Written by Shannon Lyn Arnold, Coach on Collective Gain, and a self-described introvert who helps others find self worth using introversion as a strength.
You're not smart enough to even apply for that promotion. You're not cute enough to date that person. You're not interesting enough to keep my love―or get my time. Who do you think you are, daring to create a better life for yourself? The list goes on.
Most of us would never say these hurtful words to someone else, and yet some version of this “not enough” message runs through our heads like a broken record all day, every day. This is the voice of our inner critic, and most of us are completely unaware of its damaging messages and its impact.
Getting to the Root of It
When we were kids, we absorbed the world around us, and the messages we received from others began to outline our inner dialogue. These messages didn’t have to be direct―more sensitive children internalize what they hear being said about others―but they shaped our thoughts and eventually became our very critical inner voice.
Author Tara Sophia Mohr describes our inner critic this way: “It’s an ancient emotional safety instinct, scanning for any potential risk or threat to protect us and help us survive; it’s trying to protect us from failure, rejection, criticism, and embarrassment.”
And while this list sums up what we all want to avoid, it also describes what we must brave in order to grow and take the risks that will gift us the greatest rewards.
A New Message
Your inner critic has the power to take away your joy in every area of your life, and create just enough fear to hold you back from fully living, fully loving, and following the most fulfilling path. And because its message is rooted in fear, not truth, managing it can transform your entire life.
Here are four ways to lessen the power of that voice and change its message.
- Uncover the “when” and the “why”.
Your inner critic’s voice is personalized and deep, and has developed a different message for each one of us. Infertility Coach Sheri Johnson says, “The first step is to become fully aware of where in our psyche we are feeling a lack of self-worth. For years I said, ‘I don't have an issue with self-worth,’ and then one day it hit me over the head. I had them, the issue just didn't present itself in the same way as it did for some others. I had to go back to my childhood and see where someone had made me feel ‘less than’.”
- Identify what you’re trying to protect.
When you take the time to let your mind wander back to your earliest memories of not feeling good enough, you will begin to see how and why that message has impacted every area of your life. And most importantly, it will become clear that it no longer serves you as an adult.
The next step is to understand the risk you’re trying to avoid―why this mechanism is kicking in, and what it’s trying to protect you from. Tara Sophia Mohr calls it “the risk management department of your life,” and says that “it’s not accountable in any way to the joy, fulfillment, or growth departments”.
- Choose a new, more supportive message.
Your new understanding will immediately reduce its power, because your inner critic is fueled by your thoughts. This is excellent news, because while it takes work, we all have the ability to change our thoughts and choose a new, more supportive and positive message.
Carve out time to sit in complete stillness, allowing your mind to sift through all of the areas of your life where your specific “not good enough” message holds you back and keeps you small. Now, choose a new message that will support you in all of these areas, giving you the courage to finally fully show up.
- Generate self-compassion at the deepest level.
As we discussed at the very beginning of this post, we would (hopefully) never talk to others the way we all too often talk to ourselves. Developing a kind inner voice is the key to shifting the narrative and creating a foundation for our new message to take root.
Maya Angelou says, “Words are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally into you.”Words have power, and the tone of your inner voice is so important. This may seem silly at first, but talking to yourself in the second or third person has an astonishing effect. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who use non-first-person self-talk have a kinder and more positive inner dialogue, building themselves up like they would a close friend.
Changing your inner critic’s message is a battle―but it is one that we can all win, and it is more than worth the fight. It will take time and practice because it’s so deeply rooted, but every step of the way is worth it.
A professional coach can help you through this process more quickly and effectively, giving you the support and accountability that you need to create a lasting change.
Thanks to Shannon Lyn Arnold Collective Gain Coach, who authored this post. Shannon is a Certified Professional Coach and an Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner. She has the tools to uncover what it is that is holding you back from success, joy, and purpose so you can begin to create the life that you want and deserve. Request a consultation with Shannon.
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