Blog Post Cover: Inner Critic and Personal Growth

Inside each of us is the self-destructive internal narrative that repeats phrases like, “I’m such a loser!” when we mess up. Learning to silence the inner critic is one of the key requirements to experience breakthrough success. The best way to do that is through the three c’s for personal growth.

“Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchhill

Setting the Stage

Deep down, you know that failure isn’t final. Yet, it is an inevitable part of the struggle in life.

If you’re a parent, you’ve seen this countless times with kids. What would happen if, the first time my child tried to talk a walk, he fell over and I determined that walking must not be for him. I’d pick him up, vow to never let him fail again, and prohibit him from walking. I don’t want him to be a failure after all!

You’d call me crazy and think I’d be a bad parent … and you’d be right. When it comes to children, parents are keenly aware that temporary failure is a part of the learning process. However, parental insecurities also pass on to offspring and soon children internalize that failure is bad, and not acceptable. The first time I heard my oldest child criticize herself as a failure was kindergarten.

Let that sink in. Somehow, I taught my child before her fifth birthday, that failure was to be avoided because it was a bad reflection on her.

Ouch

All of humanity is embedded with the Inner Critic. Success happens, not just by battling the inner critic, but by overcoming it. Once you acknowledge it, you then want to dismantle the power it has in your life. How? Through the three c’s of personal developmentBlog Post Cover: Inner Critic and Personal Growth

Three Sources of Feedback

Competency

The first step in the process is competency. When I first started coaching, I labeled this as an individual’s calling. It was the answer to the question: what on earth am I here for? It’s a deep examination of you life, purpose, skills, abilities, passions, and goals in life. Your calling, as Frederick Buechner so eloquently put is the place where, “your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” You were put here for a specific purpose. You will only truly be happy when you are fulfilling that purpose. I’ve worked with entrepreneurs who were looking to start a business, stay at home parents, career professionals in a variety of backgrounds. Each and every one of them had a unique purpose and we structured our time together to help them achieve clarity in their calling. Then, they were called to action.

You are too. Your calling, your greatest competency, is a gift to bless others. That new product or idea, the time with your kids, your neighborhood involvement, it all matters. Your legacy will long outlive you in the thoughts and minds of those around you. The more effectively you engage your calling, the deeper the impact you make on the world, the more significant your legacy will be. By discovering your core competency, your calling, you embrace who you are and fix your mind on completing the deepest parts of your existence.

Compassion

The second part of the process is compassion. More specifically, self-compassion. You beat the inner critic by extending grace on yourself. Several times over the last decade, I’ve posted a simple question online: do you find it harder to extend grace to others when they mess or to yourself when you mess up? While no results are ever 100% clear, and Facebook obviously isn’t a scientific platform, the results are always heavily skewed towards a struggle with ourselves. The problem is that you know your own internal moral compass. When you don’t live up to that, it’s a frustrating and embarrassing failure. When someone we love screws up, it’s a forgivable oversight, when you screw up, it’s a violation of your own personal moral code and honor.

In spite of how hard it is, the journey towards self-compassion is a necessary one. During my master’s program, my wife made me a shirt that said, “Be Tender To Yourself.” It was a reminder that just as I have forgiven others, I must also forgive myself. I spent years in counseling unable to do so. It wrecked my life. While your own journey may not see you in counseling, I’m guessing you also struggle with it.

Here are two ways to begin the journey towards greater self-compassion.

The first part of the problem is to put yourself, more pointedly your mistake, into someone else’s shoes. I’m not saying don’t accept responsibility or blame someone else. The idea is to imagine that someone else committed the error. If Bill had promised you the expense report at 7:00 last night, but got distracted dealing with a sick child’s vomit on the floor, would you refer to him as a lazy, good-for-nothing, idiot? My guess is (my sincere hope is) probably not. Instead, you’d reassure Bill that everything is okay. Extend yourself that same grace. If you’re not bothered by someone else doing it, don’t be offended when you do it.

