Who’s Tugging at Your Shirttails?

Cindy Lou Golin

Cindy Lou Golin

In a recent conversation with a participant from the Integral Facilitator Certificate Program, we talked about taking a facilitation risk at the front of the room. The voice of the inner critic came forward. At least we thought it was the inner critic.

It’s interesting how focusing on something new and different, going out of our comfort zone can prompt certain inner voices to chime in, supporting the ego in maintaining status quo. Even more interesting is that “this” particular inner voice usually shows up with seemingly rhetorical questions. It may sound something like “What if you fail?” “Who are you to facilitate these people?” “What if they don’t like it?” or “Who are you to… ?”

Have you heard this voice? Perhaps as you were taking a risk or stepping out of your comfort zone? Can you think of the questions that arise inside of you? What’s your personal favorite?

We often interpret that inner voice as being critical or negative. However my sense of it (based on many conversations with that voice in myself and others) is that that voice is quite earnest and really wants to know. (Or even if it’s not, it’s helpful to treat it that way.)

When we interpret that voice as the voice of the critic, or of inner doubt, we usually try to ignore it, hoping it will go away. But doing so often makes it louder and usually more persistent. After all, it really wants to know. It seems to keep tugging at our shirttails until its inquiry is satisfied. Listening and responding will relax and quiet that voice, and often bring that part of us into greater alignment with what we want to do.

Let’s play with hearing what it has to say and responding neutrally and authentically. I have found this to be a super simple and effective way to relate to and relax this inner voice (or ”voices” as the case may be).

For example:

Inner voice:  Who are you to facilitate these people?  

Self:  Well, I am a good listener. I was asked by my team to take the role. I am a lot like the group members. I care about the process, and the outcome.

Inner voice:  Oh. Okay.

I invite you to try this process. Follow the steps below.


  1. What are the inner voice’s questions that arise? You might already be aware of them. If not, consider ways in which you want to (or are) stretching outside of your comfort zone. For example, running a marathon, writing a book, starting a business, raising your client fees, etc. Then listen to your inner self-talk.
  2. Rather than interpret the question as criticism or assume it’s rhetorical, answer it. Respond authentically and logically to the actual question. Treat it as a sincere inquiry and provide an authentic response to the part of you who wants to know.
  3. Listen to what that inner voice has to say in response.

After completing the practice, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section below.  

Dr. Cindy Lou Golin is a core faculty member and coach with Ten Directions’ Integral Facilitator Certificate Program.


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David Molletti

I find it very interesting to apply this exercise along with being aware of the felt sense in the body. Noticing if there is a sense that these objections rise from one area of the body or another. Interesting from a trauma perspective and mind body healing.

Cindy Lou Golin

David, Good to read your comment… I love your suggestion to include the body. Such a good reminder for me, and I notice it adds such a rich layer. Thanks!


This is so spot on! This never occurred to me! I’m really going to use this and recommend it to others! Thank you Cindy Lou!!

Cindy Lou Golin

Amy, thanks for your comment. I’d love to hear about your experience of using it! Hope you find it fruitful.


I spent some years in the Ridhwan school, where I learnt some valuable stuff about “defending against” the superego or inner critic. But what I am appreciating about this blog is how you change the game from defending against to RESPONDING to the superego. I hadn’t thought of it quite like that before. Engaging with the superego in a truthful manner changes it from enemy to dialogue partner. Which is a very good way of working with (inner) conflict. So thank you Cindy!

cindy lou

Romeck, Great to hear your perspective and I appreciate your feedback. Hope you have fun experimenting with it. I think the Superego will like it too.

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