Controlling Your Inner Critic
I’ve hit a wall,” Sally said to me. “I just can’t move forward.” If you are a sales person, business owner or job seeker, chances are you have had days when no one wants what you are offering. Some people are able to continue making their pitch enthusiastically and others find it really difficult to continue.
We are all different but if you have an inner voice that gives you a hard time, it may be that you too have hit a wall in your work or your job search at some time.
What does your inner voice sound like? Mine can be pretty harsh and very critical. It sometimes tells me that I am dumb, inept, or that I’ll never learn to do it right. If someone else were talking to me that way, I’d be upset, angry and discouraged. In fact my critical inner voice also has that effect on me. When that happens I also “hit a wall”.
How can you reprogram your inner voice to give you a more positive message?
Just being aware of the voice is the first step. Sometimes just knowing that you are giving yourself critical messages can reverse them. Try this to make yourself aware of the critical messages. Wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it every time you criticize yourself.
Once you see how often you are critical of yourself, start to focus in on exactly what the messages you are giving yourself are?
In the book Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman, the author suggests that the pessimist's approach would be to use language that is critical and that makes the situation feel hopeless. It is that hopelessness that gives you the feeling that you “hit a wall”.
How can language lead to hopelessness?
Suppose you are a job seeker and have been trying to reach a particular person all day. When you finally reach that person, he is brusque and disinterested. Your critical inner voice might say, “I’m just not good at this. I’ll never find a job.”
Notice that the negative statement “I’ll never find a job.” has permanence to it. No wonder you feel dejected and maybe even depressed. It would be hard to continue making calls after that.
A more positive way to think about this situation might be to think “I must have caught him at a bad time. There are other people I can call.”
Try to find an answer that is true for you that says the situation is temporary so it can be changed. Next time you catch your inner voice being derogatory in a permanent way substitute the more temporary comment.
If a sales person or businessperson makes a presentation to a potential customer who looks bored or says that he/she is not interested, that critical inner voice might say, “I have no talent for sales.” A more positive approach however might be to say to yourself “It was good to practice my presentation. I thought I did it really well. Not everyone is interested in what I have to offer.”
In my Value Program I suggest that my clients look for leverage from lots of sources, friends, family, customers etc. Another source of leverage comes from you! You are what you think you are.
So if you have a strong critical inner voice, reprogram it. Everyone has gifts and skills to offer to others. Identify your value and focus on it. If you have trouble reprogramming, ask a coach to help you.
1. Not sure if you are critical of yourself? Try using a rubber band around your wrist as suggested in the article. Snap it when your thoughts are critical of yourself. How frequently are you snapping it?
2. When are you most critical of yourself? Can you prepare new ways to phrase your self talk that is more positive?
3. If you have a really persistent inner critic, having a coach can help you to move forward.
4. Read Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
Another book that also addresses this topic is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This book is a classic.