A Coaching Power Tool By Parbatie Khan, Transformational Coach, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Appreciation vs. The Inner Critic: What to Do
Have you ever heard the phrase “we are our own worst critic”? As we progress through life, we tend to evaluate our actions and the results, both the intended and the actual, and on this basis, we make assumptions that we use to assess and guide our future actions. More often than not, the assessments and the resultant “guidance” that readily come to mind are the negative outcomes. Some of these outcomes have been drawn from scenarios based on our childhood, through culture, family values, societal norms, and experiences, well before we were consciously aware of even our ability to make a choice.
This “guidance” is revealed to us through what is commonly called, our “inner critic.” The inner critic is a prevalent concept in popular psychology today, though the theorist notes that it is not an academic psychological terminology. GoodTherapy identifies the inner critic as an “inner voice that judges criticizes, or demeans a person whether or not that self-criticism is objectively justified.”It has been recognised also that this disempowering voice of the inner critic is a reactionary model which shows up in our thought without a conscious direction from us.
This disempowering voice limits our abilities to readily accept challenges and pursue new paths as we move forward. It makes us walk with the heavy burdens brought on by feelings of fear, shame, blame, reproach, and guilt. We react to these feelings by holding ourselves back, by being afraid to step up and show ourselves in a brighter light, thereby limiting our opportunities to grow as we allow fear to hold us back, to reduce our enjoyment in life as we remain afraid to break the cocoon of protection with which we surround ourselves.
However, in some way, we intuitively recognize that the same protective mantle we shroud ourselves in to guard us against possible undesirable outcomes, can in fact be stifling us and preventing us from stepping into the self we would really prefer to show the world. We prevent ourselves from SHOWing UP our best selves!
How then can we break this behavior pattern and become the phenomenal person we know we are? How can we show the world the beauty that we are, the knowledge that we possess, the capabilities and creative abilities that are uniquely us? Perhaps instead of falling into the downward spiral that the inner critic draws us into, we can instead employ the practice of Appreciation. Appreciation for who we are, the strengths we bring to the table, and our creative and unique capabilities that can add so much value to the world we inhabit.
Appreciation vs. The Inner Critic Definition
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Appreciation as “a feeling or expression of admiration, approval or gratitude” or “ a favorable critical estimate” or “recognition of aesthetic value.” These all bring a sense of upliftment, a direct antithesis to the downward spiral created by the inner critic. A second meaning refers to an increase in value, for instance when an object of art increases in value over time. Why then can we not appreciate ourselves, so that we see ourselves as having increasing value as we continue forward?
The inner critic rears its negative self-talk as we face situations in our personal life, in our work environment, and in how we see ourselves in comparison to others. It surfaces also in how we set expectations for ourselves in the various aspects of our lives- do we aspire to managerial or executive positions, do we dream of a life filled with the luxuries of success, or even do we envision for ourselves a life of fulfillment in love, physical health, and financial success? Or do we think that we are not worthy and so never pursue these goals?
What does it mean to “Appreciate” yourself? Some modern popular quotes referring to appreciating oneself (drawn from Pinterest) include:
See the good in you
Know your worth
Do not underestimate yourself
Be kind to yourself
Appreciate yourself for the small things you do
Make yourself a top priority every day
How others see you are not as important as how you see yourself
You are not your mistakes; they are what you did, not who you are
Surround yourself with people who know your worth.
Michael Neill in his book, The Inside out Revolution, asserts that
we live in an experience of thought
Which is that the direction comes from within us, not outside us. Our feelings are the feedback of our thoughts. Our thoughts are constantly changing, so if we choose how we change our thoughts, we can control how we feel. Similarly, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is based on the interconnectedness of our Thoughts, Emotions, and Behaviour. When something happens, it is our trigger that generates, almost simultaneously, a thought and an emotion causing us to react, resulting in our action.
we can catch and identify our emotions (such as fear as a result of a trigger)
we can choose how we want to reframe it (appreciate ourselves/use it as a guide)
we can control how we think about it (see it as an opportunity to grow)
we can then change how we react as a result (take the brave step forward).
Let us look at this work situation scenario:
Mala looked around the meeting room and heard the comments from the presenter, a senior manager in the firm. But wait, she told herself, what he was saying did not connect to what actually had happened. Should I draw his attention to this, she wondered? But no one else was saying anything, she mused. What if the “facts” I am thinking about are incorrect, then I will embarrass myself in front of the whole team. It must be correct if no one else is saying anything, I must have missed something in the story. I will look like an idiot if I say the wrong things. The senior manager must know what he is presenting, plus he has a whole team behind him.
