Startup Right: Crushing that Inner Critic

The Startup Right series is a place for the Canberra Innovation Network to share insights from mental health professionals that apply directly to entrepreneurs. We’re here for you, as part of the Virtual Coworking community, the Weekly Innovation Challenge and on LinkedIn

This article originally appeared on EAP Assist; EAP Assist is an Australian company established in 2008 providing employees with confidential phone counselling and digital support.

Your inner critic is that little voice inside of you that loves to point out all the places you mess up. It alerts you of what bad things could happen, as if they’re inevitable. And it’s our inner critic that contributes to skyrocketing rates of anxiety and stops entrepreneurs from sharing their brilliant ideas with the world a lot of the time. The good news, though, is that it’s treatable.

How the inner critic affects anxiety

Anxiety is a result, not of external events, so much as our interpretation of those events. Our inner critic often thinks in erroneous or distorted ways. In psychology, we call these “cognitive distortions,” or skewed ways of viewing the world. Here are a few examples:

  • Negative filtering: You focus on what’s wrong, as opposed to what’s going well. As a result, you see only the negative, which makes you feel more anxious. And ironically, that causes you to see more negativity, creating a vicious cycle
  • Mind reading: You assume you know what others are thinking about you without any real evidence (and it’s not positive)
  • Fortune telling: You predict the future negatively, and then act as though your fears are imminent
  • All-or-nothing: You view people and events in terms of all-or-nothing. One mistake by you, for example, is viewed as a demonstration that you’re an epic failure

Try the “True Success Formula”

The “True Success Formula” goes deeper than how society may define success. Instead, it’s comprised of three main pillars. Here they are, along with how to apply the formula to each one.

  • Passion: Positive energy, where you focus on what’s going well and feel excited and empowered to make things even better
    • Stress can rob us of our positive energy. It also causes us to use more of those cognitive distortions we talked about above. Consider your stress to be on a continuum, from zero (no stress at all) to 10 (the most stressed out you have ever been). The higher level of stress you experience, the louder your inner critic becomes. Call anything seven to 10 or higher “The Red Zone.” When you are in the Red Zone, anxiety and your inner critic can take over. To stay out of there, whenever you notice your stress level getting to a six or higher, do something healthy and helpful to reduce your stress. Go for a walk, listen to a song you love, take some deep breaths, hug a loved one or pat a dog.
  • Purpose: Creating meaning and fulfillment in your life
    • Having a greater purpose helps you put things in perspective. So rather than listen to your inner critic, focus on what you want to serve to the world. When your attention is on how to contribute to a cause greater than yourself, such as volunteering, or even just holding the door open for a stranger, your inner critic lessens, and you feel happier.
  • People: Optimizing your relationships with others
    • Spend time with people who build you up. Toxic people can increase your inner critic and anxiety. Proactively seek out spending time with people who leave you feeling even better — about yourself and your life — than when you started.

Remember, you got this. And the world needs your innovative idea to have a shot!

Leave your inner critic at home and come along to our next First Wednesday Connect, which is a great place to workshop your idea with likeminded entrepreneurs and is definitely a ‘no judgement’ zone!