If you’re not able or willing to read the post below, have a listen to the audio above.

Many of us look at the inner critic as a source of motivation. Its voice of fear, doubt, perfection may appear as a catalyst for creating, performing and perfecting:

If we stopped listening to our inner critics, we’d be total slackers. We wouldn’t do anything. 

Isn’t the inner critic part of what motivates us to do meticulous, excellent work?

Isn’t it what makes us work hard and perform? 

Can’t the inner critic be a positive force? 

For years I used to believe this and went about my life very much driven by the inner critic. It wasn’t until I learned of the perils of using the inner critic as motivation from my longtime client Tara Mohr that I decided to drop the inner critic as my motivational force.

In her groundbreaking book Playing Big, Tara explains:

Self-doubt can indeed motivate us to work hard and achieve, but there are serious costs to being motivated this way. 

Costs to your quality of life. How much joy can you experience in your work if fear and a soundtrack of harsh thoughts about yourself play in your head every day? 

Costs to your professional life. The critic can lead us to work hard, but it often leads us to do the wrong work. When motivated by the critic, we’ll dot all the i’s and cross all the t‘s (many times over), but the inner critic can’t motivate us to take the intelligent risks–doing stretch assignments, speaking up, developing key relationships–that dramatically advance our careers. The inner critic can motivate you to be a meticulous worker bee, but it can’t motivate you to be a game changer.

Playing bigger costs. Whatever playing big looks like for you, think about this: Can your inner critic really help you do that more boldly, more quickly, and with greater enjoyment? Can your inner critic motivate you to pursue your callings? No. 

Health costs. When we are motivated by fear of failure, stress hormones flood our systems. Long-term stress is correlated with a variety of health problems, from heart disease to asthma to depression. Human bodies are not designed to be in a stressed state for hours each day, and it wrecks our health if we are. 

If you care about your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, listening to the inner critic is not a viable way to stay motivated. 

Tara goes on to state that while we may indeed have trouble getting motivated for a while after dropping  the inner critic, in that time, we’d have the space to begin to discover where our “natural river of motivation lay.” We can think of positive reasons to get excited about performing with excellence or explore alternatives that are much more aligned with our true callings.

Essentially, we go from being driven by the inner critic to compelled by inspiration. It’s an approach that’s introduced much more ease, trust and fulfillment into my life and I encourage anyone who’s looking for the same to give it a try.