An opportunity for rejection…self-criticism

This weekend I took a workshop with Wright as part of a year-long training I’m doing there. On Saturday evening we received an assignment to talk to strangers and get rejected by them. One option for conversation was to tell people about the Wright workshop and invite them to attend. Despite my terror at being viewed as a proselytizer, I took it on.

I figured anything that made me that terrified was worth doing.

The next thing I knew I was walking up to a woman sitting in front of a burrito shop in Chicago, taking in her look of skepticism, and saying “I know this is really weird, but…” A few minutes later I had fielded many objections as well as multiple claims that she was not interested: I was not with any sort of religious organization; people from out of state could do the workshop; and all kinds of people, from teens to military to owners of writing and editing companies, got value from the program.

A breakthrough…

It didn’t take long for her to start sharing with me about her husband and how he could really benefit from a program like this, and about her special needs child; in the end she was the one who told me her name without my asking. And she took information about the program with real interest.

Everyone I told this story to was blown away by how I continued to talk to this woman despite her multiple attempts to make me go away. I quite possibly made a difference in another human being’s life because I was willing to act despite my fear. In my small group for the weekend, I was voted to share the story with the larger group.


My self-talk was that this was just me using my sales skills. When I had an opportunity to share about my interaction with a room full of 60 people, I didn’t tell them how awesome I was. I talked about my fear of rejection (which obviously I did not let get in my way). I received some spot-on coaching about my choice of what to share and was left wishing I had just told the story about how I connected with the woman in front of the burrito shop.

I immediately started beating myself up that I hadn’t done it right.

I wanted a do-over!! (Sound familiar?…)

I was so self-critical, in fact, that I could barely concentrate on the program for the next several hours … until … I got to watch someone else get coaching on her own self-critic. Suddenly, watching it outside of myself, I was able to feel the hurt of holding on to my critic—really feel it—and I started to ease up on myself ever-so-slightly.

Before this experience, I think all I did with my inner critic was to criticize myself for having such a loud one. This time, feeling the pain and emotion of what it’s like in my head, I started to have compassion for her.

I’m not getting rid of my critic, mind you. She’s very useful to have around and allows me to correct a lot of things that might otherwise remain a mess. She motivates me to grow and learn. But I’d like her to have less of a hold on me so I have my full energy and brain power to focus on things like reaching out to people and taking on other terrifying, exhilarating tasks in life.

Maybe you’d like to cultivate more compassion for your inner critic?

Do you tell stories in a way that gives yourself less than full credit? Do you frequently find yourself wanting a “do-over”?

What difference would it make in your life if you could have compassion for the critical voice in your head?


  1. Yes, compassion is good, but how do we do it in the moment? I have it that it doesn’t work so well to get present to the self-inflicted pain of all the pressure I put on myself because the alternative seems to be just lowering my standards, letting myself off the hook, taking a break, etc. This gets me out of the discomfort for a moment, but doesn’t improve my performance in the area that my self critic was beating me up about in the first place. What are the tools and techniques for being my own positive, supportive “inner performance coach”?

    • Great question Seth. I’ve been doing personal growth work for years and just experienced compassion for my critic in a new way. The Wright Year of Transformation was my path to getting a new perspective. For me, feeling the emotions around what I do to myself cleared my head so I could concentrate on the task at hand. To me, getting present to the self-inflicted pain means actually feeling it and moving through it, rather than finding an escape route. Honestly I don’t know if someone had handed me tools if I would have been able to use them to find compassion for my critic. What worked was an experience of identifying with someone else’s pain and being in a safe space to feel mine.

  2. How do you balance your inner critic from being too critical to not being critical enough? Do you have a measurement or a compass to balance it out? Could you give examples of each side of the spectrum and how you came to that conclusion? Finally, what types of behavior would you consider to be the most hyper critical of your inner critic ?

    • My inner critic is being “too critical” when it shuts me down, gives me a headache or makes me want to go straight to bed. There’s a difference between beating myself up and giving myself coaching! I don’t have to worry about the inner critic not being critical enough. She’s always critical enough.

  3. This was very helpful. I have found my inner critic to take me to very high highs and low lows in a short period time to work on things. The lows are emotional deserts that completely drains me with extensive crying and many times losing the ability to talk. The highs are so much excitement its like christmas and your birthday together that gives creativity because you can make this work. I am critical of myself to point of questioning everything, so I appreciated your very candid column about a not easy issue.

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