The Voice in the Shadow

In his TED talk, Dancing with My Inner Critic, Steve Chapman speaks of the inner critic that lives in all great leaders: “… that whisper in my ear who constantly reminds me that I am not good enough – that my creativity is bad, that I should play it safe and not take risks, not try anything new because I will probably make a fool of myself.”

Chapman defines the inner critic as “the idealized sense of self, an unattainable imagined perfect version of us that never fails at anything and receives the adorations from other human beings for being the master at literally everything. It manifests in us day-to-day as a self-doubt that causes us to distrust our intuition and instincts. A voice whose constant narrative of comparison and judgment stifles spontaneity and creativity, replacing it with self-doubt and shame.” It continuously tells great leaders: “You are not good enough and you are incapable of becoming good enough.”

Seth Godin in his blog post, Facing the Inner Critic, writes: “Part of his power comes from the shadows. We hear his voice, we know it by heart. He announces his presence with a rumble and he runs away with a wisp of smoke. But again and again, we resist looking him in the eye, fearful of how powerful he is. We’re afraid that, like the gorgon, he will turn us to stone. He’s living right next to our soft spot, the (very) sore place where we store our shame, our insufficiency, our fraudulent nature. And he knows all about it, and pokes us there again and again.”

Great leaders have learned to deal with the inner critic. They chose, as Godin writes, to see the critic as a “as a compass, as a way to know if we’re headed in the right direction…. We can dance with him, talk with him, welcome him along for a long, boring car ride. Suddenly, he’s not so dangerous. Sort of banal, actually. There is no battle to win, because there is no battle. The critic isn’t nearly as powerful as you are, not if you are willing to look him in the eye.”

The voice in the shadow will always be with us. Its roots are found in our life’s experiences and learnings, the voices of people whom we have met and who have impacted us, the culture and environment in which we were brought up and lived. We can choose to listen and learn from our inner critic, our voice in the shadow. Yes, “there is no battle to win, because there is no battle.” Remember the counsel of Robert Kiyosaki: “It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.” Vincent Van Gogh tells us also: “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” Whisper great things to yourself. Let those whispers be your voices in the shadow.

Have a beautiful and wondrous day and a magnificent week!!!

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One Response to The Voice in the Shadow

  1. Jack Beach says:

    “It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.” What a profound insight. Thanks Mike.

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