She’s horrible! - how to deal with your inner critic

managing your inner critic

In cartoons I often smile at the image of the character listening to both the devil on her left shoulder and the haloed angel on her right. But in real life it’s no laughing matter when our inner critic starts whispering incessantly!

When we’re trying to create our flexible dream, striving to integrate what’s most important to us in all domains of our life, it’s busy! We’re working hard and it’s easy to allow negative thoughts to creep into our minds…..

“I’m not doing a good enough job”
“My body’s here with my kids but my mind’s far, far away..”
“What if I get sacked, then what…”

We need to STOP! These thoughts neither support nor motivate us, so what about re-tuning the radio station that our inner critic plays?

Our barbed-edge self-critical thoughts just don’t help!

So what to do?

Firstly, please check-in with yourself.

Are you looking after yourself and in reasonable shape to face your inner critic? I know that when I’m tired and hungry and haven’t moved much that day, I’m more likely to feel negative about a situation. And from what my clients tell me; I don’t think I’m alone in this. It doesn’t fix everything, but when your inner critic seems particularly vocal, it couldn’t hurt to

  1. promise yourself an early night AND/OR

  2. ask yourself if you’ve been skipping meals or skimping on healthy stuff AND/OR

  3. simply get up and stretch a bit, walk in the sun for a few minutes if possible

Secondly, you can try these 3 steps to build self-compassion

  1. Be gentle and understanding with yourself. Notice that it’s hard. Give yourself a moment to take some deep breaths. Don’t rush into punishing yourself for the accusations your inner critic is making.

  2. Remind yourself that it’s not just you - we all go through this. Humans have evolved with a negativity bias that means we tend to pay more attention to negative emotions, negative information and negative experiences. This may have helped our cave dwelling ancestors to escape predators and stay alive, but it’s a lot less helpful for us!

  3. Try to calmly notice and assess what your internal concern is. Try neither to ignore or exaggerate your feelings. A calm assessment of the words of your inner critic can help you take useful next steps.

We wouldn’t dream of saying to others what we tell ourselves!

Time to challenge your inner critic!

Once you can compassionately identify and assess your self-critical thoughts, you can start to deal with them. Say “that’s just not true!” to yourself and deliberately replace that thought with something that is both true and more supportive.

For example:

Replace “I’m not doing a good enough job” with a mental list of 5 things you did achieve at work or at home (and I do count remembering to pick up my daughter from netball training…. .!)

You can also manage your inner critic by choosing to take a little deliberate action.

For example:

Replace worries that you’re not present enough with your family with a firm intention to turn off your phone for an hour or so when you get home tonight and reduce the distractions that are around. Then you can enjoy the sense of achievement of having done it!

It is a journey

Our inner critic can truly be horrible and we know that taming her will be a journey - so we encourage you to use the ideas above to make a start. Please be proud of every step you take.

We’re in your corner,

Kate & Debra

How to keep your flexible job flexible!

So you’ve snagged your dream job and skillfully negotiated your flexible working conditions. Your boss is fully behind you and your colleagues totally get your need to leave the office early. “Hooray!”, you high-five yourself, “I’m living the dream!”

But what if you wake up with a jolt? What if it dawns on you that your reality is anything but a dream? Perhaps your four-day job is really a full time job you just squeeze into four by avoiding people, lunch and even bathroom breaks? Or you can only manage your three-day job because you’re on your laptop every evening after you’ve put the kids to bed? Or, for the fifth week in a row, your work-from-home-Friday has been sacrificed because others have scheduled meetings that can only happen in the office?

And if that’s the case, is the resentment starting to build up? Are you feeling exhausted and burnt out? Dropping the ball at home? Wondering if flexible working is even possible? Considering throwing in the towel altogether?

We hear similar stories often!

However, we can reassure you that it IS POSSIBLE to live your flexible work dream! You just need to take control.

Remember, your organisation has supported your flexible arrangements. Therefore it’s up to you to honour those plans. Stick to your guns and don’t let scope-creep or time-creep sap your motivation at work, compromise your wellbeing or prevent you doing what you want or need to do in your own time.

It IS POSSIBLE to live your flexible work dream! You just need to take control.

Here are five practical ways you can safeguard your flexible work arrangements:

  1. Have regular “big rocks conversations” with your boss. The “big rocks” are the key priorities in your role which must first fill the “bucket” - that is, take your capacity, time and attention. The “pebbles and sand” - your lesser priorities, can be poured in to fill the gaps - but only if your capacity allows; otherwise, they can be delegated or redirected to others. Review your priorities regularly together and created shared expectations.

