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Don't Let Times of Change and Uncertainty Hijack Your Self-Confidence

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 20/10/2015 Beth Weinstock
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When we live in times of uncertainty, our anxiety and our self-confidence can be shaken to the core. Research tells us that even in the best of times successful women in positions of leadership and responsibility have reported feeling plagued by a lack of self-confidence and negative self-talk that creates worry, inhibits them from making their contributions known and has them shy away from claiming well-deserved visibility.
Nagging negative self-talk comes from the voice of our inner critic. It says things like "I'm just not smart enough"..... Or "I'm really an imposter"..... Or "they just won't like me"....or "someone else would do a better job". This Inner Critic creates stress, ups our anxiety, feeds self-doubt, holds us back from taking new opportunities and also from experiencing greater joy.
In my clinical practice and leadership work I have tried to make sense of where this Inner Critic come from and why it is so hard to change. Here's part of the story: Ironically, it started as an attempt to make sense of our world. When we were very young and totally dependent on our caretakers, at times when our needs were not met, we concluded that it was our fault and a result of our deficiencies. Claiming responsibility led us to think we could improve or fix ourselves and then get more of what we want. As a child, once I conclude that "I am not smart enough, or cute enough, or funny enough" to get mom or dad's attention, then I can improve myself and expect things to go more my way. Of course, as adults, we know that it doesn't work this way, but our childhood conclusion makes sense in that it is far less scary than thinking that our caretakers are not as capable or as skilled at parenting as we want or need them to be.

Over time we may even believe that our Inner Critic is a good guide for attaining our best selves or helping us do transitions in the right way (as if there is a 'right' and 'wrong'). This is not true. Our inner Critic only shames us and contributes to a sense of inadequacy. It is not our friend, not what keeps us resilient, peaceful, productive or lovable.

What can we do to counter the power of the Inner Critic? While the Inner Critic may be strong, it can be counteracted by developing an alternative inner voice we at the Resilience Group call the Inner Coach. The Inner Coach learns to speak directly back to the Inner Critic and reminds us to think rationally and self-supportively--to resist automatic emotional responses of worry and fear, to stay realistic, encouraging and grounded. We need this Inner Coach as we transition through different and difficult stages of life and work. We need it to remind us that even though anxiety will show up when we let go of the known for the unknown, we can seek help, we can get support from others who have been through the territory we are traversing and that we have strengths that we can call upon.

The Inner Coach has a positively oriented thought pattern that differs from the Inner Critic's. Yes, new thoughts patterns are not easy to develop after many years of mind habits, but with time, mindfulness, practice and patience, our brains actually create what neuroscientists call new neural networks that can build and sustain a resilient frame of mind. Even as we age!

During times of transition and uncertainty we need to rely on our Inner Coach. We will likely not do away with the Inner Critic, but its power can be greatly reduced.
If you wish to explore this topic in more detail, go to, contact Beth Weinstock at The Resilience Group and keep in touch.

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