The second way to engage in self-compassion is through humor. When you screw up, learning to laugh at yourself is a vital and necessary step. Spilled your orange juice? Instead of criticizing yourself for being an idiot, make a comment on how far it got. “Man, this time I was able to get it on the floor, the walls, and the ceiling. I really am talented!” Shifting your perspective, and in the process finding a way to compliment yourself, destroys the power of the inner critic.

Community

The final piece of the puzzle is community. In community, you can discover who you really are. Friends, parents, coworkers, a spouse or life partner, a trusted boss, mentor, and former professor all have insights into what makes you, you.

Seek authentic feedback from others. What are your strengths and weaknesses? How can those who know you best affirm your calling? What does your support network look like? By examining the community you participate in, you can assess that you are on the right path. During coaching, you can also use that time to change or adapt your community. If you try to assemble your feedback team and realize that no one supports you then you need new friends! Having a well-rounded, supportive, diverse community is key to your success, and the only way to make sure you have one is analyze it! Community grounds and surrounds us in the difficult moments of life, giving us the energy and strength to carry on.

This is an excerpt of my upcoming Shift. To receive news and alerts about its upcoming release, subscribe to my newsletter.

To get help through coaching, contact me.

Start With The Big Rocks

“I just can’t fit it all in!”

Those were the words my client told me over the phone.

Frustrated and agitated, he was lamenting the increasing toll his recent promotion was taking on him. The commutes were longer, the workdays were more exhausting, the stress was mounting.

“Was the pay increase really worth this?” he continued. “Sure, the pay is great, but what’s the point if I can’t enjoy it. Worse than that, I barely see my family anymore!”

Perhaps you can relate.

Maybe you’ve had one of the “crazy weeks.” (Wait…isn’t every week like that???)

My advice remains the same now as it was then: start with the big rocks.

Determine Your Big Rocks

I remember hearing of a study once that examined the student’s ability to properly fill an aquarium full of rocks. There were various sizes of rocks from tiny pebbles to larger foundational rocks.

As the story goes (at least as it was reported to me), the college students started dumping rocks, starting with the small one first to fill the bottom evenly.

By the time they got to the big rocks, not everything would fit.

In contrast to this, the kindergarten students started with the big rocks and everything looking messy. But, as they poured each successively smaller version of rocks in, they filled all the gaps.

The result? The college students “failed” the experiment by not fitting in all of their assigned rocks. In contrast to this, the kindergarten students passed because all of the rocks fit.

And while dozens of life lessons could be learned from this, this is why I push my clients to start with the big rocks.

When we start with the big rocks of life, we end up having room for everything. Work is undoubtedly an important part of life, but is it our biggest rock? Probably not. (At least it shouldn’t be…)

Family, self-care, personal growth, and close relationships are all things that should take up the foundation of who we are. Hobbies and work probably come next. Small rocks include the minor areas of life that take up some time but should never take too much.

As we gain clarity on what our big rocks are, we can easily see what is out of balance with our life pace.

Learning From My Kids

One of the things I’ve learned to implement is a lesson from my four children. If I leave the house and I hear, “Bye, dad! I can’t wait to see you later!” there is a good chance that things are going well. If, on the other hand, I hear, “Noooooo. Daddy, don’t go!” followed by weeping and gnashing of teeth, I know that my priorities for work are starting to take up too much time.

In those moments, I work diligently to reshape my schedule to spend more time with my family.

Thankfully, I’m getting better at this and starting to hear those sounds of disappointment less.

But it all starts with having clarity.

  • Clarity on the key values for my life.
  • Conviction on what matters most.
  • Commitment to live a life shaped by honoring my values more than worldly demands.

But I can only do that when I start with the big rocks.

Question For Discussion: What might be something you would say to someone struggling with work-life balance? Leave a comment below!

 

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