How to develop a positive, supportive relationship with yourself and turn your inner critic into your inner coach
Imagine what it would be like if every day you could spend time with a supportive individual who wants only the best for you. Someone who understands your goals and plans and is prepared to ask challenging questions to keep you on track, someone who wants nothing more than to help you be successful in creating the life you want. ‘Sign me up,’ you may be thinking. It’s simply a question of getting in touch with and developing a relationship with your inner coach.
If you’re pausing to ponder, you may already be able to hear an opinion forming. Yes, that one inside your head, your inner critic speaking to you. Is it telling you such person does not exist?
The inner critic is present throughout your entire life. It is often difficult to ignore and loves to share an opinion on just about everything, especially if it has anything to do with you. Take a moment to consider your internal dialogue. Is the voice kind and supportive, encouraging you to try new things and step out of your comfort zone?
Or is it critical and judgemental, causing you to overthink, negatively influencing your actions and getting in the way of your happiness? Are you actually listening to your inner coach or your inner critic? And how can you flip the situation?
Why an inner coach?
You’ve probably come across the concept of coaching. Athletes and sporting teams have a coach, as well as many business leaders, and you may even have experience with a life coach.
In sport, this person works with the individual to achieve the best athletic performance. You can’t, for example, believe they would tell the athlete: ‘It’s okay if you don’t turn up for training today, take the day off.’
Their role is to work with you to achieve the ‘best you’. They want to support you to achieve your goals, often by providing positive challenges. They’re not like your best friend who might let you get away with things. A coach will help you to consider other perspectives and weigh up the pros and cons of potential actions. If things don’t go as planned, they’ll evaluate the situation with you and explore what can be learned from the experience. And if things go well, they’ll congratulate you.
A coach also has lots of support tools, which enable you to move forward to achieve your goals. Wouldn’t it feel better to have someone helpful like this in your corner, in your own mind?
Tips to connect with your inner coach and develop confidence
Mind your language
Become aware of how you are talking to yourself and in what tone. If you detect harsh comments or an unfriendly voice, think about how your inner coach would speak to you and rephrase the sentiment to reflect how they would express it. Simply changing a comment like ‘I should’ to ‘I choose’ can be effective.
It is common for your inner critic to turn up in particularly stressful times or situations. These can also be occasions when emotions run high. Your critic might turn up to create further drama. If you are finding it a challenge to connect with your coach or you want to lose some of the emotional attachment you feel towards something, broaden your thinking and change your perspective.
This can be achieved by taking a detached view. A good way to do this is to use a coaching technique known as third-party perspective, which helps you look at the situation more objectively.
Think about people you know and respect and consider what they might do in this situation. How would they respond? It could be a family member or a friend or it could be a celebrity that you admire. For example, what would JK Rowling do or how would Oprah Winfrey react?
Focus on the positive
There may be occasions when you’ve already predicted the outcome of a situation. You’re worried about that presentation at work and in your head, you’re nervous and flustered and can’t remember what you wanted to say. Instead of focusing on a negative outcome, your inner coach would encourage you to focus on the positive. Take that advice and visualise yourself presenting confidently, hear the words flowing from your mouth, see your audience smiling and enjoying your delivery. Hear the applause and register the questions showing people have enjoyed your presentation and understood it.
Circle of protection
If you are facing a particularly challenging situation, you may want to use a technique called the circle of protection. To activate your protective bubble, you envisage a circle around you or you can even pretend to draw one around yourself. Nothing can penetrate this line. It forms an invisible barrier that only you know is there and helps you to feel invincible.
Ask open questions
If you get stuck on something and are not sure what to do next, work with your inner coach and ask lots of open questions. These are the ones you can’t usually answer with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. By answering these questions, you might find you come up with your next steps or can more easily make a decision.
Don’t forget to breathe.
Words: Angela Watt
This article was originally published under the title ‘Yes, coach!’ in Issue 18 – Great expectations