“You don’t have to win the argument with your inner critic; you have to step away from the conversation.” – Tara Mohr, Playing Big
You’re not ready.
You’re not good enough. Or pretty enough. Or likable enough. Or lovable enough.
You’re not the most competent person for the job.
Ahhh…the inner critic. Our doubter, our bully and often our own worst enemy.
It’s this inner voice that holds many of us back. And in Tara Mohr’s recent book, Playing Big, she acknowledges that this internal chatter holds most women back from “playing bigger” in their lives.
“The inner critic speaks up with more viciousness and volume when we are exposing ourselves to a real or perceived vulnerability – something that triggers a fear of embarrassment, rejection, failure or pain,” Mohr writes.
Mohr notes that the stakes are even higher for women. When you play big, you follow your calling and your dreams.
When you play bigger, you open yourself to criticism, rejection and vulgarity.
You’ve seen women in politics, business and entertainment who put themselves out there or take strong positions and consequently suffer grief at the hands of the press, social media and cable talk shows.
“Our own safety instinct seeks to protect us from that external criticism by spewing cruel self-criticisms (‘You aren’t ready for that, and you don’t know what you are talking about.’) that keep us from stretching into greater visibility and encountering those kinds of attacks,” Mohr notes.
Although the inner critic’s intentions (i.e., trying to protect you from danger and criticism) are noble, its voice does not reflect reality.
So how does Mohr suggest you deal with this misguided instinct that prevents you from playing bigger in your life?
How do you change your relationship with the inner critic?
1) Label it.
Mohr suggests calling out the inner critic when you hear its negativity and doubts. As you become aware of this inner voice, acknowledge it and label it. Say to yourself, “Oh, I’m hearing my inner critic right now.”
2) Separate yourself from the inner critic.
Whatever tantrums or chatter your inner critic is spewing, remind yourself that you and the inner critic are not the same. Separate yourself from it.
3) Create a character that represents your inner critic.
For many of us, the inner critic is a voice we have heard our whole lives – our mother or teacher or another disciplinarian. It’s the voice of the person who has put us down and doubted us.
Mohr suggests taking part in a playful but effective exercise in which you create a persona for your inner critic. “When you create a character with a name and visual image, you help yourself remember that the critic is not the core of you, it’s one voice, with its own personality and pathology.”
Draw, sketch and describe this inner critic. Turn it into a fictional person, cartoon or caricature of someone you know. Describe its voice, personality and typical phrases and patterns. Name the character and capture its voice in your mind.
Turn it into something funny because, as Mohr reminds us, this character usually says something ridiculous! It’s easier to notice your inner critic if it’s Peggy Bundy, Madea, Carmela Soprano or Sophia Petrillo. You’ll not only spot your critic quicker but get a good laugh at its expense as well.
4) What is your inner critic protecting you from?
Once you can identify your inner critic’s voice and picture your critic in your mind, you’ll be better able to communicate with it.
When your critic fills you with negativity, determine what exactly it’s protecting you from.
Ask your inner critic what it’s most afraid of at the moment. What is the danger it sees?
“Once you are in touch with the root of the critic’s intentions, respond with compassion towards the critic’s misguided attempt to keep you safe – usually from attack, embarrassment, isolation or failure.”
A great line you can use to acknowledge your inner critic but also inform it that you’re okay is to respond with, “Thanks so much for your input, but I’ve got this one covered.”
5) Turn down the volume.
Once you know what your inner critic’s voice sounds like, you’ll be more aware of the times when you hear it. If the voice is stronger and louder than usual, practice lowering it as though it comes with a volume dial.
Turn down the volume on your inner voice like you would with your cell phone or your television.
You’ll still hear the inner critic, but you can determine at which volume you’ll do so. Also, by imagining that your inner voice has volume control, you can differentiate between it and yourself.
Treat your inner voice with love, compassion and understanding.
You can’t win arguments with your inner critic and you can’t be angry with it either. Both strategies will simply fuel its fire.
The inner critic, as Mohr describes it, is a scared and fearful part of ourselves. It doesn’t respond well to anger, arguments or grandiosity.
Use the previous techniques in a loving and kind way. Treat your inner voice like you would an upset or unreasonable child.
Acknowledge it, comfort it, reduce its volume and thank it for guiding you. However, feel free to tell it that you’re in control of the situation.
Be aware that, at the end of the day, although its actions and words are misguided, your inner critic is only trying to protect you.
Your wise inner guide.
Not only can you compassionately deal with your inner voice, you can discover a more empowering, wise voice within yourself.
Mohr explains a concept she learned in her coach training school. This concept has students visualizing themselves in 20 years’ time. The students meet their future selves – the people they’ll be 20 years from today.
In the visualization, converse with your “future self,” asking it questions like, “What do I need to know to get from where I am today to where you are?” and “What has been most important about the past 20 years?”
When Mohr used this “future self” tool with her coaching clients, she found that people saw themselves as their best, most loving and wisest selves. When women reflected on their future selves, they always found the answers they were looking for.
“I began to call it the inner mentor because I found this voice functioned for women as a source of guidance, a voice women could draw on to develop a vision for their lives and careers, to make difficult decisions, to chart their paths,” Mohr says.
By giving women a tool that helped them determine how their future selves would approach a situation, Mohr ensured that the women she worked with would become confident and have a clear idea of what to say and do.
“Or a woman would come in feeling stuck about how to pursue her dream career, and by imagining what her future self would do, could immediately see a path forward that felt just right to her but that she hadn’t thought of before.”
Each of us, Mohr concludes, has this inner mentor.
Within yourself, you have the answers. You have the solutions and the wisdom you need to deal with the situations you’re confronting in your life.
You, too, can conduct Playing Big’s guided visualization and access this voice of perfect wisdom.
As Mohr says, simply asking, “What would my older self do?” won’t get you there. You must complete the visualization to access your wise inner voice.
Don’t let your inner critic hold you hostage. Fully embrace the voice of wisdom – your inner mentor.
This is just the beginning of what’s possible for you in terms of achieving a bigger life. The other eight chapters of Playing Big help you navigate fear, release your attachment to praise and criticism and help you recognize and respect your calling.
If you need a set of tools and practical solutions to help you take bigger steps in your personal and professional lives, pick up Playing Big today.
Photo Credit * Splitshire