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Your inner-critic is the negative self-talk, that is often and unspoken conversation you have with yourselves that is negative. Negative self-talk is uninvited and unwanted thinking, which can negatively impact belief in our skills and abilities to perform.

According to the National Science Foundation the average person has about 12,000 to 60,00 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before. When these thoughts are negative about self, they can sometimes feel like they are stuck on some kind of ground hog day loop.

I often explain to leaders that their ‘inner critic’ is the person they wish to avoid at a networking event. You see them, avoid them, yet they still seek you out, even when you have given them every indication to leave you alone.

Your inner-critic doesn’t get the hint because its ‘purpose’ is to protect and motivate you. I know that many leaders see their inner-critic as their wake-up call to do better; they find motivation in negative self-talk and pursue growth as way to silence it.

Whilst some people find motivation in the inner critic, others find it a hindrance. Using strategies such as avoidance, micromanagement, procrastination and defensiveness to shut it down.

Whilst highly effective in the short term, if not managed can lead to an increase in drinking, Netflix bingeing and drug taking, and occasionally all three at once.

These strategies can put your ‘inner-critic’ to sleep for a while, but then there she or he is there the next day, raring to go! So if we can’t get rid of negative self-talk and our inner-critic, what do we do?

Use your inner-critic wisely

Your negative self-talk and inner-critic are not the issue. It is how we relate to our inner-critic that is the issue. And given she or he is around to stay, maybe its time to develop a healthier relationship, where you can use this criticism constructively and wisely.

Acceptance over rejection of your inner-critic is proving to be a far more effective strategy for leaders and teams to achieve personal and work goals, and reach their full potential.

Try these strategies:

  • Curious scientist. Imagine being a curious scientist, looking at something under the microscope. In this case the ‘something’ is your negative self-talk and inner-critic. Become an observer of these feelings, rather than struggle with them. Give these thoughts or sensations a colour, smell or even name. This allows you to see them as separate from you, rather than as you.
  • Gratitude practice. Try writing down 3 things you are grateful for every day. It can be as simple as your first coffee, patting your pet, seeing the sunshine, a cuddle with a loved one. Those of you with kids, might like to try this at meal times and go around the table, where everyone has to share at least one thing they are grateful for. Gratitude and your inner-critic struggle to live together in your mind!
  • Try Mindfulness. Mindfulness is no longer just for Google, Nike and Apple have incorporated Mindfulness into their employee wellbeing programs, and these and others are realising a reduction in employee stress, improved focus, clarity of thinking, better decision-making and performance. Mindfulness helps relax us in the moment but over time (usually 10 minutes a day over 8 weeks) helps us build resilience towards negative thinking about ourselves and the world. I often call this our kryptonite for negative self-talk. Mindfulness can also include doing a mindless activity for 10-15 minutes per day, such as sitting by a stream, going outside and listening to birds or other sounds, sitting with your pet, watching the ocean. You may have something else.
  • Cartoon Character play. All of my clients love this one! Think of a voice of cartoon character you can play over in your head. Do it now. Close your eyes, and in your own voice pick the negative word or statement you say to yourself on loop. Notice how this feels in your body. Now, using the same word or statement, replace it with the voice of your cartoon character. Did you laugh? This strategy is based on science, called cognitive defusion. My cartoon character is Homer Simpson, and he has helped me get over nerves when I am about to speak at an event, or have one of those awkward conversations. Doh!

In summary, you don’t have be besties with your inner-critic, while he or she (or however you relate to yours) doesn’t have to be your enemy. Learning to use your inner-critic wisely will help you, and your team be happier, healthier and more effective.

NB: there is a lot more to estate planning than just a Will!

About the author:

Margie Ireland is the author of  ‘The Happy Healthy Leader’ and is highly sought after for her strategies surrounding navigating stress and healthy coping skills.

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