The number one killer of career happiness

The number one killer of career happiness

Margaret was staring in front of her with tears flowing down her cheeks. Her laptop was opened on a LinkedIn job search page. On it, the perfect job vacancy that she had been dreaming of. So, what was the problem? Why was she crying?

Margaret was crying because she realised that she was not going to apply for the job anyway. Why not? Because her inner voice was telling her:

  • There are other candidates who are much better than you!
  • You do not have the required skills!
  • You do not have enough relevant work experience!
  • You are not good enough!

Meet the Inner Critic

Meet Margaret’s Inner Critic: Mrs. Perfect, Mrs. "You are never good enough", Mrs. Critical Parent. Do you recognise this voice? Do you hear it often? Is it whispering? Or is it screaming so loudly that you cannot hear your own independent thoughts anymore? So, who is it? And what is it doing to your life and the decisions you make?

Your Inner Critic is:

  • The part of you that wants to keep you safe.
  • The part of you that always thinks you can do better.
  • The part of you that always has negative comments ready to remind you why you cannot do something you want.
  • The part of you that admires others and sees you as a small incapable child.
  • The part of you that will keep you stuck forever if you do not learn how to deal with it.

You get the point.

Transactional analysis theory

Eric Berne is the father of one of my favourite psychoanalytical theories; transaction analysis, and the author of the world-renowned bestseller “The Games People Play”. In short, the theory explains that at every moment in life, in every situation, we are in one of the five ego states: Critical Parent, Caring Parent, Adult, Free Child or Adaptive Child.

Critical Parent

When we are in the Critical Parent state, we use language like “I should”, “you have to”, “I cannot”, “I must" etc. All the “shoulds” and “cannots” belong to the Critical Parent. We inherit it from our own parents who teach us how to function in society and how to play by the rules. Its main task is to keep us safe and to stop us from making a fool of ourselves.

When applied correctly, this voice can be useful. However, it can also be the source of negativity in our lives. It can completely block us from our power, make us stuck and, in the worst case, even depressed. The Critical Parent is the part of us with which my clients, and myself included, struggle. But there are ways to beat it!

6 Tips on how to manage your Inner Critic

Here are some tips to help you manage your Inner Critic:

1. Observe

It all starts with awareness. So, observe yourself. When is your Inner Critic triggered? In what situations is the negative “chatter-box” switched on? Which people trigger it? What kind of negative thoughts are being triggered and how do you feel?

2. Acknowledge its presence

You need to realise that it is unrealistic to expect that this voice will ever stop. So, don’t even try. Its main objective is our survival, so it’s not going away anytime soon. The first step is to acknowledge that it is there. Say hello to your “Inner Critic”.

3. Make contact

Once you have said hello, it is time to make a connection. Thank your Inner Critic for helping you get to where you are. It’s his/hers “You can do better” that brought you to this point in your career. Like any “creature” it needs some love and attention.

4. Realise the presence of other ego states

Your Critical Parent (a.k.a. your Inner Critic) is only one of 5 (or even more) ego states. It is definitely not the ONLY one. The Creative Child and the Adult play an important role in managing your Critic.

5. Negotiate

Have a conversation with your Critic. What does it want from you? Make the Critic aware that you are a grown-up person and you need less “help” than when you were younger. Make the Inner Critic aware that even though you appreciate its help in some situations, you are not always going to listen to it.

6. Act

And here comes the hardest part. Act! Even if you hear the Inner Critic screaming in your head: “Don’t do it”, “Don’t apply for this job”, “Don’t start your own business”, “Don’t make this video public”, “This article is stupid”, etc. JUST DO IT ANYWAY! This way you teach your Inner Critic that you are responsible for your own life and decisions and not him or her!

So be brave, and outsmart your Inner Critic. Share your experiences with your Inner Critic below in the comment section.


Dorota Klop-Sowinska


Dorota Klop-Sowinska

Official Member of Forbes Coaches Council. I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am the author of the book Career Jump! How to Successfully Change Your Professional Path...

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