You’ve got this!

A critical inner voice can completely undermine your confidence, but you can train your harsh inner voice to speak a more constructive repertoire.
Read time 4min 30sec

Senior leaders will often look at the pipeline of leaders in their organisation and pronounce that: “Janine just isn’t very confident.” Poor Janine may or may not get this feedback, but if she does, she is at a complete loss as to where she lacks confidence and how to build confidence so that next time her name comes up in the talent review the feedback is: Janine has really grown in confidence and is ready for her next role.

Let’s start with looking inside. And by inside, I mean waaaay inside… the part that no one but you are able to access. If you know anything about the Jahari window, this is the known-to-you and unknown-to-others quadrant.

In this quadrant live your hopes and fears, dreams and desires, unexpressed emotions and thoughts, etc. What is present in this quadrant is your inner voice. Your inner voice can be kind and gentle, or loud and aggressive.

This inner voice, if you listen to it is like the narrator of your life, it is the David Attenborough of your day to day nature programme.

Women in particular often struggle with a very critical inner voice, a voice which is always expecting them to do better and be better. A critical inner voice can completely undermine your confidence:


Lerato stepped up to lead the bid to put a proposal together for a client, but the client went with another supplier.

Lerato: Thank you for letting me know. I’ll stay in touch so we can consider other opportunities to work with you in the future.

Critical Inner Voice: You idiot, why do you think they’ll want to work with you again? You clearly missed the mark this time. What makes you think you can lead this type of work? You are obviously not ready.

Result: Lerato is reluctant to try again and doesn’t call again or reach out to others in case she fails. She moves back into her comfort zone, where she helps others on their proposals but doesn’t get the credit or recognition.

Alternative (Trained) Inner Voice: Oh bummer… you worked hard on this one. It stinks to work so hard and then not win. I wonder what we can learn from this? As a first go, it was good experience.

Alternative Result: Lerato takes a breath, reflects on what she did well and where she needs to finetune her proposal approach for next time. She thinks about other new things she has tried over the years and where these have been successful. She confirms her commitment to lead and why she wants to do this with herself, and makes an appointment with her manager to share her learnings and eagerness to lead the next bid.

Your inner voice can be kind and gentle, or loud and aggressive.

Training your inner voice is like training a wild horse. Picture those horse movies where the wild stallion is “broken in” by the cowboy and eventually wins the race? Well the process is much the same:

STEP 1: Identify the voice that is loudest in your head, maybe even name it, draw it, write down what it says to you. Growing in awareness is the first step. Then the training begins. You now have your wild stallion in the paddock.

STEP 2: Each time you hear the voice, remind yourself that it is a voice, not the voice of truth. It holds an opinion, not the opinion. As a result you can change it.

STEP 3: Start training it with what you would like it to say. This is an active step. It is really like teaching a new language to someone. You can’t be expected to speak French unless you have been taught it. So teach your inner voice words that will help you grow and learn.

Starter language kit for wayward inner voices:

  • That was tough for you; I wonder what we can learn from that?
  • That didn’t go as you planned; what parts did?
  • There may be things that go wrong, but let’s think about what could go right next time.
  • You may not have the experience for this yet, but you can learn. You have before.
  • This doesn’t have to be perfect; you need to get it done though.
  • You can do the first step, don’t think of the whole, just do the first step and then the next.
  • You’ve got this.

George Lucas spent four years sending the script for Star Wars around to the various studios and racking up numerous rejections in the process. If he'd let his negative inner voice get to him he would never have ended up having the highest grossing film of all time. Think of all the great Lucas movies we might never have seen if he'd let those rejections get to him.

Angela de Longchamps

Director, Tandem Learning and Leadership Solutions

Angela de Longchamps is a passionate South African who has worked across the world, but chooses South Africa to call home. Her 20+ years of international corporate experience with PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM, in HR and as a leadership development facilitator, learning designer and event speaker, and the very grounding reality of taking her job as mom to three children very seriously, are the foundation for her business: Tandem Learning and Leadership Solutions. She partners with local and international businesses to help leaders shape up and step up.

She is also founder and CEO of a collaboration economy blended learning approach and methodology called: Inspired Leadership.

De Longchamps speaks to teams, facilitates workshops and training, inspires leaders, and assesses and consults on gender perception in organisations.

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