Improving Your Mental Toughness, Part 5 – Kill the Critic


Every single one of us lives our lives based on paradigms. Those paradigms dictate the words we use and the actions we take. Our paradigms are the product of many influences, from our upbringing and social mirrors, to our education and environment. Those influences condition us, shape our perspective of the world, and how we interact with it.

Perhaps the single greatest influence on our paradigms is the voice inside our head. “That voice in your head, if you let it be … is going to be a critic … It’s a lot more important that you remember that the big, furry animal with the claws and the teeth can kill you, than it is to remember that the butterfly is really pretty. [It’s more important to know] which berries can kill you than which one’s taste better than the others.” (Bergeron, 2020, 00:45:04) From a survival perspective, this voice inside our head is looking for the negatives, its default is to be a critic because it’s trying to protect us.

“The job of a critic is to point out every single negative that they can find … without any suggestions for improvements … Instead of being a critic, we need to learn [to turn that critic] into a coach. The job of a coach is to look for opportunities to improve.” (Bergeron, 2020, 00:45:49) That’s a vital paradigm shift. For example, a critical coach teaching a client to do an air squat would say something along the lines of “you’re not keeping your back straight” or “your knees aren’t tracking in line with your toes”. This tells the person what they’re doing wrong, but no suggestion of how to correct it. A coach, not a critic, would say something along the lines of “your back is rounding, retract your shoulder blades” or “your knees aren’t tracking in line with your toes, drive your knees outward”. The coach has recognised the faults and pointed them out, but importantly, they’ve also provided cues to help correct them.

Remember, the default for that voice inside our head is to be a critic, but we can learn to turn that critic into a coach. “If your voice was displayed over a loudspeaker, and everyone heard that voice inside your head, would you be proud of what it was saying? … No-one is going to coach you more than that voice inside your head. Do you want that coach to be negative and a critic … or look for opportunities and improvements?” (Bergeron, 2020, 00:46:39) Mental toughness cannot be developed unless we turn that critic into a coach.

“There’s a saying, “the voice in my head doesn’t care what I do, it just wants to argue through and through”. It doesn’t care if you get in the ice bath or not, it doesn’t care if you have the salad, it doesn’t care if you don’t snooze, it doesn’t care if you do the workout, it doesn’t care if you’re super productive today, it just wants to argue back and forth about those things because we are pleasure-seeking machines that try to avoid pain at all costs. (Bergeron, 2020, 00:47:43) This is part of our DNA – it was built into us for survival. What we must do is kill that critic. Start to see opportunity, start to see where we can improve, become hyper aware of that voice inside our head and choose to turn it from a critic into a coach.

Thank you for reading this post

We hope that you found this information valuable. Next week, in part 6, we will be diving deeper into “seek out practice”.

Reference list:

The 6 Steps to Improving Your Mental Toughness (2020) YouTube Video, added by Ben Bergeron [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 5 June 2020]

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