Are Your Inner Critics Driving the Bus?

I guide my coaching clients during big leaps in their professional lives, such as stepping into a management role, launching a business, or returning to work after a career break. Just the thought of shaking up the status quo takes real guts and often provokes “Saboteurs” or “Inner Critics”.

These little voices in our head are sneaky and usually very nasty. Think back to a time when you contemplated reaching for something big. Now, fill in the blanks:

“This will never work because you are too_______!” (old, busy, inexperienced…)

“No one will take you seriously because you are not ______ enough!” (organized, smart, outgoing…)

Saboteurs make us feel like failure is guaranteed, so why not play it safe and put off even trying in the first place. Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week, says it well:

“Uncertainty and the prospect of failure can be very scary noises in the shadows. Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.”

I like to use the “School Bus” metaphor to illustrate for clients how disruptive unchecked saboteurs can be.

“Think of your saboteurs as bratty little kids riding on a school bus. The bus driver is taking a new route to school, and they are panicked that she will get terribly lost. They are out of control, running up and down the aisles, and eventually push the driver out of the seat. Now the bus is off its course. You are the bus driver and you have lost control of where the bus is going. The saboteurs are driving.”

Ever felt this way?

The good news is, these voices are our much needed risk managers. Their role is to protect us from taking unsafe risks (such as thinking we can fly, and therefore jumping off a skyscraper). Now for the bad news: often they over- react and scare us away from achieving (or even setting!) the stretch goals so critical for professional and personal growth. This gang of bratty inner critics, much like rowdy kids on a school bus, takes control and stops us from driving towards our dreams.

Take heart. Every human being, no matter how confident they may appear, wrestles with their own gang of saboteurs. I teach my clients a 4-step P.A.C.K. formula for managing their little demons:

1. Personify and label the Saboteur: Is it a he or she? What does it look like? Can you give it a name? Distinguish it from the real you.

2. Acknowledge the small bit of truth the saboteur delivers. Then say “Thank you for sharing”.

3. Challenge the part of their message that’s garbage. Ask yourself “What is the truth here, not the saboteur’s version?” Provide some evidence to disprove its argument.

4. Kick it out or kindly ask it leave to the driver’s seat! Your saboteur can be on the bus, but not driving.

Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t easy. It takes practice and will be a game you play your whole life. So, here’s your assignment: Try to pay attention in your own life and be that awareness that notices the voice. Try the P.A.C.K. formula. BE THE BUS DRIVER!

 

Michelle Friedman, CPCC is a professional development coach, organizational consultant, trainer and speaker serving ambitious women at mid-career and the companies that employ them. Her passion is empowering women to shine in their professional lives while leading a balanced life outside of the office. In addition, she consults to progressive employers committed to attracting, retaining and advancing their female talent. Based outside of NYC, she is married and the proud and extremely busy mom of three boys, ages 14, 11 and 9. Visit her at www.michellefriedman.net, and follow her on Twitter @michfriedman.

 

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