Are you your own worst critic?
Do you attend a meeting, finish a project or speak up in a group and then hear that voice in your head doing a brutal review of what you should have done better?
I’d suggest this is holding you back.
You may think it pushes you forward but it really just saps your energy, steals your confidence and keeps you from learning.
Don’t believe me? Then let’s reframe it.
What would happen if you talked to a small child, like you speak to yourself?
What if you told a child they were an idiot for attempting to run – they should just walk. What if you berated them for trying something new, if you criticized them at every turn; they would never progress and they’d be miserable.
Of course, you wouldn’t do this to a child. You’d encourage them to learn new things. You’d want them to try, you’d help them believe that they could succeed– whatever it was they were attempting.
Now think about your critical inner voice, when it talks to you in that brutal, defeating way.
It uses your vocabulary, your tone of voice and an endless loop of repetition to tell you how you just aren’t good enough. It is equally exhausting for you and can make you feel a bit miserable.
So how do you change that?
You can start to change that by focusing on the things you did well at the end of each day. Your subconscious will grab those and make it the measuring stick for “good” going forward. It will strive to repeat the good stuff.
When you hear the inner critic pipe up with “But, I didn’t…” take a pause and think what that is doing to you. You are looking backward and finding fault over things you can’t change.
It diminishes the joy of the things that you did well. There is no focus or acknowledgement of what you’re good at, just that voice berating you for what you missed.
Don’t look back, spring board forward
Change that tape in your head. It takes some practice, like any habit, but working at it consciously will make the change faster.
Let’s start again with focusing on what you did well. Allow yourself 10 minutes on your way home, to review what you did well that day. List at least five things you were pleased with. They can be big or small and they can be “business as usual” things.
Find a way to remind yourself to do this positive review EVERY day for 10 days. Maybe set a reminder on your phone?
This begins to retrain your brain to focus on what you think is a good job and it builds proof, you’ve got evidence of what you are doing well. Your subconscious will start to help you repeat that good stuff and it builds your confidence.
If that critical voice creeps in, redirect it from “I should have…” to a forward looking voice of “Next time I could…”
“Next time I could…” is solution focused. You have just figured out how to do something better next time.
There is no blame and no fault, this is an exercise in learning and building on to what you want to do differently.
This is how we improve and build our experience, it is all in our heads. Understanding and reflecting on what you want to do differently is how we master our jobs and develop our management skills.
To be able to look forward and learn from our experiences, we have to shift from the negative “I should have” – to a future focused “Ahh, next time I know what I’ll do.”
Need more help?
If you need more help changing that voice, get some outside affirmation from people you work with.
One way to do this is to enlist your team. Set up project reviews for you and your staff. Ask them what went well on this project? What could we do differently next time?
If you were the person who led the work, take it a step further. Ask what you did, as the project lead, that worked well for the team? What could you do differently next time?
Then take that feedback and keep if forward focused. You’ve received new information about what motivated your team and other ways you could support them. Think of it as moving up the learning curve.
This kind of thinking gives you energy, confidence and allows you to grow as a leader.
The critical voice holds you back, pointing out where you failed and filling you with self-doubt. It doesn’t allow you to learn or celebrate your wins because it is intent on picking apart your performance.
Rewrite the tape. Review what’s going well, spring board forward with the push of “Next time I could…”
When you’ve turned the volume down on the critical voice and turned up your inner cheerleader – you can accomplish anything.