You’re sitting in a meeting taking in vaults of information. Your brain is in overdrive with ideas and input. You’re excited to share your thoughts. You’re completely confident in your conclusions; you know it’s what they need to hear.
Yet when the time comes and you’re asked if you have anything to add……you say nothing. You walk away from the meeting beating yourself up because you froze. You freeze every time. And the trajectory of your career is starting to suffer the repercussions.
You could be basking in the glory of having made significant contributions. Instead, you head to the vending machine to wallow in a Snickers bar.
All because of that pesky little voice inside your head that speaks up at the worst possible moments. That voice that says, “No! don’t say it; what if you’re wrong?” “What if you make a fool of yourself?” or “You’ll look like a showoff.”
That voice is your inner critic. And each message the critic delivers is powerful.
Yet as loud and forceful as that voice is…there are a few things it doesn’t want you to know.
She’s (or He’s) never going to go away.
The critic is a part of you. It started somewhere early in your life. Your subconscious mind adopted a falsehood as truth. And every year since then it’s looked for and collected evidence to prove that falsehood true.
Like the time your older brother told you to shut up because he was hanging out with his friends. He didn’t have time for you. What were you, six? That six year old internalized that message. The six year old believed that what she had to say wasn’t important.
There was a physical feeling of shame attached to that emotion. You’d notice that same physical feeling other times over the years.
It could be a teacher that scolded you for not raising your hand before speaking. That same physical shame you felt when your brother told you to shut up returns. Only this time it’s in class. It’s now confirmed. Your subconscious has more evidence that what you say isn’t important.
And then you end up in that meeting confident, professional, and ready to speak. But you can’t speak. Because that physical feeling of that emotion creeps right back in. And you freeze.
This memory remains a part of your subconscious mind. It will always be with you.
You have a choice
The inner critic speaks with a loud voice. It repeats the same lies over and over. Each time you retreat.
But what if there was another option?
What if you could choose whether to listen to that inner critic? Before you get frustrated with me and roll your eyes thinking, “Oh yeah, it’s as easy as a choice.” Hear me out..
Think about all the success that you’ve had in your life. The obstacles that you’ve overcome. How did you do it?
You did it because as humans we have many voices. We have weak and critical voices, and we have strong and powerful ones. Sometimes we cave to the fear, but sometimes we stand strong and march on!
So if we have these many facets of our personality, these many voices in our head, how do we choose?
Determine who’s driving your bus
I’m going to ask you to try something here … go ahead, step out of your comfort zone, you won’t regret it..
I’d like you to imagine your life as a bus. It can be a school bus or a cool tour bus, it doesn’t matter. Imagine, for a moment, that your life is a bus.
When you step onto the bus and take a look around, you’ll see all the various parts of you in the different seats on the bus. As you scan the various ‘people’ on the bus, you see versions of yourself.
There’s the version that pulled your team to victory in the final minutes of the game. And the version that sat with your dying father and never left his side. You might see the version of you that is an amazing parent or that overcame cancer.
Each person on that bus is a part of you.
And this is where the choice comes in. When you step onto the bus, you get to decide which version of you is going to drive. Each of the people (versions of you) will stay on the bus, but YOU get to call the shots of who’s driving.
The next time you’re at a meeting where you’re feeling terrified to speak up, stop. Take a breath. Recognize that at that exact moment where you feel that terror, it’s the inner critic driving the bus.
It’s that critic telling you to keep the bus going, don’t stop and speak up. Keep driving; don’t be a fool. And that’s how your bus goes by the opportunity and you end up at the vending machine.
Instead, change drivers
It’s at that moment where you get to make the choice. You get to remember all the other people on the bus. Remember those stronger versions of you.
And decide to let one of them drive. The critic won’t go away. But you’ll be able to push him back to the back of the bus. The stronger version will take the wheel.
It’s the stronger version of you that will stop the bus and let you shine. It won’t keep driving past opportunity. It’s then that the stronger version will give you the courage you need to speak.
Like the lion in the Wizard of Oz, you’ve had the courage all along. But your own inner critic didn’t want you to know.