Then suddenly, Ralph interrupted from the other side of the room and asked whether the background information was accurate as he noted that he seemed to recall it being otherwise. The senior manager checked back his notes and then commended Ralph for the correction as the team could have gone in the wrong direction in their analysis. After the meeting, everyone jockeyed around Ralph, recognizing him for his contribution, while Mala walked out quietly without addressing anyone and resumed her work on her desk.
As she looked at her paperwork in front of her, she silently berated herself for not being brave enough to say something, for not having done her own prep work before the meeting so she could have been certain of the information, for being her usual insignificant self in the meeting. She thinks that others on her team must be saying that she was not as smart as Ralph as she did not identify the error. She continues this diatribe against herself, and in her mind, her self-image shrinks even smaller, as now that she is certain that Ralph ‘has the in” with the senior manager, they must be looking down at her and seeing her as incompetent. She isolates herself more as she withdraws further into her shell.
In this scenario, Mala limits herself in the work meeting by not being confident in herself to voice her opinions and so loses the opportunity to establish herself in the minds of her seniors and colleagues as being capable and a resource they can draw on for future growth. She extends this limitation even further as by not taking the opportunity to speak up, Mala now sees Ralph’s success as her failure and berates herself for her inability to act, thereby reinforcing her own beliefs about her inability to stand up. These further compromise her self-image making it even more difficult for her to step out of her comfort zone in the future and more than likely, cause her to retreat further into her protective shell. These reactions in her work environment will spill over also into her personal life, for as human beings, we seldom compartmentalize our sense of self to separate our worlds; as such, her personal relationships will be affected also.
Mala wants to grow in her career and can seek support from a coach so that she can show up her best self. She and her coach must first identify what are the beliefs and thoughts that Mala carries in her mind about how she sees herself now and identify also how she wants to show up as she goes forward. As they work to bridge that gap, they must identify what Mala needs to resolve to get her to her desired outcomes.
Some of the questions to be raised by the Coach for Mala to consider could include:
- How do you see yourself now?
- What do you want to get as an outcome of this process?
- What is making this transition process important now?
- How do you want to describe the future?
- How do you want to feel as you make this transition?
- As you look at the future, what do you need to shift?
- What do you think has to happen for you to make this shift?
- What do you think is holding you back?
Appreciation vs. The Inner Critic Perspective
As Mala works with her Coach, they can use also the Power Tool of Appreciation vs. The Inner Critic to help Mala flip her perspective on how she reacts when the disempowering thoughts arise. So that instead, she can draw on her strength of Appreciation to help her show up her best self in the various aspects of her life.
To incorporate Appreciation in her thought process, Mala and her Coach could draw from the 4-part process identified earlier and identify strategies so that Mala can
- Catch and identify her emotions – What is the fear that is preventing her from speaking out in the meeting? Is it fear that – her information is incorrect, that she will be embarrassed in front of others?
- Choose how she frames it – Appreciate the concern/ Reframe the fear. Recognize perhaps that her fears mean that she could discretely verify the information before she speaks. Or, perhaps raising the question to the senior manager, may help him to progress in the correct direction. Recognize her strength in the team. Know that she has the knowledge.
- Control how she thinks- See the incident as an opportunity to grow. By speaking up, the seniors recognize her commitment to the team. This opportunity will allow her to grow in confidence in speaking in a public forum.
- Change the resulting action and internal reaction – She can take the brave step forward. She can choose to be confident in her knowledge. She can stand in courage. Her new actions will reinforce her strength and confidence she goes forward in her work environment and all the various areas of her life.
To make this conscious choice to flip her perspective from the disempowering voice of the inner critic to one of appreciating both herself and the opportunity, some considerations for Mala will be that she:
- Must be open to new possibilities as she and her coach explore options
- Must establish her desired values system and understand her priorities
- Must recognize that to shift, she has to take action. Action requires effort.
By incorporating the perspectives of this Power Tool: Appreciation vs. The Inner Critic, a person can shift their perspective to one of empowerment. This empowerment will have a multiplier effect as each succeeding action will reinforce the positive strengths of the individual. The individual’s own sense of personal worth will increase as she is increasing her value in herself, “appreciates in value.”The benefits will redound to all the aspects of the Client’s life, creating layers of success that will allow her to SHOW UP her best self, and so, Step into her Greatness, and Become the Phenomenal Person she was meant to be! Truly a cause for celebration for a Client and a Coach.
Neill M (2013). The Inside Out Revolution. California, Hay House.
Inner Critic, Good Therapy. (2015).
How others see you are not as important as how you see yourself! – The Art of Inner Peace (the-art-of-inner-peace.com)
You are not your mistakes. They are what you did, not who you are. – Mindset Made Better