Keep it Happy! Inner C's
The real problem with a negative voice in our head is that our negative thoughts turn into feelings, and feelings turn into actions. But what if we could change our Inner Critic into our Inner Coach and introduce ourselves to our Inner Champion? Written by trainee Ollie Coach, Deborah Stephenson
“What you tell yourself every day will either lift you up or tear you down” - Alan Cohen
When I finished my last blog about combating our negative bias, it struck me that quite often, the loudest voice of negativity is our own.
Our Inner Critic.
What’s yours like?
Mine is a right busybody, poking her nose into everything, strutting around in her shiny high heels, peering over her old fashioned glasses at an ever present clipboard, finding fault and frowning, rolling her eyes and tutting… she’s very tall and thin and wears dark pencil pleat skirts (I have no idea why!).
She starts first thing, drumming her fingers on the bedside table, peering at me in the semi darkness “Ah there you are - you’ve opened your eyes - about time too!” All day she hovers, tapping me on the shoulder, pointing out all the things I should have, could have, ought to have done! She does a lot of face palm “Doh!” and a great deal of sighing. Her stamina is strong and she doesn’t rest until “Late to sleep again!”, tut, sigh, bedtime.
Her stock phrases are “No! Really?!”, “What are you doing?”, Why didn’t you do that?”, “You did WHAT?!”. All dished up in a tone of despair/annoyance/ridicule/horror/sarcasm (delete as applicable), with a supplementary “Stupid”, “Fool”, “Idiot" (or worse)… thrown in for good measure. The guilt and disappointment she can generate is second to none.
The thing is, most of us wouldn’t dream of saying these kind of things to anyone else, and if we did, I doubt they’d stick around for long, so why do we allow this inner voice, who should surely be on our side, to talk to us in this damaging way?
The real problem with this voice in our head is that our thoughts turn into feelings, and feelings turn into actions; so negative thoughts, turn into negative feelings, and negative feelings turn into negative actions. As I mentioned in last week’s blog, thanks to evolution (or lack of it) we are programmed to pay greater attention to the negative, so the Inner Critic is on to a winner!
I don’t know how you deal with yours… but I think the first step is to notice them. Given all I’ve just said about them being around all the time, that comment may sound daft, but Inner Critics hover unseen in the background slipping their judgemental remarks under the radar in a flash. Before you can do anything about it, the negative thought triggered is half way down the production line towards negative feeling and negative action.
Catching them out by noticing them allows us to change things. When we spot that criticism heading towards us we can then deploy our two greatest busybody guards Respect and Reason. This pair are skilled at reconstructing dialogue so that “You idiot”, becomes “Look, it didn’t go well this time, but don’t worry, remember what you learnt and it’ll be better next time” (all said kindly and with a smile of course).
If we can train Respect and Reason to interrupt our Inner Critic, to change the dialogue, and talk to us as a friend might… “Hey - are you ok? What went wrong? What’s making you feel so angry?” then the impact lessens. Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion that you would treat a good friend.
Happily, I also believe we also have another IC and that’s our Inner Champion. Just as we have friends who listen to us, support us and care about us no matter what the situation, we can also do that for ourselves.
What’s your Inner Champion like?
Mine high fives a lot and has an American accent (I have no idea why!).
The great thing about Inner Champion is that Inner Critic shrinks in its presence so it’s worth training your Inner Champion to be loud and proud!
However you do it, when you notice your Inner Critic at work, employ Respect and Reason, and let the the Inner Champion in. That way you are more likely to end the day on a “Thanks for all the things you dealt with - high 5’s - you did great!” Instead of “C minus could do better, don’t know why I bother” sigh!
And there’s something else too…
What if we could change our Inner Critic into an Inner Coach?
If we take the Ollie School view that every part of us is valuable and every behaviour serves a purpose, then let’s explore what’s behind the anger and frustration of our busybody Inner Critic. Isn’t it possible that the intention behind the hurtful comments is to try to alert us that we need to make a change to be the best we can be.
Maybe the annoyance and despair is driven by an underlying fear and anxiety that we have made a mistake, embarrassed ourselves or let ourselves down. Perhaps we do need to stop doing something, or do something differently, or start taking action. Yes our Inner Critic might need a lesson in how to deliver feedback, but their insight is invaluable.
Perhaps we should think of this inner voice as a helpful friend who is looking out for us and has our best interests at heart. As we would listen to that friend, we should listen to them too. At the end of the day we are not only on the same side, we’re in the same body!
So when our Inner Critic starts talking to us sharply and negatively - how about gently asking them to stop. Give them permission to put the clipboard down and kick off their shoes, ask them what’s troubling them. Get them to tell you what you did well or how you might do better, reassure them and chat things through. Transform them into your Inner Coach, and then, introduce them to your Inner Champion … imagine how powerful that combination will be.
Deborah Stephenson, Ollie Coach trainee
I am an Ollie School trainee and a Director at an Independent Prep School for boys. I am a trained journalist and worked in BBC Local Radio for more than twenty years as a reporter, bulletin reader, news editor and programme maker. It was a great job, but I wanted to do something to support my own children’s wellbeing with a view to taking that on to support others and, in pursuit of a better work life balance, I resigned as the Assistant Editor of BBC Essex last year. Inspired by the Ollie School concept I was excited to be accepted for the training course and it has been a fascinating and enlightening and journey so far.
To get in contact with Deborah, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to www.ollieandhissuperpowers.com