When you listen to your inner voice, is it mean to you? If so, you’re not alone. Many people go through their days hearing an internal litany of self-criticism. The problem, of course, is that it’s hard to get anything positive done at work while you’re tuned into negativity.
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Nilofer Merchant wrote a recent post about this phenomenon at HBR Blog Network.
“Most of us talk to ourselves in ways we’d never talk to anyone else,” Merchant writes. “More than likely, you are unkind to yourself when you’ve had a failure. You expect yourself to “get it right” — every single time. More often than not, you hold yourself responsible for the whole of the failure. You believe you should have seen it coming. As if somehow you can actually control everything. But, let me ask you — would you speak to someone else this way?”
We wouldn’t, of course, in part because we’d be asked to leave. When it comes to talking to ourselves, we don’t have the same fears. The bouncer, in other words, is us, and we are too wrapped up in our negative thinking to lay down the law.
Here’s why we should make an effort to be firmer — and kinder — with ourselves:
1. Literally everyone makes mistakes.
Think of the most successful people you know. They’ve made mistakes. In fact, the more successful they are, the more likely they are to have screwed up, big time. (See: any article about Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson.)
2. It’s a waste of time.
The energy you’re using to berate yourself could be used to solve the problem. You’re also less likely to perceive accidental strokes of genius if you’re too busy telling yourself that you’re a failure.
3. Faking it until you make it actually works.
Merchant writes about Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy’s research about body language. In short, adopting confident body language not only convinces other people that you’re powerful, it convinces you that you know what you’re doing, have something to say, and are worthy of being heard.
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