As we travel through life, we learn and speak millions of words. Gradually we grow to understand that these words carry meaning, that they have the capacity to build relationships, the power to heal but also the ability to destroy. And so it makes sense that from an early age we develop the capacity to stop ourselves from saying everything that we think aloud. Apart from the odd faux pas, of course.
But another incredibly powerful voice accompanies us as we travel through life. A voice that we learn very little about – our inner narrator. An incessant chatterbox it micro doses us second by second with observations, comments and analysis of the world. Some are helpful, many are positive, most are evaluations, others are judgments and multiples are negative, unhelpful and paralysing.
This inner narrator has two faces, namely your inner critic and your inner hero. The enemy within, your inner critic, your anti-self, or your trash-talk self is founded on the deep dark belief that you are not good enough. Your friend within, your inner hero, holds a kinder, more compassionate view and is built on the principle that your potential is immense. Yet it is the sharp tongue of your inner critic that often takes over, who casts doubt on your goals, undermines your accomplishments and stunts your professional growth.
It affects those who appear confident, successful and well-adjusted as well as those who are visibly struggling. In fact, it is the most powerful agent of self-paralysis that we see here at A Career to Love HQ. So, how can you tame the enemy within?
Create a Persona
First off, try this well evidenced and researched hack for dealing with your inner critic – create a unique persona for your inner critic and your inner hero. Be as creative as you like! Name, style and bring to life, almost like a good guy versus bad guy scenario, your inner hero and critic. You will have to do this despite the fact that at this very moment your inner critic is loudly screaming “How could you even consider something so stupid – don’t be SO stupid, you are an idiot, this will never work”.
Listen to Your Inner Critic
The next bit is going to sound counter-intuitive but trust the process. Don’t drown your inner critic and replace the trash talk with positive affirmations. Not alone does this type of Pollyanna positivity not work it only serves to raise the volume on negative. Instead when your inner critic speaks, bring the persona forward. Challenge yourself to listen to that harsh voice. Ask your inner critic ‘What are you trying to say to me?’ instead of listening to what is being said as factual, consider it as an emotional warning system that carries information. In doing so you open the space between what you say to yourself and reality. This space presents you with the power to chose and the opportunity to respond intentionally. And so begins the uncomfortable process of disempowering your inner critic.
Give Permission to Your Inner Hero
Next, you must grant permission to your inner hero to show up. Shy and uncomfortable your inner hero is also wise and strong. Rather than telling you everything will be OK your inner hero persona offers solutions, ask questions, poses options, provides choices and suggests when it is time to seek help. Listen carefully to the data presented and use it to courageously own your fears, stresses, vulnerabilities and pressures. Through showing up to your feelings, acknowledging the difficult and anticipating the pitfalls you, alongside your inner hero, build the courage to prepare more effective ways of coping during critical moments.
Blur The Boundaries
As the boundaries between the black and white thinking of inner critic versus inner hero slowly blurs, you learn to live in the grey. In so doing you cultivate a much stronger, more rounded and reliable view of yourself. Internal statements become balanced data that add to the decision-making process but never paralyse you to action or stunt your growth. At times you may decide to listen to your inner critic but overall your inner narrator is more balanced and rounded. No longer holding you back based on self-limiting talk, your inner narrator now prepares you for opportunity, helps you to learn from mistakes and positions you for growth.
A Quick Fix – Depersonalise
If this just isn’t for you and you only occasionally have to deal with your inner critic, you might want to arm yourself with this simple question to recalibrate your inner narrator- “If I were sitting at a table with a friend, would I speak to him or her the way my inner critic is speaking to me?” The likely answer is no. So, if you wouldn’t say it to your friend, don’t say it to yourself. Then ask yourself ‘What advice would I offer my friend in this situation and how could I help them?” Shifting from yourself to a friend depersonalises the situation. It separates your critical inner voice and helps you to process information from a different perspective.
Remember, give yourself permission to design your own version of success. If you don’t design your own version of success somebody else will and you may not like their version.
By Sinead Brady