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Quit listening to the Inner Critic & Lessons from Mildred the Orangutan

By August 6, 2020No Comments

Inner criticAre we ever good enough? Like, really?

It’s like we have a pet gremlin, an inner critic, living inside our heads, feeding on our inner dialogue:

‘Are you sure you can do this?’

‘Do you think you’re good enough?’

‘What if you fail?’

‘What’s everyone else doing?’

I’ve lost track of how many times these questions come up in my training and mentoring work. Even after the immediate rush of achieving that promotion, winning that sale or finally making that decision, it doesn’t take long for the self-doubt or feelings of punching above your weight to kick in.

The worry of whether you can do it.

The concern around whether you can make it.

The question around whether you made the right decision.

Entrepreneur and Global CEO of Business Chicks, Emma Isaacs shared with me on my podcast, ‘There’s never a day that passes when I don’t doubt myself in some capacity’.

Self-doubt is exhausting, and it gets in the way of real progress

The craziness of the uncertain world we are all navigating at the moment is fuelling feelings of disconnection, fear, anxiety, loss and self doubt. And the curated content found every day on social media certainly doesn’t help. We’re bombarded with opportunities to compare and contrast our lives with the lives of others. We’re so busy observing what everyone else is doing that we start feeling completely inadequate. 

These feelings of self-doubt are also often referred to as ‘imposter syndrome’. This term was first coined in 1978 by two American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. They described it as a feeling of ‘phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement’. They added that while these peopleare highly motivated to achieve’, they also ‘live in fear of being “found out” or exposed as frauds.

You know exactly what I’m talking about!

You’re about to give a presentation on a proposal you’ve been working on for months and you worry about messing it up; you get that promotion and immediately start thinking about the people you were up against and questioning your ability to do the job; you decide to take action A instead of B and then spend way too long going around in circles questioning your decision.

Quit the negative self-talk

Unfortunately that the inner critic is always present – it’s really hard to get rid of it, but you can build a relationship with it. 

Sherilyn Shackell, Founder and Global CEO of The Marketing Academy, in Episode 022 of my podcast, ‘Unleashing Brilliance’ explains more; ‘Well I’ve characterised mine: an orangutan called Mildred. Whenever I hear this voice on my shoulder, I can say “Shut up, Mildred. You’re a bloody orangutan. You’re not serving me”’.

Yes, I too laughed out loud when Sherilyn shared this with me! She is so right, I thought. I can’t believe how many times the voices in my own head have told me that I’m not good enough, I can’t do something until I’ve done something else or I’ll look stupid and people will laugh at me. We all have these crazy voices in our heads. We just don’t all call them Mildred the orangutan—though maybe we should!

‘The voices in our heads can serve us for good, the mundane and the boring, or they can actually do us harm,’ Sherilyn adds. ‘This voice, Mildred, my orangutan, she is fiercely protective over me. When I walk into an environment that I can’t control and I’m feeling vulnerable and I’m not sure how people are perceiving me, she’s saying “Don’t do that. Don’t do that thing because you are going to look like an idiot”. She’s trying to protect me’.

Why not build a relationship and identify the inner critics that are restricting your growth or putting out your dreams, just like Sherilyn did. Name it, characterise it.  Think about how could you renegotiate your contract with these critics or reframe your thinking on them? This may allow you see a different side to the story that’s going on in your head.  And then it’s up to you to chose – engage or ignore?

It’s time to learn from Mildred,  let go and move forward because we need your individual brilliance to shine and not be dulled because the inner critic is winning.

And for any of you that are wondering, my inner critic is a little green frog that sits on my left shoulder named Fred

Until next week.




p.s in my latest book Be Brilliant, I discuss this concept in more detail as part of Law 1 – Own Your Spotlight.  I share strategies and learnings, plus some simple exercises that you can do in your own time to identify your inner critics and to reframe your thinking.  For more details visit

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