I heard something last week that I decided was really important to share with my coaching community. A client who works in a high level leadership position was being asked to contribute more in the executive meetings. While she sounded quite eager to get more involved and share some of her ideas, she was a little unsure of about how to go about connecting and sharing in a room of experts and turning up the volume on her voice.
As we chatted it became clear there was a narrative emerging around how smart the other leaders were and some self-doubt began to creep into the conversation about how she wasn't really ready for "executive level." But after working with her for sometime and hearing all her inspiring ideas on how to lead the company successfully through connection and working together and knowing the contribution she'd already made - I knew she was ready for this new challenge.
I was hearing something I have heard in many leadership clients before. I call it the "voice of fear" the scared inner voice who tells a woman she's not ready for success, not enough of an expert, or not good enough at it. The inner critic. All of us wrestle with this inner critic in some form another but in a leadership environment it is more prominent for women.
The inner critic can also show up in other realms for women like in mothering, body image, appearance, age, creativity (think writers block), sexuality and as partners. This voice does not like change and wants us to continue living in the familiar lives we know and not imagine ourselves otherwise.
But the cost of listening to our inner critic are huge and playing small when we think of all the ideas that never see the light of day, the voices that are never heard or all the missed opportunities to do great things in the world and make it a better place. I imagine there's been a lot of silent voices of women over the generations, working quietly in the background and waiting patiently for their moment.
The voice of self doubt wants to protect us from harm, hurt, rejection, mistakes, emotional distress and failure. It speaks it loudest when we get closest to the edge of change, outside our comfort zone, exposed and vulnerable. This instinct is built into our evolutionary history and helped us remember to stay close to our tribes and not venture into danger and despite those times having passed we still experience them in our neurobiology.
When you make the decision to start chasing your dreams, stepping into your own space, question outdated beliefs, stretching your knowledge, standing up and speaking out; this is when the inner critic will show up at its most powerful. It's one goal is to keep you safe in familiarity - in your comfort zone.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to simply notice the inner critic from day to day and moment to moment. Bringing awareness to your inner voice and noticing when it's limiting you or afraid of your success or change is a very powerful way to relate to it. It's futile trying to battle it because it only makes it expand, so notice it and as it settles refocus your intentions on your dreams.
When you're not conscience of the self-doubt it can rule your life, influence your decisions and cause you to second guess yourself. When you're aware you're in a space of expanded awareness, it is YOU noticing this inner critic and at your core YOU are bigger. At your core you're wisdom, you're full of energy and ideas and the intention to expand with purpose.