The essential checklist for coaching your Inner Critic

By Susan MacKenty Brady on August 5, 2015


All I wanted to do was go to sleep. My husband is away for the week. I had an early flight in the morning, and I needed to be rested for my client meeting. My family had other plans.

First, the dog ran off into the neighborhood (and yes I was that neighbor yelling and shaking the dog bowl at an hour not acceptable to be doing so). Once the dog came back and I finally crawled into bed (about to turn off the light) our 9-year-old came in, begging to sleep with me. “Daddy lets me when you travel,” she says. She sleep-kicks so I say no, only to have her return, and wake me up three more times between 10:30PM and midnight. I finally cave and let her sleep with me. I even get a few hours of sleep myself, only to rise at 5:45 AM to the realization that I need to turn the light on to get dressed—something that will awaken the now-sleeping child.

So, I stumble around not-so-gracefully in the dark, cursing under my breath how I should have put my outfit out last night for easy grab-and-go. Then I sneer at my peacefully sleeping beautiful girl and think how much of a sucker I am as a mother. Then when our other daughter (a soon-to-be teenager) walks in at 6:00 AM asking for money to go shopping, I LOSE IT.

Poor kid. I whisper something awful–along the lines of “you don’t have a care in the world other than getting what you want!” I immediately feel guilty for my verbal lash-out, and tell her that the sitter has money for her trip to the mall, and that she needs to stop being so selfish! Anger (at my kids) and disgust (with myself) has taken over my usually joyful operating system. I’m disappointed in myself for not being skillful in dealing with my inner critic and angry with myself for being disappointed!

Since I speak, coach and write about Coaching your Inner Critic, having an episode like this reminds me how hard self-management actually is. But then I ran through this quick mental checklist (below)—that I coach my clients to do all the time—and I started to feel better:

Become Aware – Notice Your Critic. (CHECK! Just lashed out at innocent (kind of) teenager for asking for what she wants.)

Push Pause – Stop the Madness: (CHECK! Don’t really want my operating system run by disgust and anger for much longer today; it’s only 6:30AM and I’m all set with that.)

Get Curious – Ask Yourself, “What is going on here?”: (CHECK. My answer–just an annoying confluence of events compounded by being tired.)

Be Compassionate – Be Kind to Yourself and Others: (SIGH. I owe my teen an apology–and I need to give myself a whopping break. I’m trying the best I can, getting dressed in the dark… and she is, well, perfectly age appropriate.)

A busy executive asked me recently after attending one of my talks (and after he understood the pain he was causing himself and others) how he could “master the art of Coaching the Inner Critic.” What I told him is that Coaching the Inner Critic is a moment-to-moment practice. And the reason it’s a moment-to-moment practice is that you just don’t know that the dog will run away the minute you want nothing more than to go to sleep.

And so it goes. Yes, I practice what I preach–imperfectly.

So, what do you do when the “dog runs away” in your organization? Please share your stories with us below.

Posted in Blog, Leadership Development, Women in Leadership

About Susan MacKenty Brady

As Executive Vice President of Linkage Solutions, Susan oversees the product management and marketing of Linkage’s two global solution areas: Purposeful Leadership & Advancing Women Leaders. She founded and now serves as co-chair of Linkage's Women in Leadership Institute™, which boasts a network of over 10,000 alumni worldwide and is now in its 19th year. Susan led the launch of Linkage’s work in Advancing Women Leaders and Inclusive Leadership, and led the field research behind the 7 Leadership Hurdles Women Leaders Face in the Workforce™. Susan is the author of Mastering Your Inner Critic and 7 Other High Hurdles to Advancement: How the Best Women Leaders Practice Self-Awareness to Change What Really Matters (McGraw-Hill, November 2018).

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