We’ve all been put in situations that cause our inner-critic to bubble to the surface. Even if you’ve long been pining (and working) for that new opportunity to appear, once it does, the voice of doubt and fear fills your head and you start to question your ability.
According to social worker and human behaviour researcher Melody Wilding, society’s obsession with ignoring self-doubt is not only impossible to do, but also problematic. “Although we’re told to ignore, suppress and push back our self-doubt, not only is that impossible, it often backfires.”
So, instead of pretending that self-doubt is going to magically vanish one day, in her TED talk, Melody challenges us to welcome it into our home and have a cup of tea with it, as opposed to leaving those overwhelming and sometimes suffocating feelings at the front door as you’d ordinarily try to do.
There’s a reason why: after working with and studying with high achievers, Melody found a common-thread-experience across these types of individuals. While all subjects battle an inner-critic in one way or another, those who are successful actively embrace it. So instead of attempting to defeat the ever-present beast, we should be re-thinking our relationship with it entirely. Melody dubs this exercise as “naming it and reframing it”.
Here’s how to do it:
Identify your story
The first step in tackling a downward spiral comes down to identifying your story: what’s the story you tell yourself every time your inner-critic seeps in? Does the phrase “I can’t do it, I’m too introverted, I don’t have the time”, sound familiar? Chances are, we’ve all thought something similar, but those voices are actually just a bad habit or a series of unhealthy thought-patterns. So, when it does chime in, confidently label it as “the story” you tell yourself, rather than the truth of the matter.
Challenge the story
The second step challenges what your inner critic asks. So, if forgetting the key points in your pitch desk is keeping you up at night, ask yourself, so what if you forget the words? Think about the possible outcomes and the reality of how bad they would be. You might find the outcome not as daunting as your mind is letting on.
Then, embrace it and have a plan
Once you’ve mused on the worse case scenario, embrace it and come up with a plan of attack. This step is known by psychologists as “mental rehearsal.” So, if you do end up forgetting the words mid-sentence, a humorous response about missing your morning coffee, followed by a quick peep at your notes could constitute the perfect recovery. Now, your ‘worst case scenario’ is in fact, not that bad at all, especially now that you are prepared for it.