopped me from applying for jobs, finishing papers, starting papers, and accepting speaking engagements. She encourages me to slouch, avoid eye-contact, and take up no space. She wants me to be reigned to my lot in life among the throngs of the mediocre. She tells me if I can’t be the best I shouldn’t even try. Her greatest power is in encouraging me to procrastinate.

I am finally learning to deal with Fran. I gave her a name. And I have stopped trying to get her to SHUT UP. It turns out the more I repress Fran the louder she speaks. So now I thank her for her input and I give her a job to do. When Fran is working on something, she doesn’t bug me.

Fran: You might as well put off rehearsing your keynote until you get to the conference.. It’s going to suck anyway so why work on it? My keynote will be so much more interesting than yours no matter what you do. Save yourself the pain and don’t rehearse at all.

Me: Hi Fran, thanks for your input. But right now, I need someone to go outside and count the number of students crossing Hampton Blvd. against the light.

Photo of a bridge full of pedestrians in a long line.
Pedestrian Bridge courtesy of Fouquier on flickr.

Fran: Oh boy, you could never do that as well as I could. I’m going to win at pedestrian counting.

Me: Yup – you’ll be better at it than me. (return to working in peace).

Is someone holding you back? Preventing you from rehearsing effectively? Encouraging you to leave off writing your talk until tomorrow? Interrupting you as you talk? As you network?

What have you named your inner critic?  Join me in thinking up things for our Frans to do in the comments below.


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