It was 2:03 a.m. and I was wide awake, my head was spinning.
“Why did I agree to send that big proposal? I’ve never done anything like that before. What if they hire me!”
“I’m not ready to present to the executive team this week. What if they see right through me.”
What if? What if? What if?
Spin. Spin. Spin.
I know all too well that sinking feeling that I’m just not up to snuff, that I don’t have what it takes to succeed.
I know you know it, too.
Here’s what you may not know.
That voice isn’t mine – and it isn’t yours either. It’s the voice of the Inner Critic rearing her head again trying to keep you small and away from what you really want.
It is always there, ready to tell you why you can’t or shouldn’t or won’t. Wouldn’t it be amazing to learn how to deal with it?
Well sister, I’ve got your back on this one.
You see, that voice of doubt will always be with us – it’s part of our brain. Our brains are actually hardwired toward negativity, rather than positivity, and of the 60,000 thoughts we have every day, 80% are negative. That can really do a number on your self-confidence.
By allowing that voice to run rampant, you risk experiencing more destructive feelings of fear, anger, sadness or loneliness.
So, what’s the answer?
(I know you’re thinking a hot fudge sundae, but stick with me).
Learn to manage that voice.
Notice the voice
We live pretty busy lives and sometimes we might feel as if we’re on auto-pilot in terms of our thinking. We go from one thing to another and aren’t being mindful of choosing the thoughts and feelings we want to experience. Notice when that voice shows up. What are you doing that triggers it? Are you stepping outside your comfort zone or making a decision to show up in a bigger way in the world? Just by noticing it, its power over you will be dramatically reduced and you will see that it’s not the real you speaking.
Would you say it to your bestie?
Fastest way to figure out who that voice in your head is? Ask yourself if you would say its message to your best friend. If it’s your Inner Critic, the answer will be a rapid and resounding NO. Our self-talk is super critical – mean actually – and is the first clue to who you’re dealing with. She’s just a bully. Don’t believe a word of it.
Someone else in your head
I had an 8th grade art teacher that I adored. You know how cool art teachers are, right? They wear cool clothes and drive cool cars and can make anything out of a lump of modeling clay. Try as I might, I could never get the bowl of fruit in class to look like a real bowl of fruit in my sketch pad and week after week, I would get comments in the margin in red ink. One day, she handed my pad back to me and said, “You’re just not very creative.”
Bam! That took the wind out of my sails and for decades I believed her. She’s an art teacher after all.
Whose voice do you have in your head? A parent? A former boss? A past love? Be wary of believing every thought you have – particularly if you didn’t choose it.
Is it 100% true
This is the million-dollar question, one I learned from Byron Katie through her work. The key with this question is 100%. It’s not true if it’s not absolutely, positively, completely true. No ifs ands or buts about it. Don’t be trying to wiggle in with a, “yeah, some of it is true…” Not going to work. If it’s not completely true, then it’s your Inner Critic trying to run the show.
Problem-based or Solution-focused
Bottom line is this. If the voice is mired in the problem, in negativity and wants to take you down the rabbit hole of unworthiness and self-doubt, your Inner Critic is at the wheel. If the voice is about wonder, curiosity and possibilities (“I wonder if I should bring someone in…”, “I’m curious about the new format…”) then my friend, that is the real you talking. Your Inner Wise Self is at the controls and will always guide you to what’s best for you.
Bonus: Breathe – deeply
This is my go-to response to practically anything that causes me stress or angst. Stop what you’re doing. Close your eyes. Take a long, deep breath in through your nose, pause for a moment, then release the breath out your mouth. Do this a few times and notice how your neck releases, your shoulders melt down your back and your brain begins to slow down.
That’s the sweet spot. Slowing down this machine of 60,000 thoughts so you can decide what you choose to think and believe.
You can do this.