What Do You Do When Your Own Worst Critic is You?

You are not a puppet. Or are you?

Who remembers the old Pinocchio cartoon with Jiminy Cricket? That famous wise, leg-rubbing insect who whispered words of encouragement into a wooden puppet’s ear about becoming a boy. “Let your…” you know the line. I can’t say more or the Disney police will likely make me take this down. Anyway, guess what? You are not a puppet. And yet, how often have you felt like an invisible marionette master is “pulling your strings?” What if you feel like you are both the puppet and the puppeteer? How messed up is that?!

Wait? What? You ask defensively. First, you say I’m not a puppet now you are insulting me? I outta…

Hold on a sec. It’s a valid question. Because if you are like me, you too suffer from Imposter Syndrome. That uneasy, debilitating feeling that we aren’t good enough, or worse, that we don’t want to stand out or don’t believe we are worthy of the success we have achieved, so we do something stupid to sabotage it, like cut our own strings or say, I can’t. 

Admit it. There are areas of your life where you still don’t feel like you measure up. Look at your car and your neighbor’s car, your checkbook, and what you imagine someone else to be. It doesn’t take much to dig ourselves into a Hagen-Daz-eating, binge-watching Netflix pit of despair, especially when we keep believing our own BS about our self-worth.

Our self-deprecating thoughts are all lies, mostly.

All of us have something we want to be, do, or have, but unlike that insidious well-meaning insect we become more like a warty toad croaking in our own ear saying, 

Uh.. yeah, but you don’t understand, I don’t think I can. 

Yes, I do. And yes you can, if you actually try. Look at that wooden toy-turned boy and how his life changed. OK, not the whale part, but you know what I mean. If we want to believe something can be different, it can. But we must change the garbage we keep telling ourselves and learn to be a little kinder. We need to be more like Jiminy, whispering positive sweet somethings to ourselves. And we can’t just think about what we want, we actually, have to…wait for it…


Or, we stay on the toy store shelf waiting for something or someone you don’t know to magically change your life and give you the confidence so you can hop down and be somebody. Or you can be your own puppetmaster and stop believing the croaking toad. Puppet or Puppeteer—either way, it’s up to you.

And for those who hoped I was going to answer the opening question, sorry. That’s not my job. But I did combine my own school-of-hard-knocks experience with a handful of leaders around the nation, whose main goal is to inspire others by building them up. What transpired is a pretty awesome collaboration in the form of a damn good book that releases Monday. Learn more at shawnlangwell.com.

If I stirred things up a bit, good. That was my point as I experiment with this blogging stuff. You see, I don’t have the first clue about what will reach people and what won’t. Do any of us really have the secret sauce without a last name that starts with D and ends in g—Tim Denning? Who knows.

All I know is I’m a stubborn Irishman who will keep trying new things until something sticks. All I know is how to be me. And I refuse to get splinters in my ass from sitting on the toy shelf too long. 

And yes there will be days I, like you, wake up and feel like a complete imposter as in Invasion of the Body Snatchers—those pod-hatching, soul-sucking makes me want to fire up a flame thrower and fry those nasty blobs, but I’m doomed cause I quit smoking ten years ago and can’t find a lighter. But I will not be eaten by my fears or Body Snatchers. I will survive, or die trying.

Let’s face it we all have days like that. I do it at least twice a week. When they hit me, I drag my ass down to the kitchen, slam a cup of black coffee, and, as the sleep crumbles from my eyes and mind, decide that waking up is a good thing, especially considering the alternative. That is enough to change my mindset.

How about you? Tired of splinters yet? Then get off the bench and do something bold. 

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

This is a question we have all contemplated at some point in our lives. Perhaps, we still do. What do we do to “figure it out?” Who do we ask for help? I recall a conversation I had with my stepfather years ago.

It was a cool spring day, in April. My stepfather David and I sat outside on the deck of his hillside home in West Marin beneath old oaks and towering pines, talking about my future.

I don’t recall how the conversation started, but I do remember feeling my heart thump in my chest because at that point, I felt as if I should know what career to pursue but had no real clue. I had never even written a resume.

I was lost.

“Congratulations!” he started. “You’re graduating and you’re going to get married. That’s terrific! Now what do you think you want to be when you grow up? What kind of job do you want?” Immediately I felt my gut tighten and stammered a feeble reply. “I don’t know, that’s why I am here.” He continued trying to get me to open up, to say what I wanted. I grew frustrated because he wasn’t telling me what I should do. Instead, he was trying to guide me to figure it out for myself.

David, perhaps sensing my trepidation, told me something I will never forget. He said, “You are one of the most courageous people I know.”

Surprised, I leaned back in my chair. “What do you mean?” I asked.

“You not only found the courage to stop drinking at a young age, but you have the grit and determination to finish school and start a family at the same time. That takes guts.” For the next hour or so, I asked him more relevant questions to zero in on what I might or might not like in a career. He also assured me that no career decisions are final. That it is perfectly normal and acceptable, even advantageous, for people to change jobs. He added, “Most people work for six or seven different employers in their lifetimes.” With his coaching, I decided to pursue a career in media sales. Next, he helped me come up with a game plan.

That meeting took place nearly thirty years ago. I have used those lessons numerous times since. In fact, I can hear David’s deep powerful encouraging voice in my head as I continue to grapple with my own lack of confidence as an author: “It sounds to me like you already know what you want to write about. I say, go for it!”

The above is an excerpt from my latest book, Ten Seconds of Boldness: The Essential Guide to Solving Problems and Building Self-Confidence which releases on August 1st.

Over the next two weeks, I will share confidence-building insights gleaned from several impactful conversations I’ve had with influential leaders included in the book. In particular, Kevin Miller (“serial entrepreneur”, podcaster, and host of the popular Ziglar show with over 250 Million downloads worldwide), Steve Lavin, Collegiate Basketball Coach and broadcaster, and Aaron Locks, CEO and Founder of National Academy of Athletics who has helped more than 300k kids in 131 cities across the United States become more confident and learn to live by his motto, “Play Hard – Have Fun.”

I look forward to getting to connect with you and hope that what I share will strike a chord and inspire you to find your own Ten Seconds of Boldness to pursue the life you want to live.

You can find me at shawnlangwell.com