For a long time, I thought the “inner critic” didn’t exist when it came to my writing. I could look at my work with a critical, editor’s eye, but I wasn’t wallowing in fear and self-doubt. My medium was my passion and one, true talent. How could I ever fear or doubt that? Truthfully, I thought the discussion around the “inner critic” was self-indulgent and a distraction from the work at hand. Maybe the inner critic, I thought, signaled to other people that they’re on the wrong path. Sucks for them.

Man, I was so wrong.

I figured it out soon enough. One night, I sat down at my desk to knock out a client project, and I started my writing warm up by reading similar past work. My inner critic’s voice suddenly filled the space as if spoken by flesh and bone.

“You will never write anything that good again.”

I dropped my pencil. You’re right, I thought. All those other projects? Award-winning press releases? Gorgeous magazine features? Punchy website copy? You just got lucky, Jess. None of that had anything to do with skill, knowledge, or least of all, talent. Girl, please. You probably lifted those lines from somewhere else, even, and you’re too dumb to realize it. Who do you think you are.

The certainty of this voice made me believe it was real. It’s easy to confuse insecurity with intuition because the ego, the enemy, the devil — whatever name you have for that powerful force behind fraudy feelings — has always been a master of using disguise to cast self-doubt. Even in the most basic of fairy tales, the wolf wears sheep’s clothing to impersonate someone we trust. In the Bible, the devil takes form as a harmless garden snake to simply ask “Are you sure?”

It’s easy to confuse insecurity with intuition. Click To Tweet

Are you sure you can do that?
Are you sure that’s true?
Are you sure they like you?
Are you sure you’re good enough?
Are you sure you deserve it?
Are you sure?
Are you sure?
Are you sure?

But I’ve learned that no matter how clever the costume or convincing the argument, the enemy always gives itself away. (“My, Grandma, what big eyes you have!”) Personal criticism is constructive: you end the internal conversation knowing what you did well, what you could do better, and what your next step should be. A fraudy feeling never offers solutions or conclusions. It’s just an endless loop of BS, spinning your mental wheels and flinging mud.

A fraudy feeling never offers solutions or conclusions. Click To Tweet

Insecurity is also anti-evidence: it can’t prove its case with facts, so it fights against you with the lowest frequency thoughts, feelings, and ideas. I don’t care how clear the inner voice is — if it’s negative, it’s deceptive.

I combat fraudy feelings with Kathleen’s (now famous?) Dinner Party Excercise. The dinner guests aren’t just idols — they can be alter egos we armor ourselves with, or helpers in our own hero’s journey.

My dinner guest of honor, Nicki Minaj, does not fox with fraudy feelings. I always imagine her appearing on my shoulder, in that fairy godmother costume a la Moment 4 Life ft. Drake (duh), smiling and blinking wide while she tells my fraudy feeling to back the *^#$ off. In my hero’s journey, her voice is my helper — identifying the devil in disguise and calling him out. Because would Nicki take shit talk from anyone? Never. She wouldn’t talk down on herself. She believes in her talent and knows her worth.

In addition to revisiting the Dinner Party Exercise over and over, I also keep a running list of accolades to squash insecurity. See, facts and evidence are the antidote to fear. My fraudy feelings can never outwit the facts. By keeping a running list of all my experience and education, I can make a case to and for myself: I am talented. I am knowledgeable. I am skilled. I am more than enough to do this job and do it well.

Facts and evidence are the antidote to fear. Click To Tweet

I encourage you to write down each and every workshop, class, webinar, eCourse, project, award, and applicable experience you’ve had. Revisit your list often, and let it point you in the direction of what’s real and true. Seeing is believing.

If you’re fighting fraudy feelings, congrats. You are the hero in your own journey, and you’re living out an adventure. While dark forests and scary villains are a given in any epic tale, so are helpers to guide you along the way. Choose your dinner guests —your alter egos and guides — and draw yourself a map for when you feel lost. We can’t get anywhere without a little help, and sometimes the main character needs saving from themselves. Every hero faces fear and doubt. That’s how you know you’re magic.


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Jessica Willingham writes creative copy to help business owners share who they are, what they do, and why it matters, so they can grow their dreams and catch the clients they love. She co-owns Rarest Fortune, a branding studio for born creatives. Find her online at