Signs your inner critic is hurting your career

Signs your inner critic is hurting your career 7 Month Ago · 5 min read

Talyaa Vardar

Talyaa Vardar, MA, FCPC, MCC
Executive Coach, Psychologist & Art Therapist

Inner Critics hold you back from being as successful as you could be.

Negative self-talk, lack of self-appreciation, fear of failure... these are all the sharpest tools of your own PERSONAL INNER CRITIC.  They are zapping your confidence.

Here’s something to remember. Competence will only get you so far. If you don’t have Confidence, you are going to hit a ceiling in your growth.

So, what I want to talk to you about today is how your INNER CRTIC is holding you back from reaching your FULL CAREER POTENTIAL.

Yes, it's your PERSONAL INNER CRITIC holding you back. Nothing else. It’s not your Bully Boss, or your Controlling Mom, or your Unsupportive Spouse, or anyone else. Oh yes, they have a role to play. But you are the one making the choices.

I liken it to eating things that are bad for me.  My husband can bring the cookies into the house, but I’m the one who decides to eat them.

Eleanor Roosevelt

So, let’s start with identifying some of the common ways your PERSONAL INNER CRITIC shows up, and holds back your awesome career potential.



People who want everyone to like them, have an Inner Critic that tells them they are not worth being liked. These are the People Pleasers.

Signs that we are a People Pleaser include making a lot of wishy-washy statements full of ‘ifs’, ‘justs’, ‘maybes’ and other lovely qualifiers. We also spend a lot of time needlessly apologizing.

Another sign of the People Pleaser, is worry and anxiety. We have an overdeveloped sense of urgency that creates a lot of anxiety in us, and those around us. We worry that we (or our teams) are not delivering ‘the way we should’.

It’s true that many projects are urgent. I’m just saying when it's handled in an anxious way, it screams ‘fear of failure’.  And also, it’s not pleasant to work with someone like that

We can choose to keep it calm, encourage people, and manage expectations with our stakeholders. Or we can choose to freak out. Either way the work is going to get done.

Here’s the SAVAGE TRUTH – To have a successful career, people need to RESPECT you, not like you. If you don’t have respect – your options become limited.

Rather than focusing on getting people to like us, focus on confidently treating people respectfully. Our peers and team will love it. And bonus points, our Mean Girl will hate it!

How NEEDING TO BE LIKED kills your career:

  • If you’re not sure you’re worth being liked, then other people won’t be sure either.
  • Our anxiety stresses out those around us, and people don’t want to work with us, or FOR us
  • We lack the authority or respect to influence action
  • We burn-out
  • Confidence trumps Competence



A classic sign of a ‘I’m not good enough’ critic is when we are not truly supportive when other people are successful. If you feel anger, resentment or jealousy when someone else actually achieves something, that’s a red flag!

What is actually happening is that we are disappointed and upset with OURSELVES because someone else has the confidence to go after what they want, and to top it off – they don’t care what we think! How DARE they?

And then in order for us NOT to feel bad about ourselves, false narratives are created around how there MUST be SOME OTHER REASON this ‘person’ is successful.

  • “they’re just telling them what they want to hear”
  • “they’re buddies with so-and-so”
  • “I heard they took credit for someone else’s work”

So, if any of this type of stuff is crossing your mind, or worse, coming out of your mouth, your Inner Critic is definitely in control.

How BEING JEALOUS kills your career:

  • People don’t trust or respect us because they think we are gossipy and mean.
  • No one wants unsupportive, negative people on their team. They are good for a laugh or a beer, but not in the C-Suite.
  • Our lack of confidence becomes obvious to other people
  • Confidence trumps Competence.


Our Inner Critic wants to keep us safe. And what better way to do that than by avoiding putting ourselves out there.

Let’s look at a few examples, shall we?  A job comes up at our current company (or a different company).  We don’t apply because we don’t have 2/10 qualifications they listed for the job. And it would take a lot of confidence to sell the 8/10 qualifications we have. So, we don’t even try. Never mind that even if we didn’t’ get the job, we are getting interviewing experience, being noticed by Sr. Management, or expanding your network of advocates.

Excuse: I really like what I’m doing now

And there are a ton of other ways it shows up.

  • We turn down social events because we think we are uncomfortable with small talk. Excuse: I have to get home for the kids/dog/husband
  • We don’t put our hand up to lead a ‘special project’ team because we're afraid to blow it. Excuse: I have a ton on my plate right now
  • We say no to presenting part of a recommendation to Sr. Mgmt. Excuse: Wow – thanks for the offer. But they’d probably take it better coming from you.
  • We say no to starting our own business, with a great partner, doing something we love. Excuse: I need a stable income right now… yes, money is an excuse.

