The inner critic: are you managing yours?
We all have an inner voice, an inner critic which regularly distributes self-talk that is extremely far removed from being helpful or constructive. In a way it is a trained voice, which can take the shape of a previous boss, family members or relationships past or present. Whether it is circumstances or society at large that have shaped the words and viciousness of this unlikely invisible character, I am not sure of, but it is a powerful source that can stop us in our tracks at any given time.
Even with my most successful clients I am often amazed how much they still listen to that inner voice which often so fundamentally knocks them off their chosen path or destination. As their coach I am in the privileged position to point out that the inner critic is not necessarily basing its opinions on facts, but rather on perceptions or feelings and most often doubts and fears.
When you are working in the positive field of business coaching and training, it is often assumed that we don’t have those demons anymore and I can safely say that no coach and trainer is immune from the inner critic, whether they admit to having one is probably a personal choice, but we all have one.
The inner critic is massively powerful, it can stops us from achieving great things or even stops us from going after what we truly want, based on some irrational perceptions or fears. When you are really truthful and honest with yourself, what has the inner critic stopped you from doing? Did you still go ahead and was it as bad as your inner critic had predicted?
The level of ease with which we recognise when the inner critic is talking and the tools we use to manage this resource is what sets us apart and equally determines our level of success in the chosen field and in life in general.
Personally I spend a lot of time working alone even though it is with people and at some level we look for feedback or confirmation of our abilities, expertise, likeability, etc and when we don’t receive external responses or non-favourable responses, it is then that the inner critic has a field day. On those days managing that voice is essential.
What I do to manage the inner critic is write in a journal, which is not for publication or reading by anyone not even the closest of friends or family. Equally I do my best to regularly read motivational books, articles and surround myself with positive and supportive friends. In addition to these techniques I sometimes use recorded NLP techniques and I also have my own coach, who has my best interest at heart.
With my clients I often ask them to get back to the facts about themselves, when the inner critic has been particularly harsh. I ask them to make an objective factual list of all their achievements, qualifications, awards and things they learned since they were born and getting this list started often feels odd to people, because we are so pre-programmed to see the shortcomings and do our best to not be boastful especially not about ourselves. Yet, if you think about it, you have achieved an awful lot since you were born even down to simple things such as learning to walk, read, write, etc, I challenge you to write out the list. Then when you feel down, look at the list and check whether the feelings you are having are inner critic talk or based on facts.
Have fun managing the inner critic and never forget that it is perfectly alright to be gentle on you!