My own coach, Lisa, who is very wise and amazingly talented at keeping me moving forward, and I spoke recently about my inner critics and all the noise they were making around some new goals I had. She stopped the conversation a few minutes in and asked me to turn away from the negative aspects of what we were talking about (focusing on the critics) and instead, look at what I wanted to move toward. She then asked me this question:
Who is in your inner cheering section?
This questions stopped me entirely. I can tell you exactly who my inner critics are, what they look and sound like and what sort of activities trigger them. We’ve all known each other for a looong time – but an inner cheering section? That required some thought.
Here’s what I like about this idea: When you have to deal with the inner critics, it can often feel like you alone are fighting a battle against all these voices telling you exactly what you are doing wrong. Everywhere you turn there’s a critic explaining why you can’t do what you’re doing, masquerading as doubt, fear, prudence, caution, responsibility, whatever. It’s like being expected to fight off a pack of hungry sharks while you’re swimming in the water carrying a bucket of chum from one remote island to the next. However, if you develop an inner cheering section, then you’ve got reinforcements; you don’t have to go it alone. And it’s always easier to accomplish something when you have the backing of people who know with absolute confidence that you can’t fail – and in the very unlikely event that you do, will still adore, respect and back you 100%.
Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?
Let’s talk about how to build yourself a kick-ass cheering section.
1. Figure out who is in your cheering section: This gets to be ANYBODY you want, alive or dead, real or fictional, someone who knows you or has never heard of you. Definitely include anyone you know in the real world who is already a fervent supporter of you but don’t limit yourself to just these people. There should be more than one person and you should be able to visualize at least a couple of them individually. In other words, if you want the entire population of Paris to be your cheering section because your goal is to get to France next fall, you should still be able to single out a few – a ticket taker at the Eiffel Tower, a baker with a pan of piping hot croissants, Gerard Depardieu, whomever can bring a face to the mass of cheering people in your head. Don’t worry about the realism here – your critics aren’t bound by it,why should your cheering section have to be? For the record, Oprah LOVES being one of my cheerleaders.
2. Give them a space to exist. You need a place you can go to in your mind where your cheering sections hangs out. Are they at your house, throwing a surprise party in honor of your awesomeness? Are they hanging out at the beach, surfing and partying in the sand waiting for you to join them? Are they standing at a finish line, cheering for you as you break through the tape, winning the marathon? Give yourself as much detail as possible and imagine this place vividly.
3. Once you have your cheering section in place, it’s time to visualize yourself among these people. What do they say when you arrive? Do they shout your name like Norm at Cheers? Do they hug you, pick you up and carry your around on their shoulders or high-five you as soon as you show up. These are your peeps, they are always out of their minds happy to see you. And when you see them, you should be flooded with a sense of well-being, a sense of belonging. There is never any judgement in your cheering section, you’ve left that behind with the critics.
4. Practice makes perfect. For some people visualizations come easily. If you are one of those people, that’s great. All you need to do now is walk yourself into your cheering section as often as possible, especially when you find yourself mired among the critics. If you find visualizations a little more difficult don’t try to force the imagery. Focus instead on small details instead of the whole process. As you solidify one detail, bring your focus a little wider and focus on another and another until the picture comes into view and you can really immerse yourself in the experience.
Inner critics are resourceful, insistent naysayers who will stop at nothing to get what they want and what they want is for you to comply with their limiting beliefs about you. Don’t try and tackle them by yourself. With the help of a good cheering section, you can fortify yourself, point yourself in the right direction and walk away from the critics on the path to achieving your goals and dreams. And if there’s space in your head, add me to your cheering section. I’d love to be part of that party.