If the majority of network marketing/direct selling professionals are women, why are the top levels of leadership in most companies still dominated by men? While the answer to this question is complex, I believe women have one habit that slows us down and keeps us from succeeding at higher levels in our business.

Men and women face similar challenges when building a business, but where we differ is how we relate to ourselves as we go through these challenges. Men seem better able to remain objective about business issues; they don't take the ups and downs of entrepreneurship too personally.

Women, on the other hand, have a more difficult time dealing with setbacks and challenges. Call us sensitive, overly emotional or thin-skinned, many of us take what happens (or doesn't happen) in our businesses personally. We can be so critical of ourselves, can't we? When our business doesn't measure up, we don't measure up; our self-worth and confidence can get closely tied to our results and bottom line.

Our crazy, overdeveloped inner critic goes on a rampage when our results aren't what we expect them to be. Worse, many of us start to believe that only by being hard on ourselves will we create the results we want (because how else will we stay motivated, right?).

Ironically, beating yourself up is the habit that keeps you from succeeding. Why? Because criticism (whether self-imposed or external) robs us of our enthusiasm, energy and ability to create what we want. It zaps our self-esteem and keeps us from our real power.

Imagine a Small Child

Imagine a small child learning to tie her shoes. As her parent, would you criticize her every mistake? Such negative feedback would put a dent in her self-confidence, and no doubt she'd soon give up.

Funny though, as women, we do this to ourselves all the time. When a prospect fails to return a call or cancels a meeting, we make that event about us-our worth and abilities. We criticize ourselves for not "doing it right" and doubt if we have what it takes to succeed. The entire process puts a major chink in our confidence and makes us want to give up.

In contrast, what if you praised that little girl for every attempt at tying her shoes? With compassion and positive feedback, she'd enjoy the process of learning; she'd continue her efforts and get better (and faster) results.

Your Inner Cheerleader

Compassion and positive feedback are the keys for women's success, too! How you relate to yourself (as critic or cheerleader) impacts your confidence, the action you take, and the results and income you create. Instead of berating yourself, what if you developed your inner cheerleader and learned to be more encouraging and compassionate with yourself when facing a challenge?

This may feel counter-intuitive-especially if you have a well-developed inner critic! You may say to yourself, "Well, if I'm too easy on myself I'll get soft and not follow through. I won't create what I want."

In fact, the opposite happens. The kinder you are to yourself, the more empowered you will feel. Positive feedback motivates women more than anything, and when we give it to ourselves, business challenges lose their hold on us. They stop being a reflection of our worth and start becoming opportunities for growth and learning.

5 Ways to Turn Your "Inner Critic" Into a Powerful "Inner Cheerleader"

Here are a few simple exercises that can keep you inspired even when facing tough business challenges.

It's natural to feel discouraged when working through business challenges (whether you are a man or a woman). I strongly believe, however, that as we learn to silence the inner critic and become better cheerleaders to ourselves, women will tap into our real strengths, and easily create the business and lifestyle we deserve.