Have you ever taught a class, given a speech, write an article, attended an interview, made a sales presentation, defend a project or proposal, competed in an athletic event, acted in a play, given a concert, or performed any kind of job and then found yourself on the way home listening to that voice in your head telling you how you messed up, what you should have done differently, how you could have and should have done it better? I’m sure you have. And if you listen to that voice for very long, it can undermine your self confidence, lower your self-esteem, and even demoralize and eventually paralyze you.
James Allen once said “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thought takes you.” We all have that little voice that tends to always remind us how miserable we have performed. Daniel Amen said “Don’t believe everything you hear – even in your own mind.” Research indicates that the average person talks to himself or herself about 50,000 times a day. And most of that self-talk is about yourself, and according to the psychological researcher, it is 80% negative – things.
The interesting thing about our inner critic is that it actually meant good but present it in a judgmental way. Anytime that little voice whispers to us, the underlying message is that we can actually do it better, we can still improve, our best is yet to come, we can still have another opportunity, but that’s not the way it presents it. We need to build up ourselves to positively respond to our inner critic and turn it to inner coach. Ignoring this voice won’t do any help we just need to understand how to be conscious enough to recognize and positively respond to them.
Many years ago, I asked myself how do the lie detector works? How can just a machine tell that am not telling the truth? I guess some of the readers can also relate to this, our inquisitiveness as a child.
Little did I know at that time that this polygraph (lie-detector) tests that our body react to our thoughts - changing your temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, muscle tension and how much the hand sweat. When you are hooked up to a lie detector and are asked a question such as “Did you take the money?” your hand will get colder, your heart will beat faster, your blood pressure will go up, your breathing will get faster, your muscles will get tighter, and your hands will sweat if you did take the money and you lie about it. These kinds of physiological changes occur not only when you are lying but also in reaction to every thought you think. Every cell in your body is affected by every thought you have.
Negative thoughts affect your body negatively – weakening you, making you sweat, and making you uptight. Positive thoughts affect your body in a positive way, making you more relaxed, centered and alert. Positive thoughts will cause the secretion of endorphins in the brain and will reduce pain and increase pleasure.
One midsummer day, the train crews were informed that they could quit an hour early in honor of the foreman’s birthday. While performing one last check on some of the railroad cars, Nick was accidentally locked in a refrigerator boxcar. When he realized that the rest of the workman had left the site, Nick began to panic.
He banged and shouted until his fits were bloody and his voice was hoarse, but no one heard him. With his knowledge of “the numbers and the facts,” he predicted the temperature to be zero degrees. Nick’s thought was if I can’t get out, I’ll freeze to death in here. Wanting to let his wife and family know exactly what had happened to him, Nick found a knife and began to etch words on the wooden floor. He wrote, “It’s so cold, my body is getting numb.
The next morning, the crew slid open the heavy doors of the boxcar and found Nick dead. An autopsy revealed that every physical sign of his body indicated that he had frozen to death. And yet the refrigeration unit of the car was inoperative, and the temperature inside indicated 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Nick had killed himself by the power of his own thoughts.
You, too, if you’re not careful can kill yourself with your limiting thoughts – not all at once like Nick Sitzman, but little by little, day after day, until you have slowly deadened your natural ability to achieve your dream.
The key to dealing with any kind of negative thinking is to realize that you are ultimately in charge of whether to listen to agree with any thought. Just because you think it-or-hear it doesn’t mean it is true. You want to constantly ask yourself, is this thought helping me or hurting me? Is it motivating me to action, or is it blocking me with fear and doubt? You have to learn to challenge and talk back to the thoughts that are not serving you in creating greater success and happiness.
This little voice and negative self-talk are initiated by focusing on our inadequacies and shortcomings. Oprah Winfrey said “Whatever you focus on expand” if we give attention and energy to other people’s negative judgment about us, most especially people we hold in high esteem it automatically sink into our subconscious mind and the more we keep ruminating on it the more the voices grow intense.
We also need to avoid negative prediction. Examples of such predictions may be predicting your sales prospect won’t be interested in your product, the person you are attracted to will reject your request to go out on a date, your boss won’t give you a raise or the plane you are flying on will crash.
To transform your inner critic to inner coach you have to understand a core principle. Most self-criticism and self-judgment is motivated by love. Part of you is trying to motivate the rest of you to do something for your own good.
When you are a little kid, your parents may have yelled at you and sent you to your room after you did something stupid like run out in front of a car. Their real communication was “I love you. I don’t want you to get hit by a car. I want you to stay around so that I can enjoy watching you grow up into a happy and healthy adult.” But they delivered only half of the message. “What’s wrong with you? Were you born without a brain? You know better than to run outside the street when the car is coming. You are grounded for the next hour. Go up to your room and think about what you just did.” In their fear of losing you, they expressed only their anger. But underneath the anger were three more layers of message that never got delivered – fear, specific request, and love.
A complete message would look like this:
Anger: I am mad at you for running out into the street without looking to see if any cars were coming.
Fear: I am afraid that you are going to get badly hurt or killed.
Requests: I want you to pay more attention when you are playing near the street. Stop and look both ways before you walk or run out into the street.
Love: I love you so much. I don’t know what I would do without you. You are so precious to me. I want you to be safe and healthy. You deserve to have lots of fun and stay safe so you can always enjoy life to its fullest. Do you understand?
What a different message! You need to train your inner critic to talk to you the same way. A part of you is angry with you because you are not at your best, you don’t have to take it personal, just pick relevant lessons and make necessary corrections or adjustment next time.
Whenever you hear a part of you judging yourself, simply reply, “Thank you for caring. What is your fear? What specifically do you want me to do? How will this serve me? Your inner critic can be your best coach if only you know how to handle its criticism.
Daniel Cole is an International Motivational Speaker, Inspirational writer, Columnist and a Published Authour.