I ask a lot of my clients. I ask them to jump into the deep end of a murky pool of self-doubt and clean the water by quieting the voices that hold them back. I jump in with them and bring the water filters. Together we filter out the critical voices by identifying them when they show up. We try out different techniques because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all-critical-voices tool.
I often get asked, “What did you do about your inner critic?” As if I have vanquished them all. Not even close. The more accurate question to answer is: how do I handle my own inner critics when they show up? I try to do what I coach my clients to do. I start paying close attention to my self talk. Am I saying things to myself I would never say to my dearest friend or colleague? Am I making black and white judgments about my own performance? Am I piling on the “should-have’s”? Do I feel a constriction in my chest when I think of making a change?
Any yes answer is a good indication to me that an inner critic is lurking or acting out. This week it’s been lurking. The general gist of it’s message has been: You’ve spread yourself so thin that you are sucking at all of it. And specifically it says things like: You aren’t giving enough attention to your coaching business. (Look, you didn’t even write an October blog.) You fed the family fish sticks. Again. (A good mom and wife makes a decently nutritious meal.) You aren’t helping at the rental shop (A good business partner would get things handled.) And then I feel my own murky water rising around me.
This voice keeps me treading water and feeling crappy all the while I am doing it. So I start asking questions. Curiosity is my favorite filter. I ask the critic, “What are you most worried about right now?” I often get answers that reflect messages from the larger culture around gender stereotypes and what being a ‘good’ mom, ‘good’ woman should be and do. I gently respond with, “Thank you for wanting us to be seen as good. And I won’t let us be seen in any other light. I got this.” That usually quiets that particular critic.
Sometimes I hear chatter noise in the background and can turn down the volume and move into action. Sometimes I create a character to bring that voice into my field of vision. It helps me to understand it and it’s fears more clearly.
All this to say, the inner critic plagues me as much as it does my clients. One difference is that I’ve had more practice quieting mine. I want to encourage you that quieting your inner critics gets easier with practice. Remember, you aren’t banishing them. Rather, you are changing your relationship to self-doubt. Don’t worry, you got this.