Inner Critic | Silencing Your Inner Critic | Professionelle

By Margie Elley-Brown

wine glasses sm_249x160On a recent Saturday morning while having coffee with friends after our typical 40 km or so weekend cycle, the topic of alcohol consumption came up. One of our number – a medical person – began telling the group that even small amounts of alcohol were poisonous, that drinking any amount was potentially detrimental to your health. Apparently even the day before there’d been an article in the paper on these risks. One other group member asked – why didn’t we know this? It got the group talking.And it got me thinking.I’d been out the night before for a work function and had consumed three small glasses of wine over the course of three hours. Not heavy drinking by any means. And my husband and I frequently enjoy a glass of wine with our dinner at night.

Dr Google

So when I got home, I began to search the net – and what a blessing and a curse Dr and Professor Google are – for those statistics and warnings about consuming alcohol. I did find some evidence that light (12 standard drinks per week) and moderate (between 12 and 21 drinks per week) could be related to some health concerns.

But what I found more of were the recommendations on how to live more healthily and so lower the risk of health issues-Eating more green vegetables. Exercising regularly – at least three times per week. Drinking coffee – up to five cups a day. Eating less red meat. Consuming less sugar. Having a few brazil nuts each day. Spending more time with friends….

Laughing at least several times per day.

The list goes on.

So there I was, giving myself a real attack of “the guilts” because I’d had a few tipples at the Dean’s shout the night before.

Good enough?

Yet, that week, I’d exercised every day by walking around six km, eaten healthily, spent time with friends and family, drunk my usual two to three lattes per day, laughed – possibly more than my quota – one family member warned me I might have actually laughed so much that I would be at risk of some other health problem.

Why is it I found myself asking, that I was so quick to slam dunk myself and beat myself up – because I’d drunk more than average on a Friday night?

Fear of contracting cancer or developing heart disease? Shame that I’d lacked the self-discipline to say no to my third glass when a colleague offered to fetch me one?


Even though by most health and wellness standards, I live a fantastically healthy life, I was still quick to go into the position of saying “Not good enough Margie.”

I began to wonder if my internal critic was just a bit too vigilant.

Inner Critic | Silencing Your Inner Critic | ProfessionelleI realized I needed to dip back into the thinking contained in one of my favourite self-help books – Choose to be Happy. Written by New Zealander, Wayne Froggatt, it’s a practical book based on the work of Arthur Ellis who developed Rational Emotive Therapy (RET). Froggatt applies his techniques to a wide range of common personal growth concerns including:  worry, fear, guilt, anger, perfectionism, disapproval and criticism.

Inner critic

One of the core beliefs contained in the book, that people upset themselves with is:

I absolutely MUST, under practically all conditions and at all times, perform well (or outstandingly well) and win the approval (or complete love) of significant others. If I fail in these important-and sacred-respects, that is awful and I am a bad, incompetent, unworthy person, who will probably always fail and deserves to suffer.

When people hold onto this belief, when some challenging or adverse situation arises they feel anxious, and panic ridden, sometimes even worthless.

I realized my “inner therapist” had been off duty and allowed my blaming “inner critic” to turn up the volume and loudly intone its accusations, inducing me to experience feelings of guilt, anxiety and disapproval.

But I didn’t need to.


I needed to remind myself, to tell my inner critic – I wasn’t really such a BAD person after all.
But how easily that thinking can permeate all areas of our lives – work, leisure, sport, relationships, and that lifelong concern for women: image.

In my PhD research, I interviewed women across the age groups about their careers. One finding was, that in spite of being outwardly confident, successful and purposeful, these women had many doubts and inner struggles. They too beat themselves up. They often questioned their own ability, their readiness for a promotion, making comments such as:

I didn’t think I’d be brainy enough. I was a bit hesitant. It was not a comfortable, easy thing.  It’s embedded in me, the whole process of feeling I don’t know enough, I wouldn’t be good enough.

Inner Critic | Silencing Your Inner Critic | ProfessionelleI’m not the only one who gives herself a hard time. Why is it that we try so hard to be perfect?  Another woman commented:

And still, there was that nagging doubt at different times, that inner struggling.

I wrote in my journal – this month is “give myself a break month” – and determined to be a little kinder to myself. Not so hard on myself.

I wonder what your inner critic is beating you up about right now.


Margie Elley-Brown is an Auckland writer, researcher and career specialist. A deep interest in hearing women’s career stories resulted in her-nearly completed-PhD research.

Margie’s portfolio career includes lecturing at AUT Business School, seeing private clients and writing feature articles for the New Zealand Herald. What impels her in all of her work is a desire is to see women gain more direction and self-understanding to pursue their careers with confidence, whilst balancing other facets of their lives.

Margie can be contacted at or


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