A Note to Women: Are You Your Own Worst Critic?

She personifies what we imagine a successful woman to be like—smart, poised, articulate, and personable, with a head for business and a propensity to make things happen.  On the outside, she is the epitome of ‘cool’, has it all together, and is admired and emulated as a role model.

On the inside, she constantly doubts the value she brings, worries that she will say something stupid, and is in turmoil about her ability to sustain what she has accomplished so far. She is carrying the story in her head that if she is not perfect, she will be banished in disgrace from the kingdom she worked so hard to become a ruler of.

Sound familiar? If it does, you are not alone. Many of the women leaders I have worked with over the years admit to secretly carrying this storyline in their heads.
The uber-confident, put together woman we see on the outside is instead often doubting herself and the value of her contribution on the inside.

I can’t even count the number of times while in coaching sessions or facilitating women’s leadership programs with groups of successful women leaders, many of the participants admit that achieving real confidence and unshakeable presence inside and out still eludes them. They yearn for the kind of confidence that manifests in an unshakeable presence regardless of the circumstance or outcome.

What these women and many of us have in common is that we are our own worst critics. Some of the internal scripts we play about what others think and the standards we must meet are self-sabotaging and stressful, much less mostly self-created.

If you are resonating with some of the above descriptions, here are some things to remember:

YOU GET TO WRITE THE STORY YOU CARRY IN YOUR HEAD

Each of us have scripts in our heads of the stories we tell ourselves about things. Those scripts may have been written by what others told us over the years, our own self-consciousness, our insecurities, or a myriad of other contributing authors. Many women leaders I encounter have self-defeating stories about what they must prove to others to be on even footing with men in the workplace.

What stories are you walking around with about who you are, what others think, and what you contribute? Who wrote them? How are those stories serving you?

The good news is, you can author a new script for the story you tell yourself. What you tell yourself about situations and your value in them is entirely in your control. The story you carry around in your mind can either fuel or minimize self-limiting thoughts and actions.

ITS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU

When your mind is focused on yourself,  your energy is ‘self-conscious’. You are absorbed in what others think of YOU, how YOU look, whether or not YOU are liked, how YOU compare to others, and the like. Not only is that exhausting, but it leaves no space for real interest and communion with others.

What would happen if you put all that ‘me’ focus aside, and instead approached others and situations with sheer curiosity and interest? What if you viewed every experience and encounter as a potential learning opportunity, rather than a self measuring stick?

ONLY YOU CAN GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO NOT BE PERFECT

 One very successful woman I know projects unshakeable calm on the outside and purports that same energy on the inside most of the time.
When I asked her secret to this calm demeanor and confidence, she smiled.
“I let go of trying to be perfect and trying to be all things to everyone all the time. I live by the 80/20 rule. If it is 80% — I am satisfied. Everything doesn’t need to be 100% by my impossible standards all the time.”

What about you?
Are you holding yourself to your own impossible standards of perfection on everything and then beating yourself up inside when you don’t meet them?
What do you need to let go of?
What new possibilities can you create for yourself?
What will it take for you to not take yourself so seriously?

(PS: I’ll share a secret. This worst critic thing is not unique to women…)