Table of Contents
The Wealthy Franchisee

How to Silence Your Inner Critic Our mental heckler uses negativity to protect us from failure and disappointment. Here's how to flip the script and turn it into a motivator.

By Scott Greenberg

Key Takeaways

  • Our culture breeds insecurity about money, looks and lifestyle, and those self-doubts often manifest themselves as a "mental heckler" within our minds.
  • While you might not be able to silence your mental heckler completely, you can quiet it and use it to your advantage.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This is part 6 / 9 of The Wealthy Franchisee: Section 2: Mastering the Mindset for Franchise Success series.

Our culture breeds insecurity. Each day we're exposed to thousands of messages about how we're supposed to live. We're surrounded by beauty magazines, fast cars, and fancy houses. We celebrate celebrities, adore athletes, and worship the wealthy without having any idea how happy they really are. We mimic their hairstyles, buy their perfumes, and wear their signature sneakers. But those feeling aren't just about our personal lives. They bleed over into the franchises we run as well.

Insecurity in Franchising

Closer to home, we monitor our franchise colleagues, notice how they're doing, and then compare our accomplishments to theirs. One franchisee is clearing six figures from his store. You barely make half that. Another franchisee just opened her third location. You still only have one. Before long, everything good we see in others turns into self-criticism. Franchisors mean well when they celebrate top performers onstage at their conventions. They're hoping these high performers will inspire everyone else, but for many, seeing others succeed has the opposite effect.

Related: I'm a Franchise Consultant — These Are The 5 Franchise Warning Signs To Look Out For

The mental heckler also echoes criticism we've received from real people. Every insult makes its mark. Sticks and stones will break our bones, but words do permanent damage. This is especially true when they come from people who matter to us. Our parents, our coaches, our teachers—they may have the best intentions, but often their "help" cuts deep. I'll never forget my high school geometry teacher telling me I could never get into Stanford. He may have been right, but I'll never know—thanks to him, I didn't even apply.

But in the end, we are responsible for our own insecurities. We choose to play the game and set our own goals and standards for success. We decide whether to honor our own values or those we see on TV. We choose whether to listen to the opinions of others. And when we look outward to measure our progress, we hear the feedback of that critical inner voice.

The mental heckler points out the gap between who we are and who we think we should be. For some, this is motivating, but for most of us, it's horribly discouraging. We believe the heckler's criticism and don't attempt to prove it wrong.

Related: Explore great opportunities on the Franchise 500

But what if it is wrong? What opportunities have we missed out on? How much unnecessary pain have we felt? And how much is our business suffering as a result? Most of the time, the mental heckler misses the mark. Its opinions are completely without merit. Why should it be credible? It's no more educated or experienced than we are, and it has no more information than we do.

Silencing Your Inner Critic

I wish I knew how to quiet my mental heckler for good. I've spent decades helping people overcome this stuff, but my own inner cynic still occasionally speaks up. Sometimes I'll see someone in my audience with a sour look on their face, and the mental heckler starts chipping away at my confidence. Often, when I'm done, those people are the first ones in line to buy my book. Intellectually, I know I can't accurately read an audience member. But intellect can't compete with feeling. While promoting the movie The Hours in 2003, Oscar-winning actresses Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, and Meryl Streep confessed their insecurities to Oprah Winfrey during an interview. All three admitted to trying to back out of parts they'd been offered, and Oprah asked Meryl Streep why. "Because I say to myself, 'I don't know how to act—and why does anybody want to look at me on-screen anymore?'" she said. Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman echoed similar feelings.

Related: Here Are 4 Big Franchising Trends You Should Know About

Here were three of Hollywood's most accomplished actresses, admitting they still worry that each movie will be their last as if the world is going to realize they've been faking this whole time. No number of Academy Awards could compete with their mental hecklers. Maybe their success is a result not just of having talent, but of having the grit to do their work in spite of their insecurity. That's why I respect all franchisees. Lots of people would love to open a new business, but few actually do. It takes guts to defy your self-doubt. That's the true meaning of courage—to feel fear but go for it anyway. That leap of faith is an enormous step toward wealth.

The Mental Heckler Cares

One exercise I do with franchisees is a role-playing scenario in which I ask them to play the part of their own mental heckler. I speak directly to it and ask why it so brutally discourages the franchisee. After a little discussion, invariably it comes down to this: The mental heckler cares. It worries about the franchisee and wants to protect them from failure.

Often the mental heckler will admit it's doing more harm than good and agree to disengage. It's just a game, but for the franchisee, it can be an empowering shift in perspective. It's easier to coexist with a concerned friend than an enemy. Think of C-3PO in Star Wars or Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter books. They're not negative—they're cautious. They're the first to suggest retreating. They can be annoying at times, but they mean well. You can decide how you'd like to perceive your heckler. Hate it, hug it—whatever makes you feel powerful. Just don't let it hold you back.

More in The Wealthy Franchisee