Your Inner Voice: Helping or Hindering?
We all have an inner voice that we hear as we move through our day. Maybe it is neutral and reminds us to add something to our shopping list. But for people who display the most outward confidence, that voice is affirming. "Wow, that was great. I feel so good about how I contributed in that meeting," or maybe grateful, "I'm so glad I get the chance to work with these capable colleagues. We are doing such meaningful work." This positive voice is the presence of the inner ally, or what some may call the inner sage. The inner ally supports the work that you do and the relationships that you nurture, and subtly encourages you to do more, contributing to a virtuous cycle. When your inner ally is keeping you company through most of your day, you are more likely to be productive and show up as your best self.
But what happens when that voice in our head is a vicious critic? "I said the wrong thing AGAIN to my friend!" or "Why did I lose my temper? I just hurt that person and made them feel small. I'm a terrible person to say the things I did." Which persona resonates more for you: the ally or the critic?
If you said the critic, I feel for you. I've been through periods where the critic completely took over and I could not show up as my best self. The majority of my coaching clients claim their inner voice is the dominant voice they hear. If not managed, the critic can lead us all the way to Imposter Syndrome. Suffering from Imposter Syndrome holds us back, keeps us from contributing the way we would if we were at our best, and ultimately keeps us from developing to our full potential.
So how can you foster the ally and manage the critic?
1) Catch what your inner voice is telling you and keep a tally of positive affirmations vs. attacks and critiques. After doing that for a few days, what's your conclusion about the dominant voice? In what type of scenarios do you tend to criticize yourself?
2) When you catch a criticism, ask yourself what purpose the criticism is serving. Then consider how you can reframe the information so as not to lower your self-esteem. What can you learn from the situation for the next time you encounter it? Also consider how you would deliver this feedback to a good friend. Would you deliver it as harshly as you delivered it to yourself? If not, then for the next while, imagine this scenario while reflecting on things that have transpired. How would I share this feedback with my close friend? How could I tell them so that they know I care about them but also provide constructive feedback?
3) Consider a new daily self-affirming practice. I had a client that once leveraged the expression, "I belong here," to boost her own sense of belonging in her new environment. No imposters here! What could your affirmation be?
4) Practicing gratitude can support the voice of the inner ally as well. You could start with a list of things that went well today. "Today, this wonderful happened and that makes me grateful for the support I receive from my work colleagues." "Today I got positive feedback on a client meeting and that makes me grateful to work with clients who are open to learning and to new ideas."
5) Given everything you know about your inner ally and critic and how they operate, what can you recommend to yourself?
Sherry Pedersen-Ajmani is an Executive Coach and Organizational Development consultant in Toronto and Principal at www.Talentcraft.ca. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like help managing your inner critic or follow her on Twitter @SP_talentcraft.