Given the tensions and challenges of this past year, your inner critic may be in a slack roar by now. thA harsh inner voice can contribute to “pretend syndrome” or a feeling that you are unworthy of success. This roommate you’d never choose might sound like: “I’m not doing anything well,” “I’m not as smart as my colleagues and not equipped for this job,” “I need to move forward in my career.” should; I’m stagnating,” “That person is so together,” “I’m overwhelmed!” And when you listen to this inner voice, you might be thinking that you are the only one in the world who is wired like this. The truth is, you’re not alone.
As human beings, we are in a never ending inner conversation with ourselves. The average person has 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day. About 80% are negative, and 95% are repeats from day one. We wreak havoc. We add drama. We add unnecessary importance.
But despite the amount of automatic negativity, there is good news! The good news is that you don’t have to be permanently stuck with this horrible roommate who gives you non-stop cruel commentary. You can choose your thoughts and change the narrative. (Hearing a sigh of relief!) Start tame your inner critic today, and take back control with the following four exercises.
Exercise 1 – Eliminate power outages
Everyone experiences unfulfilled expectations, mistakes, breakdowns, conflicts, and a temporary loss of power or confidence generated by other people. Some power outages are minor, while others can feel like a citywide grid failure on New Year’s Eve. It can be extremely difficult to operate during a power outage, causing you to spiral down, and then spiral into something else. Fortunately, with our three-step model, the severity and time spent in these power outages can be significantly reduced.
- Take three deep breaths.
- Find someone you trust to talk through the power outage. Make sure this person understands that they are there to give you the opportunity to listen and not to solve the problem/give advice. When you share all the details out loud, it will be cathartic and reduce the drama that is stuck in your head.
- Decide when you can let it go. Determine what actions you can take to help reset yourself.
People constantly tell themselves powerless stories – about their circumstances, about themselves and others. Then, we gather evidence to prove ourselves right.
In my 30s, when I was in Corporate America, a restructuring resulted in me being layered under a new manager. This change was a complete shock and disappointment. I was angry. I felt the new manager didn’t like me and didn’t value my contribution. I thought it would never work.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I gathered evidence supporting this belief—all the reasons why it was a mistake and why I shouldn’t report it. I screwed up, and this manager just wasn’t right for me. After weeks of agony, trouble sleeping, and hanging out with a select few about how I was feeling and how stuck I was, my husband finally asked me in a calm, supportive way, “Do I need to listen to this every night? Or do you plan to get a new job?”
That was a wake-up call. I didn’t want a new job. I appreciated the potential of my team, my customers, my compensation and above. But currently, my sleep, job satisfaction, and sanity were on the line! I realized the cost of this negative story was too much. It couldn’t go on anymore, but I didn’t want to make a career change. Then I talked to my closest friend Wendy (co-founder of Fast Forward), who gave me valuable advice – I could either go down this path, or I could pick up a new story and be happy.
“If you gave as much credit to your inner genius as your inner critic, you would be light years ahead of where you stand now.” – alan cohen
I chose the new story: “I Can Learn From Every Manager.” This new story gave me a new lens to look at, which inspired me to do things that I would not have taken otherwise.
I sought out my manager’s council on challenges, and, to my surprise, he was helpful. I had breakfast with him to get to know him in person and found that he wasn’t that bad, after all. I made recommendations to improve the business and culture, and they listened! Within months, I had evidence for the new story and was thriving at work and at home.
You, too, can choose a new story using our simple three-step process:
- What’s your negative story?
- What is the cost of believing the story? Understand the cost of believing that story and how it is holding you back from progress and happiness.
- Which other story can you choose? Choose a new story that empowers you to move forward.
Since we are so often attached to our own stories, it is quite valuable to get input from someone you trust like I did! The powerful practice of choosing a new story allows you to have a perspective that fuels you. You can choose to be right, or you can choose to be happy.
Exercise 3 – Run Your Own Race
This expression comes entirely from horse racing – jockeys put blinds on their horses so that they focus on the track ahead and not the left and right horse. This is a powerful metaphor! Comparing yourself to others is often powerless and focuses you on what you don’t have versus what you do.
Put your energy into running your own race, so you can focus on your strengths and be your personal best. Here are some recommendations for doing so:
- Limit scrolling through social media: The phrase Instagram versus reality exists for a reason. Spending hours down the rabbit hole of a cultured image of people’s lives and adventures doesn’t get you closer to your goals.
- Focus on your strengths: Practice a glass half full attitude. Instead of focusing on your shortcomings, make a list of the valuable things you contribute – at work, personally, and in the world!
- Turn jealousy into admiration: If you see someone progressing more quickly in their career, reach out to them for advice. Ask them to be your mentor. Tell them they are a role model for you. You never know what those conversations might turn out to be for your personal and professional development.
Exercise 4 – Daily Journal
This simple exercise only takes six minutes a day and produces a huge impact. Journaling has been proven to help people sleep better, reduce stress, and improve self-confidence and relationships.
- Every morning, write down three things for which you are grateful.
- Every evening, write down three things that you are proud of and/or did well that day.
While there are many things in life that we cannot control, you can control your inner critic. Start using these four exercises today. You have a life – you deserve it.