Self-criticism is one of the most common obstacles to great performance in any field

“Self-criticism is one of the most common obstacles to great performance in any field. It’s often called the silent killer of business, because so many executives suffer from it, yet so few dare to speak out about it. I’ve heard a variety of people, from junior associates to the most senior executives, privately admit that much of their workday was consumed by negativity, their inner critics constantly pointing out their failings, or predicting disappointing outcomes for their projects and initiatives. In some cases, they (and I) were amazed that they got anything done at all, considering that, as one executive reported, ‘Eighty percent of my day is spent fighting my inner critic.'” – The Charisma Myth

I’m still working on quieting the inner critic. Buddhists call it the “Monkey Mind”: that endless, chattering, berating, irritating, loud, abrasive voice that constantly mocks, taunts, and trashes us.

The worst part of this, and something we can get hung up on is, this voice is us! Or is it? Where does this voice come from? I believe it comes from unregulated self-hate. How do we stamp out the monkey? Is there a metaphorical banana we can give him to quiet him down? It’s hard to talk when you’re eating right?

Words frame our entire world view. Words frame our sense of self. Words encapsulate and border in our personalities. Have you ever heard the saying, “Words can’t express how upset I feel right now.”

We all know there are limits to words. Words are limiting. How do we make this obstacle become the way? We need to prune words of self-loathing from our conversations with ourselves. Let’s play a game:

What are some of the worst things you can say about yourself?

  • I suck at programming. Everyone’s going to find out.
  • I’m so angry right now!
  • I hate you.

Here are different ways to phrase them.

  • I’ve assessed my strengths and pinpointed my weaknesses in programming. I can study hard and work on the parts I’ve identified.
  • I’m experiencing anger right now.
  • I’m experiencing frustration now. It will pass. Please give me time to calm myself down and I will loop back around with you to discuss this further.

In Buddhism, we talk about feeling anger rather than saying, “I am angry.” We do not identify with the anger and become our anger. We realize that anger is a passing feeling. And we know that most feelings only last about 2 minutes.


Think about the words you use when you are condeming yourself. Try to be aware of the way you are talking to yourself. Are the words your inner critic lobs at you compassionate? What can you do to take the sting out of your own worst enemy? Trim his words. Craft your self-message to build yourself up.

Author: David Neely

Professional Software Developer. Technology and Web Coordinator at the University of Hawaii's Manoa Career Center.