Given the stress and challenges of this past year, your inner critic may be at a dull roar by now. This harsh internal voice can contribute to “imposter syndrome” or a feeling that you’re not worthy of success. This roommate you would never choose might sound something like this: “I’m not doing anything well,” “I’m not as smart as my colleagues and not equipped for this job,” “I should be further along in my career; I’m stagnating,” “That person is so together,” “I am overwhelmed!” And as you listen to this inner voice, you may be thinking you are the only one in the world wired this way. The truth is, you are not alone.
As human beings, we are in a never-ending internal conversation with ourselves. The average person has 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day. About 80% are negative, and 95% are repetitive from the day before. We catastrophize. We add drama. We add unnecessary significance.
But despite the amount of automatic negativity, there is good news! The good news is you do not have to be permanently stuck with this awful roommate delivering non-stop cruel commentary. You can choose your thoughts and change the narrative. (Audible sigh of relief!) Get started taming your inner critic today, and take back control with the following four practices.
Practice 1 – Clear Power Outages
Everyone experiences a temporary loss of power or confidence triggered by unmet expectations, mistakes, breakdowns, conflicts, and other people. Some power outages are small, while others can feel like a city-wide grid failure on New Year’s Eve. It can be extremely difficult to function during a power outage, causing you to spiral, and then spiral some more. Fortunately, the severity and time spent in these power outages can be drastically decreased with our three-step model.
- Take three deep breaths.
- Find a person you trust to talk through the power outage. Make sure this person understands they are there to give you the opportunity to be heard and not problem solve/give advice. When you share all the details out loud, it will be cathartic and mitigate the drama while trapped in your head.
- Decide when you can let it go. Determine what actions you can take to help yourself reset.
Practice 2 – Choose a New Story
People continually tell themselves disempowering stories — about their circumstances, themselves, and others. Then, we go about collecting evidence to prove ourselves right.
In my 30s, when I was in corporate America, I was layered under a new manager as a result of a reorg. This change was a complete shock and disappointment. I was angry. I thought the new manager did not like me and did not value my contributions. I thought it would never work.
During the next few weeks, I collected evidence supporting this belief — all of the reasons why this was a mistake and why I should not be reporting to him. I got screwed, and this manager was not right for me. After weeks of suffering, losing sleep, and venting with a select few about how I was feeling trapped and unmotivated, my husband finally asked me in a calm supportive way, “Am I going to have 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 my team, my clients, my compensation and upward potential. But currently, my sleep, job satisfaction, and sanity were on the line! I realized the cost of this negative story was steep. This could not go on any longer, but I didn’t want to make a career change. It was then I talked to my closest friend Wendy (Fast Forward co-founder) who gave me valuable counsel — I could either continue down this path, or I could choose a new story and be happy.
“If you gave your inner genius as much credence as your inner critic, you would be light years ahead of where you now stand.” – Alan Cohen
I chose the new story: “I can learn from every manager.” This new story provided me with a new lens to look through, which led me to take actions I would not have otherwise taken.
I sought out my manager’s council on challenges, and, to my surprise, he was helpful. I set up breakfasts with him to get to know him personally and found he was not so bad, after all. I made recommendations to improve the business and culture, and he listened! Within months, I had evidence for the new story and was thriving at work and home.
You, too, can choose a new story using our simple three-step process:
- What is your negative story?
- What is the cost of believing the story? Understand the cost of believing in that story and how it is holding you back from progress and happiness.
- What is another story you can choose? Choose a new story that empowers you to move forward.
Since we are often attached to our 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 an outlook that fuels you. You can choose to be right, or you can choose to be happy.
Practice 3 – Run Your Own Race
This expression comes from thoroughbred horse racing — jockeys put blinders on their horses so they focus on the track ahead and not the horse to the left and right. This is a powerful metaphor! Comparing yourself to others is often disempowering and focuses you on what you don’t have versus what you do.
Put your energy toward running your own race, so you can focus on your strengths and be your personal best. Here are some recommendations to do this:
- Limit scrolling through social media: The phrase Instagram versus reality exists for a reason. Spending hours in a rabbit hole of the cultivated image of people’s lives and adventures does not move 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!
- Shift envy to admiration: If you see someone advancing more quickly in their career, reach out to them for advice. Ask them to be your mentor. Tell them they are a role model to you. You never know what those conversations can lead to for your personal and professional growth.
Practice 4 – Journal Daily
This simple practice takes only six minutes a day and creates a huge impact. Journaling is proven to help people sleep better, lower stress and improve confidence and relationships.
- Every morning, write down three things you are grateful for.
- Every evening, write down three things that you are proud of and/or did well that day.
While there are many things in life we can’t control, you CAN control your inner critic. Start using these four practices today. You have one life — you are worth it.