  2. Guard your boundaries. No-one else is paying attention to your workload or your ever-growing cross-department or multi-stakeholder deliverables. Because you’re great at what you do, work will keep finding you until you say STOP. Managing upwards is essential for you to contain your job. Tell your boss when they’ve given you too much work. Ask for help and brainstorm solutions. You will also have to frequently remind others who work with you that you work flexibly. Set expectations calmly but firmly.

  3. Make your job count. Work smarter, not harder. Try to “craft” your role by aligning your responsibilities with what you enjoy doing and do best. Can you shift the non-energising parts of your role away over time? You’ll be more efficient, effective and deeply satisfied.

  4. Sway. In reality there may be times you have to work longer hours, go into the office more than you’d like, or travel more than is convenient. Try to think of your work and life more in terms of “sway”. If you sway towards work much more one week, make it up by swaying back towards your home life the next week.

  5. Be kind to yourself. Some days and weeks you’ll feel like you’re nailing flexibility and some weeks you’ll fall short or feel frazzled. Either way, take time to fill your “wellbeing cup”. When you feel good you’ll function well at work and in your life. Diarise self-care or enjoyable activities when at home, as you would diarise a business meeting! Put a line in your schedule when you go for a walk at lunch on work days. Detach from what’s happening at work when you’re in life-sway and give your full attention to what’s at hand.

You’re working flexibly for a reason. If you’re feeling out of balance, think back to WHY you want flexibility and the advantages and joys it brings. And then re-commit to making flexibility work for you, by climbing into the driver's seat and taking control.

We’re in your corner!

Deb and Kate

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Aiming for Awesome!

Who are the people who have stood out for you? What impressed you? What created their success?

Identifying these people and what made them shine, can be extremely valuable for our own growth and achievement, and encourage us to look for our own strengths.

I'll always vividly remember my first client visit with a new manager. My boss listened intently and then delivered our sales pitch so skilfully, explaining how our systems and processes set our agency apart in the busy field of temporary recruitment. She stood out in our agency and in our industry, being recognised and respected as one of the most professional agents of the time. I was proud to learn from her and always particularly noticed her communication skills.

I don’t think anyone turns up just wanting to be average. Our dreams vary but whatever we strive for, we want to do it well.

So, is there a pathway to awesome?

strengths for performance

YES! The key is to identify and use your unique performance strengths. When we use strengths that come naturally to us we feel uplifted and often experience a burst of energy. This energy supports our confidence and it’s so much easier to give star level performance! When we focus on our weaknesses we’re destined to mediocrity.

Evidence can be seen in a large research study which found that when managers formally highlighted their employees strengths to them, performance rose on average 36%. In strong contrast, formally highlighting the employees weaknesses led to an average drop in performance of 26%. Our strengths are well worth taking seriously.

Focusing on Strengths is a direct pathway to high performance

Finding your strengths pathway

“What are your strengths?” is a common interview question and each of us probably have some standard responses up our sleeve. We also often talk about “playing to our strengths”. But are you identifying your true performance strengths?

The secret is that the strengths that will most help us to achieve and sustain “amazing” aren’t simply what we do well. We need to look for what energises us and what we feel most often inspired to do!

To start identifying your performance strengths, think about these questions:

  • Which tasks do you always prioritise - because you enjoy them?

  • What activities give you a real sense of energy and engagement and meaning?

  • What are doing when you lose track of time and feel 100% engrossed?

  • What do you do that evokes respect and admiration from others?

  • What strengths are often involved in your successes?

Follow your energy and look for high performance moments

In summary, when you are using your core strengths you’ll feel like you’re being true to yourself. You’ll feel energised and you’ll find that high performance follows. You’ll likely also find that you can learn and develop faster in areas that are a strength for you. For example, if you are great with detail and enjoy technical tasks you’ll probably find it both interesting and fairly easy to learn to use complex new software or systems.

We encourage you to test the power of performance strengths with these three tips:

  1. Spend at least some time every day doing things that you’re good at and energise you.

  2. If possible delegate or ask for support with activities that don’t play to your strengths.

  3. If there’s an opportunity to take on a project that is in your strengths zone - grab it with both hands!

If you’d like some help identifying your performance strengths please get in touch - we’d love to help.

Best wishes on your strengths pathway!

We’re in your corner,

Kate & Debra