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The Inner Critic – creating your own self-esteem

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He keeps me awake all night worrying about the future, chiding me for my mistakes.

Planning for my inevitable downfall.

Noticing how bright and attractive everyone is and how I become insignificant in their presence.

He pounces on any evidence that backs up his negative opinions of me and ignores any suggestion that he might be wrong.

I can’t outrun him- whenever I stop, he is there.

He says that he is doing this for my own good but I can’t see any profit.

I will never be good enough while he is around.

Am I brave enough to leave him?

Perhaps I can learn to live without him or, at least, learn to turn down his chatter.

Maybe I can learn to accept myself as I am right now with my abilities and all of my flaws.

Perhaps I can resist the urge to run and just be with him.

Perhaps I can see him as he is- a tormentor of my own making.

The Inner Critic seems to be a driving force for a lot of people. Certainly, from my experience of running our Developing Influence and Impact programme this seems to be the case. I think it gets in the way of individuals, and organisations, reaching their potential.

So can we overcome the Inner critic? Well a great first step is to recognise that your inner critic is not the only truth. It is simply a thought pattern. If we can isolate our critical self-narrative, we can begin to see this reality more clearly.

The best way I have found of doing this is a witnessing exercise*

The idea is simply to notice what you are doing, feeling and thinking without any sense of evaluation.

Try spending some time on your own (maybe 10- 15 minutes) to become aware of your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, emotions and senses, and then describe this to yourself using the third person. So, for example, rather than absentmindedly thinking that you are bored, you would very consciously say (to yourself) from their third person witnessing self: “she is feeling bored.” Then move on to any layers that follow, such as: “she is guilty about feeling bored”, “she is criticising herself for not being able to concentrate”

You may find that this is not as simple as may think- it is very easy to lose focus and drift. On our Developing Influence and Impact programme we often combine this with a walk. I don’t know why but this seems to make the process easier.

Why not give it a try and let me know how you get on.

I have borrowed this idea from a great book by Lynda Field called “Creating Self-Esteem” (Random House Books – 1993)

To find out more about our programmes to help your influence and leadership awareness:

Developing Influence and Impact

Clear Leadership

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