Overcoming Your Inner Critic

“Stop pushing yourself,” your angry four-inch tall shoulder-Devil whispers in your ear. “Let’s blow off the day and hang on the couch. You’ll never amount to much anyway.”

We all have that inner voice – the negative one that whispers fear, guilt, and laziness into our ears. The voice that tells us to take a break instead of forging ahead, to eat a candy bar instead of hitting the gym. The voice that holds us from reaching our full potential.

Jim Harbaugh, the head coach for the University of Michigan’s football team, has a name for this dastardly dude: “Freddie P. Soft.” In fact, the idea came from his father, Coach Jack Harbaugh, and was instilled at a young age as a way to conquer his inner critic.

Harbaugh uses Mr. Soft as an important weapon in his coaching arsenal. Helping the players realize that self-doubt and negative thinking afflicts us all, and that we can separate it from ourselves is a technique that’s driven peak performance. That instinct to slack off and exert less effort isn’t coming from your true self…it is coming from that external, mischievous Mr. Soft.

In today’s hyper-competitive world, there’s no shortage of negativity. We’re flooded with stinging messages from demanding bosses, angry clients, and unreasonable partners. Because of this venomous barrage, it’s easy to internalize the critical messages. This poison can deplete our energy and knock us off our game.

I love Harbaugh’s Mr. Soft approach. When we recognize the imposter for what he is – a sinister force looking to cause harm – we can stare him down and conquer. Mr. Soft only gains power if we feed him. In contrast, we shrink him to dust when we ignore his devilish messages and refuse to acknowledge his merit.

The next time your own inner voice of doubt, fear, and criticism creeps into the picture, first recognize that it is only Mr. Soft trying to trick you. Refuse to engage, and tackle him to the ground as if you were a 280-pound linebacker.

Don’t empower Mr. Soft by succumbing to his enchanting lies. Instead, reject his nonsense and get on with the work you’re meant to do. Boldly follow your calling, and before long that once-screaming negative voice will be reduced to nothing but a whimper.