Ten Ways to Cut the Puppet Master’s Strings

Stewart Bewley

Your inner critic is alive and always speaking. To put a light on the inner critic I get people to give it a name. I have named mine Kevin. He whispers in my ear: ‘What are you doing? You’re not changing the world.’ If I listen to this I will stumble, feel punched in the gut and struggle through coaching. I will not be any good at my job.

Sometimes it’s like I am a puppet on a string, being pulled in all directions by the lies inside my head. But I have learnt over the years to cut the string, and dance to the tune of being present. It makes me a better presenter. And if you can silence your inner critic it will make you a better and more confident speaker.

Here are 10 ways to beat your inner critic.

01. Name your inner critic

Someone asked me the other day, ‘Do I have to name my critic?’ Absolutely. If we can name them, we can see them, and if we bring some humour to the exercise, it breaks down barriers and makes things a lot more possible. So take a moment and give your inner critic a name. My favourites so far are Vipoorga, Grezelda and Colin...

02. Describe them

Kevin – my inner critic – is short, has a large belly, wears an off-white shirt and sickly brown tie. He is from the north of England. The more you describe your inner critic, the more you humanise them – they stop being monsters.

03. Write down three accusations

The inner critic always accuses. It might be in a whisper, it might be a loud voice. It might be clouded in concern but it is always an accusation. Here are three examples of Kevin’s accusations:

  1. You are arrogant
  2. Calm down, you’re too much
  3. You’re not changing the world, so why bother?

04. Say the accusations out loud, with drama

When you keep something in your head, it stays in your head and runs around unstoppable. But if you say it out loud, although it is painful it becomes possible to choose to fight it. Ultimately this is all about the choices you make.

05. Create your response

Write down three alternative statements that are true about yourself. This is not about fighting fire with fire, it is going above and beyond the accusation. Here is what I would say:

  1. I am confident
  2. I am full of energy
  3. I unlock people’s stories and that is enough

06. Write down three ‘becauses’ for your statements

Often the first thing we want to say is not the final thing. But it can lead us there. Saying ‘because’ can reveal that final thing, that killer blow that knocks out the inner critic. Here are examples of my ‘becauses’:

  1. I am confident, because I know that what I do can transform people
  2. I am full of energy because I love doing my job
  3. I unlock people’s stories and that is enough because an unlocked story can change everything for my clients.

07. Create a single statement

Combine your statements and your becauses into one sentence (or a couple, if it’s simpler). Here’s mine:

I know what I do can transform people, I love doing my job, because an unlocked story can change everything for my clients.

You’ll notice I got playful there and added a because. That is powerful stuff and I totally believe it. It’s not made up or hyped up, just written out.

08. Write down your statement

Write out your statement on a piece of card – A6 size or smaller. Put it in your pocket whenever you are presenting in person, or next to your laptop if you are presenting online. Read it to yourself regularly. The inner critic is always seeking to speak to you. This is a better story!

09. Make space for silence

Every day, sit in silence for 30 seconds before you present. Read over your statements, breathe them in – then turn on the camera and present.

10. Revisit regularly

Let this be your habit of 2024 and watch it transform how you view yourself, your audience and how you tell stories.

The truth is that Kevin – my inner critic – isn’t real, but the lies I have believed about myself are real to me. I need to look at them, examine them and take them apart one by one. I have to choose to behave my way into thinking differently. This helps me defeat my inner critic and this helps me become a great presenter and coach. I know the same can be  true for you.

Stewart Bewley

Stewart founded Amplify back in 2011 from an acting background, believing that if you unlocked people’s voices you would unlock their story and their businesses would thrive.

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