Upside down woman screaming with fingers in ears

Mrs. Lefferts was my high school English teacher. She was over six feet tall and wore dark brown, thick-heeled men’s shoes. Her white blouses were ill-fitting. I suppose her bras were ill-fitting too because she was constantly reaching in and adjusting her straps when she thought we weren’t looking. She was a total pain in my butt. 

See in high school I was what you would call a slacker.  

I used to cut class and go smoke cigarettes in the courtyard or hang out at Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips with my friends. One year I missed a total of 129 classes. I remember because when I showed my report card to my mom, I lied and told her the system was flawed. “Everyone’s report cards have problems Mom.” She never believed me. She just had the TV Repairman come out and turn off the TV for the summer. I was left to read a lot of books and live with my lies. 

Mrs. Lefferts was constantly “on my case” to pay more attention in class. She wanted me to succeed, to improve my writing skills, to learn to think more critically as I approached a paper. I owe her an apology and a huge debt of gratitude. Her class made all the difference for me in college. I wouldn’t have achieved so many “A’s” on my papers without her.

Thanks Mrs. Lefferts.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Lefferts’ voice still rings in my ears – as the voice of my inner critic.  

My inner critic is constantly telling me I need to do more, produce more, apply myself more, be more serious, take on more, more, more, more.  As a friend once said to me: “You get more done before breakfast than most people do in a day.” She’s probably right, but my inner critic only notices what I haven’t done and never, ever, lets me celebrate what I have accomplished.

Well, last night I finally disrupted my inner critic.

I had spent the last 48 hours intently listening for what my inner critic was saying to me in preparation for a workshop I was leading. I then got to work and drew a picture of my inner critic. There she was with her arms crossed, foot impatiently tapping, looking over the top of her glasses at me with her ill-fitting blouse. MRS. LEFFERTS!! I never knew it was HER voice until last night. I may have needed her in high school to egg me on (and thank goodness she did!), but as a successful adult with my OWN values, beliefs and ways of doing things, I don’t need her to motivate me anymore. 

Our inner critic is simply a habitual way of thinking. Acknowledging it is a very powerful tool. It brings a greater awareness to the critical or judging element within us – and that then gives us the opportunity to make changes and do things differently.

Once I realized this, I created a power statement. What is a power statement? A simple statement starting with “I am” that gives you energy and makes you feel more powerful. My power statement is “I am a Go Getter!” I’m practicing using this in the face of my inner critic by sharing it with friends like you, and saying it to my reflection in the bathroom mirror.

Who is your inner critic? What does it say to you? When does it get triggered? 

If you weren’t listening to your inner critic? What would you do with that time?

What would your power statement be?

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About The Author

Jen Coken's picture

Jen Coken is an author, life coach, and comedian who wants to live in a world where you’re free to be yourself and achieve your soul’s purpose—a vision that has driven her work as a Coach, Speaker, Author, Comedian for more than 20 years.

Drawing on three decades of experience as a non-profit leader and grassroots organizer, Jen helps CEOs and entrepreneurs overcome their self-made limitations and do their heart’s work.

But Jen’s impact doesn’t end there: She spent six years on the Denver stand-up comedy circuit and brings a sense of humor to every topic she addresses, including the experience of coping with her mother's diagnosis and death from ovarian cancer.

Jen’s book, "When I Die, Take My Panties: Turning Your Darkest Moments into Your Greatest Gifts" chronicles that experience and shares Jen’s core message that everything that comes our way is meant to teach us about ourselves.

When she’s not crafting bestselling books or speaking to audiences around the country, you can find Jen eating Nutella by the spoonful in the nearest grocery aisle.

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