For the Love of Your Inner Critic

cockatoo criticWhen you start doing something new, something out of your comfort zone, part of you is always going to show up to the party and try to stop you.

You might know this part of yourself as resistance, the saboteur, the gremlin or the inner critic. It’s the voice that says, ‘no, don’t do that, it’s much too dangerous’, ‘you’ll surely fail and look a fool’, ‘you’re wasting your time’, ‘you’re not the kind of person who does that’, ‘it will never be good enough’, ‘you’re not ready yet’, ‘you are not good enough’… and many other variations on the theme of don’t start, don’t finish and definitely don’t keep going. Listen closely and you might be able to distinguish a whole chorus of dissenting personalities, each with its own particular character and tone of voice, programmed to defend a specific edge of your comfort zone.

There are as many strategies for dealing with these voices as there are variations on the story they tell you. Essentially you have two options – ignore them (perhaps imagine you are sending them off to perform some officious duty for someone else while you get on with the world domination plan) or engage them in a short conversation where you ask some hard questions about the true probabilities of the catastrophe scenario they are trying to sell you. A sense of humour always helps.

The thing I like to remember about the voices of resistance is that behind all the criticism and obstruction is LOVE. The only reason they are trying to block your progress is that they want to protect you and keep you safe. And the only way they know to do this is to try and push all your emotional buttons to stop you from changing or doing anything new. A bit like compulsively overprotective parents.

What’s underneath all this opposition to your expansion in life is an ancient piece of our evolutionary programming, the part of your brain that records all the things that have worked for you in the past so that you can repeat them and stay safe. It’s a sound theory that if you’ve survived thus far and not fallen prey to a hungry tiger, a treacherous ravine or a poison berry, exactly what you’ve done before is what you should do now.

Context, however, is everything. Unless the new habit you’re trying to make is hang gliding to work or you’re setting up a poisonous animal sanctuary, the biggest threat you’re likely to be facing is the lost opportunity to learn from your mistakes.

So thank the voices for their clumsily expressed love, care and attention. It’s true that if those ancient instincts didn’t have your back, your life would sometimes be in danger. And it’s also true that you are a fiercely resilient and adaptable human and there is an unlimited amount of magic available to you outside your comfort zone.

Now go pitch that idea, apply for that job, try that new thing or just give yourself some space.

If you’d like some support to keep the world domination plan on track, you know where I am.