Your Inner Motivator is NOT Your Inner Critic

Elisabeth Olyvia Norton
3 min readMar 20, 2017

I love to take on BIG projects that require a lot of time, focus, energy, and creativity. I’m inspired by the idea and have a passion for starting things. The challenge is I get stymied at some point and then, as soon as it feels challenging, the running commentary in my head interferes. “You aren’t good enough for that.” “No one is interested.” ‘You’re not creative (or an expert, or funny, or insightful) enough to do that.” And then I get stuck, in the swamp of BS running in my head. And the project I was so in love with lags.

We all have a set of malicious voices going on in our head, constantly criticizing, shaming, and giving their opinions: the Inner Critic and the Fraud Police. Please, Hon, Do NOT confuse these nasties with the real you. They aren’t and haven’t ever been. They have their use in the big biological survival paradigm to protect us from being vulnerable and getting hurt, but what they say isn’t true. Those mean names and harsh judgments, they aren’t accurate. Not. One. Bit.

The inner critic is mean and shaming that you aren’t already perfect at something. It’s full of shoulds and blaming and demeaning tones, it makes you feel inferior and inadequate. The job of the inner critic is to keep you limited, protected, and out of harm’s way: if you live a small enough life you diminish the chances someone notices you enough to shame you from the outside. The inner critic beats them to the punch by humiliating you so thoroughly you don’t even get started. But at least you’re safe.

The fraud police are the posse of voices that tell you that the wonderful, incredible thing you just did is crap. If the inner critic doesn’t knock you out, the fraud police will blast you to bits. Their favored phrase is “who do you think you are?” to make sure you don’t get too self-important, i.e. feel like an actual, valued human being. They’ll pair up with the inner critic in a snap to make sure that you never quite live up to your potential.

Unfortunately we often think these voices are actually us. And we believe them, along with their nasty endless squawking. We buy what they are selling like it’s the best thing in the world, instead of complete poison to our self-esteem and well-being.

The inner motivator is NOT the inner critic. The motivator inspired you to be your best and to reach beyond what you know you can be & do right now. It has encouraging words and praise, it soothes the bumps of mistakes and shows you the value of learning from them. The motivator gets you excited to expand yourself, willing to practice while you develop at a new skill, and even have fun in the practice itself. It gets you curious and keeps you interested. The inner motivator never shames or constrains you, it’s up for playing big and embracing the new, even if it feels a bit awkward or scary. It helps you stay focused and moving forward, it’s always on your side.

I can look for my inner motivator now. I write out what’s running in my head and look at it from fresh eyes, not believing it straight away. Not smart enough? Well, what is there to research or learn? Not creative enough? Well, how do I spend more time being in the creative flow? I look at the noise and see where I can grow rather than allow it to stop me. The noise that used to stop me now is the place to expand.

Don’t confuse these voices, pay close attention to the running commentary in your head and ask, “Does this make me feel worse about myself or better?”. Always go with better. And if better isn’t right there, ask it to step up so you can step out. The Inner Motivator thrives on a bit of encouragement and will sustain you while you learn to dismiss the tones of the Inner Critic and Fraud Police as the noise and lies they really are.



Elisabeth Olyvia Norton

Positive Psychology Coach, Writer, Educator. Optimist, edge pusher, & smarty pants. Momma to bevy of 4 leggers, artist & proud science geek.