We all do it. We worry, fret, agonize, brood, and get into a dither. It’s a human thing to do. The question is: When is it actually effective? And when isn’t it?
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for most of is all that nattering in our heads. That critic voice saying “you should — you must — why haven’t you…” over and over again, in every way possible. And we get trapped in this land of defending, feeling ‘wrong‘, beating ourselves up, second guessing — you get the picture, right?
It’s hardwired in for us. It’s very, very old, and has to do with safety and security. There is a part of us that is obsessed with keeping us safe. It sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? And it would be, except that Inner Critic in our heads has a very narrow and somewhat odd perspective about what is safe!
It defines safe as where you are in this moment. Frankly it doesn’t care about a bunch of things that make our lives challenging. Things like piles of debt, toxic relationships, being stuck in jobs we hate, etc. It’s fundamental criteria is that you are not currently in imminent danger — like literally on FIRE! Seems fairly safe to say our Inner Critic has some paranoia going on!
This critic voice in our heads is not a new thing. It’s been around as long as humans have. Monkey Mind, Gremlin, Sabatour… all sorts of names. And we coaches are all too familiar with it. It’s a big part of what keeps clients stuck. See, whenever we try something new or different there is a chance we will mess something up. Frankly, messing things up can be a very good thing because it leads to new ideas, possibilities, and results. And trying something new just freaks our Inner Critic out. It gets very activated and wants to reign you in, keep you safe, keep you right where you are in this moment!
It has a very simple and effective technique to get you off track: It distracts you. There are many ways it does that. A couple of classic ways are:
- It gets you into a ginormous discussion in your head.
- It lectures you on how bad, wrong, or stupid you are.
- It berates, belittles, and ‘bad dogs’ you.
It’s really effective. All this fretting on your part, fueled by the critic voice in your head, serves to distract you from any ‘new‘ idea and keep you right where you have always been!
Our Inner Critics are crafty. They know us really well. They know the tender spots. They will do anything to keep you safe—and again, they define safe as where you are right now.
There’s the real rub in this. You cannot change, improve, grow, or attain new goals without doing something different. T’aint possible. All that time you spend nattering in your head with your Inner Critic is just distracting and sidelining you. It’s not helpful, at all!
The most effective method I have found to stop the critic — and just in case you haven’t noticed, I think stopping it is a crucial thing to do — is to hold and think about it entirely differently. Instead of engaging with it at all, think of it as a signal that you are doing something new and different. Don’t try to calm the fear — instead rejoice and applaud that you are trying something new! In a bizarre way, your job is to rattle your critic, isn’t it? If you are just “drawing inside the lines” and “holding the status quo” nothing is going to change… NOTHING! So instead of joining your Inner Critic in its lecture, judgement, and finger wagging, how about you celebrate that you are doing something different? Revel in it a bit. Know that you can change and make choices. Thank the Inner Critic for the signal, while not falling into its distraction trap!
A good technique to distinguish between Inner Critic and something important for you to know or pay attention to is to ask yourself:
- Is this ‘conversation‘ in my head distracting me from what I’m trying to do, or to focus on?
- Is there a ‘tone‘ attached to the message I’m getting, like fear or shame? Your Inner Critic always has a tone. Your Inner Wisdom never has a tone.
See if you can’t say “Whoa there!” to all that worry, be kinder to yourself, and get more traction on your dreams!
Shell Tain, the Untangler
Need some help with this? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment. Happy spending!