curb your inner critic – part three

07/22/2009

by anne lueneburger

1

Richard, a C-level executive in the finance world, suffers from presentation anxiety despite his professional success. Every time he is asked to step in front of a group, be it members of the board of his own company or an audience at a conference, his mouth becomes dry, he breaks out in a sweat and all he can hear is his negative self-talk: “you will bore them, they will find your presentation not engaging enough, they will walk away wondering why you are still in your position”.

For 6 months, as part of our coaching alliance, Richard has been taking one step at a time to disarm his inner critic. He has been experimenting with tactics such as positive self-talk and attention shifts: when negative thoughts come he looks at an object in the room and studies it intently.  He also deliberately uses humor, one of his core strengths, in his speeches. When last we spoke he described enjoying to put together a presentation that incorporates cartoons from the New Yorker, an approach that calmes his “stage anxiety”.

In part one on “curb your inner critic” we looked at the importance of hearing your critic or “catching him in the act”. You can only change what you are aware of. Part two listed a number of strategies you can use to disarm your negative self-talk, moving you towards a life that feels authentic and fulfilling to you. Part three is a brief but important reminder: breaking the influence of your critic is typically a long-term effort.

Most inner critics are very resilient. Many never fully disappear. But taming them, calming them, offers such an improvement in life quality that the effort is well worth it. But as you probably already guessed, this is a process, it takes time, energy and commitment. You are bound to have heard of the old saying: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”. You are more likely to succeed if you take it step by step to bring about the desired change in your life.

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