In Toastmasters, we are trained to be great listeners. But there is one voice that could use a bit of the silent treatment.
The Inner Critic.
The Inner Critic is the little voice in your head that casts doubt on your speaking ability. It is the voice that second guesses your word choices or phrases in a conversation. It is the voice that rushes in with “Why didn’t you . . . ” or “You should have . . . ” before the applause even dies down.
It focuses on your weaknesses without offering any props for what you do right.
The Inner Critic robs you of your confidence and leaves self-doubt in its place.
The Inner Critic comes from comments from others or ones we have said to ourselves that have been internalized unchecked. By unchecked, I mean we believe the harsh comments without evaluating their validity or truthfulness. It is persistent negative self-talk that spirals in our heads, keeping us stuck in our Toastmasters journeys.
Last week, one of our newest members, Lowery O., mentioned his Inner Critic in an Icebreaker speech. In fact, his Inner Critic had a name — Harold.
Well, that’s interesting. Naming the Inner Critic.
Does your Inner Critic have a name? No? Perhaps it should.
The best way to break through the cycle of negative self-talk is to confront the statements. Is this the time for critical thinking? Is there truth to what the Inner Critic is saying? If the answer to these questions is no — it is up to us to tell the Inner Critic to pull up a seat and wait.
Or, what I like to do, is send her to the corner until she feels she can join the party with a better attitude.
But the Inner Critic is a part of you. You are addressing yourself.
Naming the Inner Critic helps to separate yourself from the negative thoughts and hear them in a different tone. You would not allow someone else to squash your dreams — hearing your thoughts as if they are coming from a friend helps hear it in a different voice. A voice you can confront.
Evaluate the thoughts for truthfulness and whether this is the appropriate time. Then, confront the Critic.
“Harold, you are not helping in this situation. I will be okay. I will be able to cope with whatever happens.”
The key is to know when to challenge your Inner Critic and know that thoughts aren’t’ always true.
I’ve chosen a name for mine — Ethel. I think this may be the start of a whole new relationship . . . with myself.