Inner Critic – 1. Career success – 0

How AVOIDING OPPORTUNITIES kills your career:

  • We narrow our network – social events and special projects fantastic ways to create new advocates.
  • We have a narrower work experience
  • We don't try, so we don't learn and we don't build our confidence
  • Confidence trumps Competence



Your boss is having a good day, so you are having a good day. Someone compliments the work you did on a project, so you walk around grinning all day. Someone says they like your outfit, and your peacock feathers are in full bloom.  Everything is right in the world.

And then your boss gets mad because something wasn’t done ‘right’ – you feel like a loser. No one mentions the good job you did on that project you worked so hard on, and you feel underappreciated. You didn’t get the job you interviewed for so you feel like you’ll never get any job.

Because our Inner Critic doesn't believe in us, we become at the mercy of other people's mood's and attentions. We end up losing control of how we feel about ourselves.

Just because someone says we are good or bad – doesn’t make it true. It only matters how awesome WE think you are.  So be proud of our work! And even if the boss has some ‘constructive feedback’ and is being ‘not so nice’ about it. So what.  Feedback is good. Learning is good. The ‘not so nice-ness’ is them.  You don’t need to worry about it.

How LACK OF SELF-WORTH kills your career:

  • We are needy & moody – neither are traits of strong leaders, and no one has time to deal with it
  • We stop being ourselves after a while because we’re trying to be what people like… which is impossible to sustain
  • We become more insecure and ineffective because we lose track of our authenticity
  • Confidence trumps Competence



You just finished presenting your work to an important audience, and you feel great about it. You practiced and practiced, and you are very proud of yourself.  Then the next person on the agenda gets up, and in your mind, they are more at ease, get more laughs, get more pats on the back – whatever.  You think they did a way better job than you.  All of a sudden, it’s Inner Critic time, and you feel like you failed.


“Comparison is the Death of Joy”… Mark Twain said that.


I was reading ‘You’re a Badass’ and she made a fantastic point. Her question was, what would have happened if our greatest heroes has conceded to comparison?

Jen’s example was about Marilyn Monroe. What if Marilyn compared herself to Kate Moss? Would she have given up her curves?  It made me think.  Would we have ‘Sgt. Pepper’ if the Beatles compared themselves to the Rolling Stones? Would we have ‘Seinfeld’? Oprah?

OK – and then there is the argument that comparison drives us to be better. It makes us push ourselves harder. Well - there is a difference between COMPARISON and INSPIRATION.

With inspiration, it's more like "Wow, that's incredible. I want to do that... or be like that".  This is where we establish heroes or role models or mentors. It pushes us to be better.  This is wonderful and comes from a place of energized learning and growth.

Comparison is when we feel badly about ourselves because we are not as good as someone else.  In some cases, we may become apathetic, e.g. I'll never present as well as her.  And in other cases, we go into 'fight-mode' and drive ourselves into action, e.g. I've got to learn to present better or my competence may be questioned.  In both cases, the reaction is driven by FEAR. Fear of failure and not being good enough. This creates stress and anxiety - and that is destructive.  And in the end, it actually lessens the likelihood of achieving your goal.

You can definitely appreciate… and even CELEBRATE… other people’s success without it reflecting on how you feel about you.  In fact, make it a habit. Celebrate everyone’s success… INCLUDING your own. There is enough success in this world for everybody.

If comparison is the death of joy… then loving yourself is the death of your Inner Critic.

How COMPARISON kills your career:

  • Impacts our ability to be innovative, e.g. Sgt. Pepper
  • We get miserable (see Mark Twain), and that is not inspiring for any team
  • We spend our energy on figuring out how to be like other people vs. growing our business/career
  • Confidence Trumps Competence

OK – here’s the almost the last thing I want to say about your Inner Critic.  YOU ARE THE BOSS OF YOUR INNER CRITIC… not the other way around. Whenever you become aware that your Inner Critic is trying to derail you, just send them on an extended lunch and get back to your amazing life.

Yes, it’s easier said than done.  Even if you only catch your Inner Critic in the act once a day – that’s better than before. And then slowly it will increase. It is totally possible.

OK - now here's the last thing I want to say...It’s your uniqueness that makes you awesome. It’s your uniqueness that will make you successful.  BE YOU!!



My goal is to help as many people as I can create a career where they get up every morning and say, I CAN'T BELIEVE PEOPLE PAY ME TO DO THIS! 20+ yrs Corporate Marketer | ACTP Certified Coach | Owner @ Savage Success Coaching | President @ Flow Coach Institute