Here’s my best advice for a sustainable professional life (first title was “for a sustainable entrepreneurial life, but I immediately realised that this actually applies to everyone): remove your inner critic.
I can bet that at some point in your professional life, you’ve been hard on yourself – even though you’ve been performing at your best, pulling your hair out and giving it your all. And then I think: this was counterproductive. Because I’m pretty sure that you cognitively know and understand that you did your best, but that inner critic says “you could have done more …..”.
I don’t have an inner critic. I know myself well enough to know that I would never choose to perform worse than I can, that I never ignore a task and that I always do my utmost to make the output as good as possible. This is enough for me to remove the internal performance stress that people tend to carry. Plus, often my own (and I think you recognise this too) definition of “good” is even higher than what the client expects from me.
Of course, this does not mean that I go around being comme ci comme ça when it comes to my job. I have an internal inspector who carefully ensures that I maintain quality. And that I always do my best based on the given conditions. But the thing is that this inspector is automatic. I no longer even have to think about whether I can do better – if I could do better, I would have done better from the start. And the inspector, despite the name, is also my biggest fan, who praises me for a job well done when something turns out so well. Then the inspector turns into a cheerleader who says: “tell others about this!”
The advantage of removing your inner critic is that you become quite pragmatic to the context you are in. Because if I do my utmost, but it’s still not enough, maybe I’m in the wrong place. Here’s a trivial example, but one that sticks in the mind: yours truly has no sense of place whatsoever. So much so that even though my best friend has lived in her house for over 7 years, I still need to GPS my way there. So maybe the national orienteering team is not something for me to aspire to (no pun intended). And yes, I’ve done my best to try to find it without navigation, I… can’t. I was driving in the wrong direction to begin with. And so it is. I can do other things.
An inner critic must not be allowed to creep in and influence the desire to develop. It’s not that I want to get better because an inner voice tells me I’m bad, but because I want to get better! So that I can put on a “bigger suit”, so that I can play in an even bigger context.
I want to challenge you to try this way of thinking. It will feel weird at first, because you can’t remove your inner critic. Yes… you can! You can make a promise to yourself to always do your best. Or, if it feels more relatable to you: to never consciously do less than your best. Because then you become accountable to yourself and have a high standard for everything you do. You can’t ask more than that for yourself. Instead of a critic, let a kind inspector move into your mind. Kind, but quality controlling. But kind. You get the idea.