Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimised by your inner critic.
A lot of us right? That pesky voice in your head that says you’re not good enough, not smart enough. Over the past 22 years working with PAs and EAs I’ve noticed this voice is really common. It makes sense given the nature of the job. You give, give, give and your voice gets smaller, you’re not meeting your own needs and that critic gets louder.
That little voice has a big impact. 40% of our happiness is derived from your internal state of mind. So how can we quieten our inner critic and what techniques can we use to make it go away.
My personal experience is that this led me to use many unhealthy coping mechanisms to quieten this voice. These days I mostly have an inner cheerleader, this is how I transformed my inner critic to an inner cheerleader!
Try and understand where it comes from
You need to work out where your inner critic comes from. It could be the sum of lots of little comments, it could be your parents, a partner, your time in school. That person might not have been trying to hurt you, but what is the impact it’s had on you now?
What’s in a name?
We need to remove the abstract nature of the inner critic. Let’s give it a face and a name. I spent time working with an excellent wellness mentor called Lizzie. She told me to draw my inner critic and give it a name, think about what it looks, feels and sounds like. I drew a loud, squawky, annoying bird and I took that drawing and had it as my phone screen saver. That way any time that voice piped up in my head, I could picture it and say, ”Thank you, but goodbye.” We say thank you, because even though the voice is normally pretty mean – it exists because it thinks it’s keeping you safe. But what it’s doing is keeping you small, scared or comfortable.
The point is with a name and face, you can now recognise it and tell it where to go.
Speak kindly to yourself
Next time the inner critic says something awful ask yourself this, can you imagine saying that to another person? Imagine if you heard someone saying that to your best friend. Speak to yourself the way you speak to those you love.
Try imagining an inner friend to combat your inner critic. Do the same exercise again. Give it a name and face, what do they speak or sound like? You don’t just have to listen to the inner critic, you have a choice. Now you can call upon your inner friend to give you advice and support.
Use your inner friend to ask these questions the next time your critic pops up:
Firstly question is this actually true? Remember thoughts are not facts, they are simply thoughts!
What else could it mean? Am I really lazy, or am I exhausted from work and need rest before trying again.
Does this truly matter? Will it matter in a week, month or 6 months time?
Is this helping me to perform or is it holding me back?
Don’t get furious get curious
I want you to find out why your critic is there. If you just get angry or frustrated with it, you turn in on yourself. You shut down. If you ask why this is happening or what do I need, you start to open up. This is part of having a growth mindset. Maybe you can talk to a friend or make a plan, but you have to be curious and work out what is going on with you.
Find your anchor
This is something to draw on when you really need it. When the voice is so loud that it’s hard to drown out.
Press your thumb and forefinger together on one hand. With your fingers pressed, close your eyes. I want you to think about a situation you’ve been in the last few weeks where you felt fabulous, calm, happy or collected. It might be a walk, a chat with a friend, a celebration or a great dinner. It doesn’t have to be complicated, remember the colours, smell, how did you feel? Make it a clear picture
Next time you are struggling to get grounded, I want you to repeat this exercise.
Lastly, show yourself some compassion. You deserve to live your fullest life. You deserve to be able to send your inner critic on its way. Knowing what that critic is and being able to say no will help.
This topic is so important we covered it as part of the Coaching Club in our weekly webinar. If you’re interested in joining the club to help you reach your career dreams through self-development, sign up here.
With love Lucy.