How to Move from Horrified to Humble to Celebratory

by  Jane Perdue  |  Self Leadership
How to Move from Horrified to Humble to Celebratory post image

Most of us have an inner critic, the little voice in our head that—depending on the degree of power we give to it—can be an inhibiting enemy or a good, supportive friend.

After a long career in business, I turned to writing as one part of my second act. Recently I read several early blog posts and was horrified. I knew I had lots to learn about the craft of writing when I began, and those old posts were dreadful evidence of how little I knew.

My inner critic accelerated to warp speed, chastising me for every dangling participle, adverb, and run-on sentence.

Inner critics are pesky that way.

They trash-talk us, specializing in shame, fear, negativity, and inadequacy. They have a knack for identifying our vulnerabilities and have the audacity to use that knowledge to beat us over the head when we fall short. Often, the inner critic takes the voice of an authority figure in our lives. While browsing my early posts, I heard my dad and Mr. Prouty (a demanding but beloved high school English teacher) expressing their disappointment.

Mercifully soon their disapproving voices were edged out by Mary’s, my writing coach. “Of course those early writing attempts were bad,” she murmured. “Don’t focus on the mistakes. Instead, look at how far you’ve come and how much you’ve learned.”

Inner critics can be helpful that way, too, if we let them.

Most of us are quick to give others the benefit of the doubt. However, we’re usually slow to do the same for ourselves. As the old slogan goes, we deserve a break too.

Kristen Neff, professor and author, offers a way to give ourselves that break. She suggests ditching the super-sized portion of self-criticism we serve ourselves and replacing it with a healthy portion of self-compassion. She says self-compassion is “a courageous mental attitude that stands up to harm, including the discomfort that we unwittingly inflict on ourselves through self-criticism, self-isolation, and self-rumination when things go wrong.”

To practice self-compassion, Dr. Neff advises doing three things:  be kind to ourselves, recognize our own humanity just as we would that of anyone else, and be mindful about excessively beating ourselves up—getting caught in that nasty cycle of “not enoughs.” She notes this is tough stuff to do, “The problem is that it’s hard to unlearn habits of a lifetime.” No kidding. However, there’s a great payoff to be had from all that unlearning:  her research shows being self-compassionate helps us stop taking things so seriously and so personally, feel less self-conscious, and do less social comparison in which we invariably come up short.

Moving from horror to humility is a matter of mindfully shifting perspectives:  from not allowing ourselves to feel belittled by the inner critic to, with some help from our inner coach, giving ourselves permission to be inspired and perform our best

Sometimes that perspective-shifting process takes a lot of edits. Time, too. And that’s OK.

How have you learned to work with your inner coach? Tell us more in the comments!
Photo Credit: Morguefile

About The Author

Articles By jane-perdue
I’m a leadership futurist and well-mannered maverick who challenges stereotypes, sacred cows, gender bias & how we think about power. Love chocolate, TED, writing, kindness, paradox and shoes.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Page Cole  |  10 Apr 2015  |  Reply


That was brave. Opening up your heart for the world to see the brave, pretty parts is easy. Transparency that lets people see our warts, scars and fears is tough. Thank you for having that kind of courage in this post.

I too have argued with that inner coach. Many times I’ve heard him say, “What right do you have to say/share/teach/lead (you fill in the blank, I’ve heard it). That inner coach loves to throw my failures and flaws in my face. But I’ve learned a couple of valuable lessons along the way, very similar to those you mentioned.

Truth is truth.
Grace isn’t for the innocent, it’s for the guilty and broken.
Hope is more than believing where I can go, it’s seeing how far I’ve come.
And to quote the Beatles… “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

I’m thankful you’re one of those friends.
Have a blessed weekend!

Jane Perdue  |  10 Apr 2015  |  Reply


From having worked so many years in corporate America, it’s taking me a long time to learn to let my vulnerabilities show. Thank you for the support and encouragement to continue on that path. Good to have a friend like you on that journey!

With a smile,


John E. Smith  |  11 Apr 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Jane:) Thanks for an interesting and courageous post.

I know that many of us do not consider sharing our thoughts in blog posts or articles to be brave, but your self-disclosure to a world that does not always receive honesty well is refreshing and a great example.

You have identified an issue for many of us. My thoughts while reading this were similar to Page’s, in that our inner voice is usually very well developed as a critic, but not so much heard as a compassionate observer of our growth. The old trite saying that we are our own worst critics may be overused, but its accuracy cannot be overstated.

I appreciate your sharing, because it has caused me to reflect on how I continue to sabotage myself with overemphasis on impossible standards and unrealistic expectations.

Maybe I need to cut myself a little slack:) …


Jane Perdue  |  13 Apr 2015  |  Reply

Hi, John —

A little slack can be a good thing…like giving ourselves permission to fail and learn from that failure! The social pressure to be perfect is enormous…a weight I’m choosing to give up. Appreciate your kind words and support for being candid.

With a smile,


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