Bring out your best: from hammer to feather

From Self critic to self compassion

We live and work in times of rapid change, accelerating technological breakthroughs with unprecedented level of competitiveness.  In the past 20-30 years there has been a shift from a manufacturing to an information lead society rapidly transitioning from less physical labour to mind work as the more dominant activity, especially in developed countries.

These developments create new demands on our psychological resources, what’s been called a new level of mental complexity. This is not asked just for those at the top, but at every level of a business, from senior leaders to operators on the front line.  When the going gets tough, when things are not going our way, or when we are under the pump this is when we need self-compassion the most. However, often it is not a self-compassionate voice that we hear, but rather a harsh self-critical voice.

Do you tend to automatically assume it’s your fault when things go wrong or when the best laid plans go pear shaped? You don’t credit yourself for your efforts to make amends or don’t cut yourself some slack?  Many people have lived with the inner critic voice for so long it has become the water in which they swim. They don’t see it or hear it, but it is the voice inside their head that delivers disapproving dialogues. It continually looks for something…… anything to find fault with.

From hammer to feather

All the inner critic really wants to do is to keep us safe…….it wants to protect and keep us away from any emotional risk but unfortunately this keeps us playing small and erodes self-confidence in everything from basic problem solving, going for the big promotion to starting a new venture.

Self-compassion is key, acting as a buffer, helping to promote a positive mood and wellbeing.  When you are ‘kind’ to yourself you actually reduce your cortisol levels and release oxytocin, a feel good neurotransmitter which contributes to relaxation, reduced stress and trust. Importantly, when you feel safe and comforted, your mind is in an optimal state to do your best.

Because we’re often unaware of how we are talking to ourselves, learning to pay attention is a great first step. The first thing we need to do is to notice this critical voice and come to see the difference between the inner critic and realistic thinking as these often get confused.

Here are 5 strategies to develop a self-compassionate frame of mind

Mind Your Language
Recognise the language you use when you are being self-critical. If you notice that they’re negative, test the accuracy by asking yourself some challenging questions.

Hear ‘your self-talk’
Imagine another person would speak to you using the same words you speak to yourself when you are being self-critical. How would you react?

How do you feel?
As a result of your criticism, do you feel a sense of motivation to strive for self-improvement, or do you feel defeated?

Reach Out
What would a good friend, who loves you unconditionally say to you when you identify something about yourself that you consider a flaw or make a mistake?

Hammer to feather
Replace the inner critic with a voice that is similar to your friend’s voice.

Parting Thoughts

We need to recognise the inner critic as just but a voice inside that we don’t have to listen to. We can tell it gently to hush up while becoming more self-compassionate and develop our capacity for self-confidence, well-being and make the most of our opportunities.

If you are curious to know more about how to use your inner resources to express the best of who you are, email

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