That little voice in your head - it can be really nasty!
Often we don't like to admit to ourselves that we spend a great deal of the day beating ourselves up. And yet that voice can drag you down.
Learning to step into yourself as a leader is much easier when you learn to control the voice.
People don't like to talk about "the voice" in business, but the reality is it has a big impact on your effectiveness as a leader.
The reality is that the volume increases at times when you need the most resilience you can get. When you're under stress, stepping out of your comfort zone, in the wake of making a mistake or dealing with something freaking hard.
What does the voice in your head say?
Unless you're one of the lucky few, it's probably spouting rubbish at you that you would never dream of saying to anyone else. The horrible way we speak to ourselves far outweighs how we would ever talk to others.
An answer to reigning in the voice in my head came via an unexpected route - via a mindful eating seminar.
We were encouraged to explore with curiosity the "inner critic". The philosophy was that we should try to make space for it rather than crush it. Just as telling a toddler to be quiet, shut up or go to their room will have the opposite effect, so it is with the voice. When we try to talk back, get angry with it, or let it affect us, it gives it more power. When we sit with it, with curiosity vs judgement, with compassion vs anger; it helps take the power away.
We did this by sitting quietly and bringing to mind a difficult time (but not too difficult!), and listening to our inner dialogue. What comes up for us? We waited until we had something our inner voice was saying. Maybe it was one of these: "You can't do it". "You'll never be successful". "You might as well give up now". "You don't have enough willpower". "You will never get it right". "People think you're weak". When we found one that sounded familiar we projected it into our heads with different voices. Imagine Mickey Mouse saying "You might as well give up now". Now change the voice to Scrooge McDuck. What about Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Terminator voice. Try Smurfette. Or what about a C3PO from Star Wars. You get the idea.
What happens if you try singing it. Try in the style of Fred Astaire. Cyndi Lauper. What about Barry White. Or The Wiggles.
Now visualise it as a cloud in the sky. Watch it come into view, drift by, and go out of view. Visualise it as a log in a river. It comes along on the currents, and then it goes again.
Feel into the sensation that arises in your body when the dreaded voice whispers these words. Is it a tight knot in your chest? Tense shoulders? Tightness in your forehead? A sinking sensation in your stomach? Feel the sensation come and then feel it go again.
The most powerful of all things I learnt that weekend was to name that story that you tell yourself. Is it the "I can't be bothereds", is it the "I'm not good enough", or "I will never get this right" story?
All of this helps you to detach from the voice, to notice it, to allow it to be there, but at the same time try not to buy into it. There is a lot of room inside of you. Let this voice be there. Watch it with curiosity, and compassion.
When you practice this, when you feel the bodily sensation arise or hear the voice, you can say "aha, here's the "I'm not good enough" story again". You can see it come and go like the clouds in the sky. Neither good nor bad. Just there. You know that it will come, and then it will go. It no longer has power over you. You see it for what it is. You do not need to buy into it.
I recommend taking the time to get to know your voice. Because when you can identify it and deal with it, it means you can be more effective, especially during the hard times.
This is based on R.A.I.N.
R- Recognise what is happening
A- Allow it to be
I- Investigate your inner experience with kindness, compassion and curiosity
N- Non-identification - realising that you are not your mind or emotions, you are the awareness that is always there underneath every thought, emotion and perception.
For more information: https://mrsmindfulness.com/r-n-four-step-process-using-mindfulness-difficult-times/