The Mental Devil is Real – Learn to Embrace Your Inner Critic : Under30CEO The Mental Devil is Real – Learn to Embrace Your Inner Critic : Under30CEO
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The Mental Devil is Real – Learn to Embrace Your Inner Critic

| January 20, 2011 | 7 Comments

mental DevilBecoming an entrepreneur is a funny business, isn’t it?

Everyone tells you that you need to be determined, to follow your heart in spite of the odds, and if you encompass passion for the idea, success will follow. Yet, then those same folks will turn around and advise you to pay attention to your inner critic.

The truth is, this is just one of many challenges faced by entrepreneurs in their quest to find the right balance that ultimately brings success. Below details why you, the looney entrepreneur, must pay attention to the little voice of reason in your head (yes, the one that really does talk to you) – sometimes.

What Your Inner Critic is Telling You

No matter how determined you are as an entrepreneur, and how ‘gung ho’ you are about making it against the odds, there will be times when a little voice in the very back of your mind (the lizard brain) will try to tell you that something is wrong. It is well known that many successful entrepreneurs and executives suffer from what’s known as the inner critic- our inner voice that has our best interest at heart.

Usually, it’s either when something does not feel quite right – a new business deal, a partnership or an expansion that you aren’t quite ready for. It is your mind trying to override blind enthusiasm, and remind you that great entrepreneurs take calculated risks – they don’t rush blindly into disaster.

Another time most entrepreneurs start noticing their inner critic acting up is when they have done something that is not quite up to the standard they expect from themselves. This is particularly important when it is something you have done for a client – after all, you want your clients to be happy, right?

The point – if your inner critic is telling you that something is not right, listen!

Tapping Into Your Inner Critic – An Exercise in Objectivity

No one likes being told they are wrong – least of all, the entrepreneur. Of course, you left the safe world of employment to be your own boss, so that you never needed to be criticized again, didn’t you? However, as an entrepreneur, you will need to exercise objectivity, and weigh your own desires and feelings against the good of the company. Here’s how:

  • Pay attention to what your inner critic is telling you. You can only act on problems if you admit they exist.
  • Sit down when you have a quiet moment, and write the problem down on a piece of paper.
  • List the pros and cons of not acting on the issue. Consider the cost of not rectifying the problem and what it will do to your reputation. List everything that can go wrong if you don’t take action. Usually, you will find that the only pros will be saving time and money, in the short-term. If you want to be a success as an entrepreneur, you need to think long-term.
  • List possible solutions to the problem. Write down as many as come to mind within 5 minutes.
  • Decide on a solution and execute.

Being an entrepreneur is a freeing experience – it frees us from having to answer to anyone for our actions – or the lack thereof. However, it also means that you need to learn self discipline, and to make tough decisions on your own. That is where listening to that inner critic comes in. All great entrepreneurs do, and if you want to be one of them, it’s an imperative skill to learn.

You Don’t Have to Do it Alone

The good news is that while becoming an entrepreneur, building a company is sometimes a lonely and friendless endeavor, but finding ways to deal with issues that your inner critic raises does not have to be.

When you start to notice something weighing on your mind, speak to someone. It could be your spouse, your parents or your mentor. You do not have to ask for advice, or even comment, but sometimes, just saying the challenge out loud can help you to decide what to do.

Make no mistake however, in business, as with life, doing nothing is almost always worse than doing the wrong thing. As long as you take action and do something, you start the momentum needed to keep going, and will eventually fix the problem. When you ignore it, or hope it will go away, it will almost always does not go away and will only have a compounding (and disastrous) effect.

The Bottom Line

Just as you have that burning feeling in your gut that your big idea WILL be a huge success, and that if you just follow your dreams, they will all be attainable, you need to realize that the same is true of the negative.

When something does not feel right, it is usually not, and you need to be prepared to tackle the bad, as well as the good. The sooner you do, the sooner you can put it behind you and move on toward what you are passionate about, and ultimately drives you – building the very best business you can.

This article originally appeared on

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  • Social Assistant

    Love this article! There’s usually a big difference between just being nervous because you’re excited about something and being nervous because you feel you could be making a mistake.

    This really took us through the process of how to deal with that little devil inside us all. :)


  • Ryan Hanley

    This is a fantastic article. Thank you Gary.

    My inner critic can be a Bastard… I like to be the best. And when I’m not feeling my inner critic is right there to let me know. However, do to Irish Stubbornness my inner critic often drives me to do more than I originally thought was possible. Write this article, Set this meeting, Book this speaking event, there are times I don’t think I could do many of the things I’ve done if I wasn’t trying to prove that little Bastard wrong…

    Again thanks Gary,

    Ryan H.

  • Arek Skuza

    Really interesting info. I think fear is so needed in startup life. Without it it would be sooooo hard not to break the head….. I also put some info here:

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  • Gary Whitehill

    Thank you for you comment Ryan.

    You have to embrace vs. deny. The book by Hal Stone provides the fundamental architecture for making sure the inner critic doesn’t eat you for lunch, which for most, it unfortunately does.

    Keep crushing it bro.

  • Gary Whitehill


    I would argue that anxiety and fear are the greatest enemies of the entrepreneur, which is the reason I wrote the article.

    Risk tolerance goes hand in hand with both of the aforementioned – thus it is imperative to understand how to control, embrace and understand the mental challenges of being an entrepreneur – which is not something that a book can teach. The reality of entrepreneurship can only learned through tough real world experience.

  • Tkaome

    The inner voice is always right, it is not right for an interprenuer to act against his conscience…….
    this is a good article