“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
You’ve got a social mission, and you’re up to something pretty freaking big.
So big that frankly, it sometimes scares you a bit and you don’t know if you can actually do it.
So you hide. You smile politely and let others speak first. Opportunities pass you by. You don’t speak up as much as you should.
And as you stay hidden, you lose energy and enthusiasm and wonder if the big dreams you had were really so great in the first place.
It’s like your wheels are turning but you’re never getting anywhere. You’re afraid that all you’re really doing is just going through the motions, day after day. If this keeps up much longer, some part of you might just turn off, or give up.
You know this small, stuck, scared place isn’t really working for you. But how to get out of it?
What’s keeping you stuck
When we’re doing something new, stretching into something we haven’t done before, that’s when the voices start: the negative limiting thoughts that live in our head and stop us from pursuing our goals, particularly ones that stretch us. “Who do you think you are?” “You can’t do that.” “For godsake, don’t look like an idiot.”
We can spend our entire lives running the show from this seat: the voice of the inner critic shouting at us from its throne, telling us how to live our lives, how to dress, talk, speak, walk, think, etc. And mostly telling us that no matter what we are doing, we are doing it wrong. The voice criticizes us harshly, and tells us to keep small and in our place.
Where it came from or exactly why you hold these beliefs is less important than knowing this: it isn’t the entirety of you or what is true about you. It is a set of beliefs you made up or were told at some point to keep you safe and secure. In our heart of hearts, what most of us want in our lives is an unconditional sense of safety.
Ironically, running your life from your critic’s perspective rarely leads to true safety. It may keep us in the status quo, but a life of a leader is rarely about staying static.
Plan on the critic showing up when you are in the midst of big change. It will do whatever it can to stop you from shifting.
Freedom is here
Somewhere, though, this part of ourselves does want the best for us: it just happens to be wrong about what is best.
It’s like an elderly great aunt who loves you to pieces, but can’t give you a compliment to save her life. Instead of saying she’s concerned about your health, she’ll give you a lecture about your pants size.
Our inner critics love us, but they just aren’t very skillful in how they express it.
In order to grow and change – and soar – we have to learn how to identify the voice of the inner critic and separate ourselves from it, so we can hear our own true voices and move in fulfilling and meaningful directions for ourselves.
Imagine your inner critic as a unskillful messenger: someone who loves you but is just very bad at delivering the message.
Underneath what your critic is saying to you is something really important, a nugget of information that you actually desperately need. Let me be very clear: it isn’t the overt message of the critic – the loud, harsh criticism. Instead, the wisdom is usually something nestled underneath the criticism, often the opposite of the harsh message of the critic. Typically, your critic is a simply an over-expressed value of yours – a value of yours that has just gotten the volume turned up way too high, and is no longer helpful to you.
Let your freak flag fly
Beyond the critic, often what you most fear showing others – your passion, your dedication, what you care about most and love – is actually what makes you most unique and interesting. It’s actually part of what makes you most engaging and impactful.
We have to dare to show our true selves to the world. That takes courage and resiliency. And practice.
You’ve probably been able to share your passions at some point, so think back on your life, and harvest that wisdom: a time when you felt most engaged, most open, most full of possibility. What was going on? What has happening? Who was with you? Who were you? How can you duplicate that now?
Fake it ‘til you make it
Sometimes when we are most scared, we have to just make it up. Believe in ourselves, even when we don’t actually feel that way. Pick ourselves for our own team.
Try imagining actually soaring – as free as a bird. What would that be like? You could see the hillsides, the ground below. Imagine the wind ruffling your feathers, coasting on the breeze. Hold that feeling in your body. What do you notice? What shifts inside you?
Try this: when you need to call up courage, physically stand up. Standing in a posture of confidence, even when you don’t feel confident, can positively affect brain chemistry and have an impact on your chances for success.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
Even if your critic is still holding on for dear life, what’s one small step you can take in the direction of your goals?
Ironically, it is only through small daily actions that we create change and get momentum, in ourselves or on our world-changing ideas. While we need big picture goals as motivation, we can only act in the moment. That’s good news: we don’t have to wait to have an impact – we can start now.
In the Comments below, it’s your turn!
What helps you most when you’re scared or stuck?
Which of these ideas above might be most useful to you?
And if you need a ground crew as you climb the heights, consider 1:1 leadership coaching with me!
P.S. Pass it on
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I have a lot of goals and dreams for myself, but sometimes I start to overthink them and realize I’m not sure if it would be possible. When I start overthinking. I lose sight of my dreams. I think having goals and dreams are important and we need them for something to work towards. Thanks for sharing this great post!
Hanna Cooper says
Great point, Lauren, that overthinking is a form of doubt! Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for your comment!