Susan MacKenty Brady, expert in the advancement of women leaders, explains how to get out of your own way by mastering your inner critic.
I see more and more women in the workplace who are anxious, burnt-out, doubtful, hurried, tired, bossy, and sometimes just plain disappointed—in themselves or others. I have come to believe that this disappointment, which can manifest in not-so-nice ways, is rooted in the simple notion that we think that a person, place or thing is “not good enough.”
Get Out Of Your Own Way
So, the question is: How do we navigate our inner dialogue when we’re juggling disappointment in those around us with disappointment in ourselves and our own imperfections? I don’t know about you, but all of this leaves me feeling a bit overwhelmed. I have met and seen ample evidence of well-meaning women everywhere working their tail off, eager to please their employers and show them how much they can do and how dedicated and hard-working they are. And yet, when they share their inner dialogue, it is clear they are spending an equal amount of time questioning themselves or others… In other words, being critical.
Furthermore, they admit to believing that somewhere along the way, they will “arrive,” reaching a level of success where everyone around them will be 100% happy with what they do and the nagging whispers of not being good enough will subside. Until then, their ability to focus on another’s shortcomings becomes far less painful than focusing on their own.
There is No “Arrival” at Enough
What I have found is that there is no arrival at this thing called enough. Why? Because we are introduced to how we aren’t good enough daily, almost everywhere we turn. And if we’re not being brutal with ourselves, we are at risk of being harsh toward others. We must find a way to manage these feelings of contempt and self-doubt. If we don’t, I don’t think we’ll see as many women in leadership as there could be, despite many organizations and C-level executives who understand the importance of gender parity in leadership. Either we won’t let ourselves play as big as we could, or we diminish others from doing so–ultimately impacting our own potential. It’s a lose-lose.
So, how do you end the cycle of blame and shame in which you’re not good enough and others around you aren’t good enough? The cycle that gives you permission to over-do, hyper-control, make perfect–resulting in your own fatigue (and sometimes “high”) yet often diminishing others around you?
Begin by first noticing what your inner voice is saying about you or others. Test it out. Is the voice lingering past what might be helpful? Is it riding you or hammering on another to the point where you aren’t engaging at your fullest, bringing all your unique gifts and talents to bare?
Once you notice that some of this “nattering” might just be your doing (blame is so seductive, isn’t it?) you can PUSH PAUSE. Just breathe. The banter doesn’t need to continue. Enter compassion…yes, compassion.
This is where gentleness comes in. How about this: “I’m trying my best. I’m human and thus, imperfect. I can take a breath.” Or this: “They are trying their best. They are human, too. What might I get curious about?” When I coach women and tell them their guiding light is the word “gentle” they look at me as if I’m crazy. Gentle. As in: easy does it. Let’s decide to be a pinch more gentle in tone, style, speed, intensity, self-talk – all of it. There isn’t much evidence of “gentle” in leadership these days. Where there is, positive impact on people and business results doesn’t need to be compromised. Impact can – and will – flourish. This is one of the core messages in my new book, Mastering Your Inner Critic & 7 Other High Hurdles to Advancement: How the Best Women Leaders Practice Self-Awareness to Change What Really Matters, out in December.
If we want to get more of what we want, we must start by looking at how we might be getting in our own way. What we think and feel drives what we say and do. The name of the game is self-awareness and self-management and it starts with each of us. Only then can we scale all of the hurdles on our leadership journey.
Why? Because who doesn’t want less stress, more ease, less conflict, better relationships, more joy? More of what you want—as opposed to feeling like you are getting pulled in 100 different directions—only to feel at some level, disappointed? Who wouldn’t?
Susan MacKenty Brady is Executive Vice President at Linkage, where she launched the firm’s global practice in Advancing Women Leaders. She serves as the co-chair of the company’s Women in Leadership Institute™, which is now in its eighteenth year. Her new book, Mastering Your Inner Critic, will be released on December 3, 2018.