When I set out to start my coaching business a little over a year ago, I laid out some milestones for myself that I would be sure to celebrate once achieved.  My first paying client.  My tenth client.  And so on.    

My first client came, but I decided it didn’t count because she “only” signed up for two sessions.  I would celebrate when someone hired me for a full package of sessions.  

The second client came, and she didn’t count either, because I didn’t “earn” it—she was referred to me by a close friend.  Probably just doing me a favor.  

When the third client came, well, it just felt weird to celebrate the third time something happened as a “first”.  

Actually, pretty much none of my accomplishments since I started this business have “counted”, based on my ever-moving internal goalposts and my tendency to discount my accomplishments no sooner than they are achieved.

Do you ever discount your accomplishments?  

It’s starting to feel like my Inner Critic is the SNL character Debbie Downer, portrayed by Rachel Dratch in the aughts.  

Luckily, as a coach, I know that why Debbie appears is less important than what to do when she arrives at the front door, ready to suck the life out of anything resembling a party.    

What causes us to have an Inner Critic may not be not as important as what to do with them when they arrive on the scene, ready to suck the life out of any party.  

Here’s something you can try the next time your Inner Critic starts running the show.  

  1. Recognize the Inner Critic is trying to protect you somehow.  For me and my “friend” Debbie, I think she turns up to spare me disappointment when I don’t achieve my goals.  If I silence the pomp and circumstance when I do achieve a goal, then it kind of looks and feels the same as when I don’t.  It creates a not-so-virtuous circle, where I feel I am ordinary, and when I achieve something that I previously thought would be great, I morph the accomplishment back into my mental model of ordinariness, thus allowing me to stay that way.  Debbie Downer helps me stay in my lane, and stay protected from risk.
  2. Greet your Inner Critic when they stop by.  Some people will tell you to ignore your Inner Critic, or somehow “stomp out” their voice.  I’ve not had much luck with that.  Instead, I thank her for protecting me in the past when I needed to stay safe—like when I was a little girl and blending in was a form of social safety.  
  3. Give them a new job.  When Debbie shows up, I am not going to slam the door in her face.  Or roll my eyes at her.  Or refuse to talk to her.  I am going to invite her to do something new.  Instead of qualifying each milestone until it doesn’t much feel like one anymore, in my head, Debbie is going to bust out the pom-pons and without uttering a word of analysis, she will simply shake those pom-pons over her head and say “Hooray!”. 

As for me and Debbie, we are on better terms now.  I recently completed a very big project for my business.  The list of ways in which this deliverable was a first for me seemed endless.  This time, I booked a proper getaway before I set out on the goal, to take place after it was completed, so I had no excuse not to celebrate.  Check out this picture from the oceanfront balcony my husband and I enjoyed this weekend.  As you can see, we set out additional glasses for our Inner Critics.  Just kidding, we had friends coming over.  

Wendy Hultmark is a coach who helps women in leadership own their stories and write the next chapter. Visit www.wendyhultmark.com for more information.