Am I the Only One Who’s Had This Experience?
Do you second guess yourself when you’re faced with a new challenge?
Have lots of ideas but hold back and then criticize yourself for your ideas and for the fact that you held back?
Is your inner critic ever-present no matter how politely you ask him to mind his own business?
If you answered a resounding “yes” to any of these questions, you’re in good company. I’ve rarely met anyone who didn’t struggle with their inner critic. Scratch the surface of a person who appears confident and you’re likely to find self-doubt.
For example, one of my coaching clients was a poised and well-spoken nonprofit executive. When I first started working with him, he confessed that he struggled over any kind of presentation, even when delivering it to his staff. Preparation was agonizing for him. He had no trouble coming up with topics. When he tried to develop it further, his mind went blank. Or so he thought at first. He actually discovered that his mind was full of self-critical judgments and memories of negative experiences. His inner critic was choking the creativity out of him.
Once we worked with his inner critic, we focused on strategies to keep the critic at bay, including recruiting an inner champion. It eventually became much easier for my client to prepare and deliver presentations.
My own story is that it literally took me ten years to write and publish my book. I was so besieged by my inner critic that I sometimes had to stop writing.
But It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way!
What if you could harness the support and encouragement of your inner champion? Have a best friend cheering you on, by your side for every new challenge? Wouldn't it be great to never feel completely alone again, trying to navigate the rapids of adult life?
We all could use someone encouraging us, acknowledging us and being on our side. And we can't rely on our external support system alone. It's also important to have that inner champion to draw upon. But it's not always easy to access her.
Recently, I coached a woman whose inner critic was so powerful that she couldn't recognize the voice of her inner champion. Her therapist had given her the assignment of listing her accomplishments. Every time she sat down to complete the list, her mind went blank. I suggested she write down what her friends would tell her she could be proud of. That seemed to free her up a bit but the voice of her inner critic was still too strong. She needed an inner champion who could take her side when she was experiencing self-doubt.
Shortly after that, I began a year-long course called “The Fundamentals of Well-being.” The course was created by Rick Hanson, psychologist and best-selling author. He believes befriending yourself is so fundamental to well-being that it’s the first module of twelve! And he comes back to it over and over again. Recently, I listened to another talk where he suggested we envision an inner “caring committee” of people we can draw upon to support us in challenging times.
Rather than explain the practice here, I’d prefer to include a link so you can listen yourself. It’s only 11 minutes long. I often listen to it as a reminder to befriend myself. You can find this as Episode 2 of Rick's Being Well Podcast, June 9, 2016:
If you like Rick’s work, go ahead and subscribe to his podcast and check out his website: https://www.rickhanson.net
You might be tempted to forget about listening to the talk. After all you’re tough and super busy. You get through each day just fine without an inner champion. I felt that way, too. Then I ran up against the limits of “soldiering on” without the kinds of resources I’m referring to. All I ask is that you take a listen to the talk. It’ll take you about as long as waiting in line for Starbucks!
As always, please leave a comment: What insights or feelings did this post inspire? What other topics would you like to see me address? I’ve taken a hiatus over the past few months but I’m determined to re-establish a regular blogging schedule.