I used to wish I could fire my inner critic. You know…the little voice that comes out at the most inopportune times. For instance, when we are about to go into a meeting, address a room, write a paper, or meet someone new. It reminds us that we are not good enough, strong enough, smart enough or any other similar negative dialog.
What do you mean? Not me! I don’t have an imaginary nay-sayer!
To that I challenge…we all know we have one!
I spent many years of my life oblivious to mine. I never realized how much it was interfering with my ability to reach my full potential. When I finally came to grips with its existence, I only wanted to find a method to make it go away.
With deeper understanding and introspection, I am beginning to change my tune. What if I could come to grips with its existence, understand its origins, and gain a deeper understanding of the essence of its message? Wouldn’t this be ultimate freedom? Could I heed its warning, yet move forward anyway? Wouldn’t this help me gain perspective and resilience? Could I use these small victories to become a stronger person and ultimately reach my true potential?
I decided the answer to this question was a resounding Yes! This deeper insight gave me the power to embark on the path to make this invisible enemy my friend and adviser.
Here are my tips for embracing your Inner Critic:
Catch your critic in the act
When are you visited most by you inner critic? Is there a specific pattern? Does it come out when you are lonely, hungry, or tired? Is it when you write a report? Does it sneak up on you at a meeting? Tap you on the shoulder on dates, at parties, or when you meet new people? Does it give fashion tips as you dress in the morning? Perhaps it tries to trip you when you take a new exercise class or open the refrigerator?
Recognizing the patterns will heighten your awareness and provide the ability to be prepared.
Become an intuitive listener
What is your inner critic trying to say? Is the message always the same? Does the inner dialog change with the circumstances? Is there validity to the words? Perhaps a lesson to be learned? Is this inner voice a warning of danger ahead?
The message can be utter nonsense or maybe a call to action.
Notice the surroundings and circumstances that brings it out of hiding
What patterns are starting to surface? Does it visit you most at work or at home? Does it torment you when you are out with you friends or on dates? Torture you when you step out of your comfort zone? Exercise influence at mealtime or sabotage your new workout regime? Is its habit to spoil family dinners and visits? Mess up your vacation? Show up when you present or perform?
With a sharper lens of acute awareness the patterns will emerge. Take note and notice its effect on you.
Consider who or what it reminds you of
Dig deep. What is being triggered? What memories come to the surface? Does it bring you back to your college days, the high school cafeteria, or all the way back to the elementary school playground? Maybe you are brought back to grandma’s kitchen, the dining room table, or battling your sibling or the bully who lived up the block.
If the message is eerily familiar and oddly holds the same negative charge today as in the past, understanding the origin will help put it into new perspective.
Describe it and bring it to life
Here is your opportunity to be creative!
Draw a mental picture or grab a pen and bring it to life! Use a much detail as possible. This will give you the strength required to face your tormentor head on.
Give them a name
This will also help defuse its effect. By humanizing it, it loses the power to catch you off guard. You can remind yourself that this character is here solely to block your path and steer you off your game.
Perhaps through clear and honest recognition while truly embracing their presence they can actually propel you farther?
Arm yourself by creating two or three things you can say to send it packing, and list two or three things you can do or say to embrace its existence.
My inner critic is a Tasmanian devil that shows up most when I write, meet new people, and present. Things that today I believe are my strongest attributes. I call it Sandy, after the Hurricane that threatened to destroy some many lives. It stands over my shoulder when I write to caution me, “You can’t write that” or “No one wants to read that”! It messes up my papers and jumps on my keyboard when I persist.
It spills coffee on my notes before I present and then does its best to psych me out before networking events.
Today I “Thank it for its concern” but tell it “I am going to publish this anyway” and take my chances. When it tries to break my confidence before I present I remind it “I got this” and reflect on my last positive presentation.
So, as you see, through developing a deeper understanding of the origins and messages of my Inner Critic, today I choose to make it my muse instead of my nemesis!
It is now my inspiration. The little voice that reminds me that I can do anything. It is that pesky yet persistent voice that makes me spell check one more time and inspires me to create the best work possible.
It now stands right next to me or takes a seat in the front row when I present. It pushes me out of the door to step out of my comfort zone and enter a room of strangers.
Through finally embracing its existence I have become the best version of myself. By understanding and honoring its message I have ultimately been able to break free.
I encourage you to do the same.
About the Author: Joan Axelrod Siegelwax, a previous guest contributor to Women of HR, is the Executive Vice President of Love & Quiches Gourmet, and the Founder and President of Powerful Possibilities Coaching. In her role at Love and Quiches Gourmet she leads the Human Resources Department with the primary goal of increasing employee engagement, accountability, retention and improved corporate culture. Through creation of Powerful Possibilities Coaching, she has made these skills available to a larger audience through Transformational Executive Coaching, specializing in personal growth, organizational development, career coaching, leadership development, managing transitions, executive presence, personal branding, personal empowerment, life balance, organization and productivity.