We all have an inner voice, and for many, this voice can be incredibly beneficial. It can help us evaluate, reassess, and even heed caution. But what happens when this inner voice becomes unbalanced and the scales tip towards more negative thoughts? This is when the voice becomes an inner critic, and can have a detrimental effect to our mental wellbeing, impacting our behaviours and stifling our ambition or confidence.
The science behind our inner voice is interesting. Think back to childhood; we all grew and developed with this internal dialogue, often shaped by those around us and the experiences we lived through. In our infant and preschool years, this inner voice is utilised in a more positive way, to help us work through challenges and developmental stages. So, what is it that causes this voice to morph from one that helps and guides us, into one that can be critical or harmful?
How to listen and respond to our inner critic
During our recent WBL session, our guest speakers Viola Schatzschneider and Sian Abel opened up this fascinating discussion to our group of senior female leaders to explore and share strategies to better manage their inner voice, personally and professionally.
Here are some thoughts shared by the group:
- Acknowledge and identify. It is critical to be mindful and acknowledge that your inner voice exists. Verbalise or write down our inner critical thoughts to create distance from them. This effective yet simple tool enables us to challenge and prevent it taking hold. One practical example identified keeping a journal of all inner thoughts demonstrated that a staggering 70% of those thoughts captured were negative.
- Positive Affirmation. Have a daily positive-affirmation somewhere visible to help shift your mindset, reduce and quieten negative self-talk. We loved the examples shared of positive phrases used as passwords, ensuring repetition of the message. The group also shared that using post it notes under monitors can be hugely beneficial.
- Self-gratitude. Create a folder of positive emails and recommendations that you can look back on when the negative internal conversations are loud. Make it easy to remind yourself of your recent and most gratifying successes.
- Circle of control. When you feel overwhelmed or in a stressful situation, take a step back and remove yourself from the situation. It is also worth reaching out to someone ‘on your side’. While we discussed the importance of not being naïve and sharing your vulnerabilities with anyone outside your circle of trust, having the chance to verbalise your thoughts externally with someone who cares and values you can give an immediate positive perspective on the issue(s).
- Imposter Syndrome. Research shows that women will not apply for a new position/promotion if they feel they don’t match the requirements 100% while men are happy if they believe they can achieve around 60%. Imposter syndrome is closely linked to our inner voice telling us we are going to be caught out and we aren’t good enough. This can be subdued by discussing opportunities with your close confidantes and being more compassionate with yourself.
- Breathe. Very simple – a few deep breaths can help you recentre and in turn, remember your coping mechanisms.
Self-Compassion is key:
“You look so tired today”
“You were awful during that presentation”
“Everyone is going to see how much you are blushing”
How often do we say phrases like this to ourselves? And yet it’s difficult to imagine a friend or colleague talking to us in this way! If we look at the strategies discussed here, the majority stem from three core behaviours that we should all practice; self-care, kindness and self-acceptance.
Acknowledge the existence of our inner voice and apply these tactics. We must all work to change our behaviours, particularly the negative and self-sabotaging ones. We can all successfully transform our inner critic into our most powerful tool; not just an inner coach but a self-advocate.
The Women in Biopharma Leadership network was founded in 2018 by Cormis and Links Life Sciences, with the specific purpose of bringing together the voices of like-minded senior women in the Pharma and BioTech industries.
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