Words by Paula Coogan
October 8th, 2018
Have you ever opened your mouth to add something to a conversation and then, just as the words were about to come out, you hesitated? Then, very quickly, the moment passes, the conversation moves on, your brilliant idea is still in your head and your mouth is still open… What’s with that?
It’s pretty common, to be honest with you. Our brains have a safety valve built in and it can cause us to hesitate at any moment in our lives and careers. In coaching, we call this safety valve ‘the inner critic’.
The inner critic is an internal voice that we all have. It’s a critical, cold, harsh, nasty and mean voice and often our 24/7 companion. Many people are surprised when I mention the inner critic because they didn’t realise that this was something that everybody has; many people think that they’re the only one who has that inner mean girl in her head. But no, every single one of us has it and it’s normal, unfortunately. It’s our built-in safety instinct from the days of lions, tigers and bears. It’s part of our primitive brain wiring, our limbic brain and is responsible for our flight or fight responses. Everyone has it and at one time or another, it was necessary to keep us safe from physical danger so that we would survive.
Nowadays, we don’t have the same threat of physical danger but our safety instinct is still there to keep us from modern-day danger which, surprise surprise, is emotional danger and emotional risk. It kicks off when there is the potential for us to be rejected, hurt, embarrassed etc. Its job is to try and get us to stay small and safe, stay in our comfort zones and avoid anything where there may be a chance of us being exposed to emotional risk or criticism.
So, back to the conversation when you were about to open your mouth and say something but you stopped. What likely happened was your inner critic kicked off with thoughts like, “I don’t know enough, others are better than me, no one wants to hear this, I’m not an expert” etc. and the result was you believed it and kept your mouth shut.
Thoughts like this can cause us to hide or shy away from doing and saying what we want. We seek out more courses, further education, more guidance and advice thinking we need to be more than we already are, even just to get started or contribute to important conversations. The best advice I’ve heard on this topic was from Denise Duffield Thomas, a money mindset expert, who says, “Be a contributor, not a guru”.
As soon as I heard those words, something clicked and I gave myself permission to contribute to the conversation of women and personal development and finding meaningful work. For far too long at the beginning I felt like I had to be perfect and know it all but as soon as I took that pressure off and not have to be a guru or expert, then my business became much more fun for me! If you really care about a topic, if you have an idea that could shake things up, then be a contributor. Who cares if you don’t know everything or you don’t know exactly how your idea could work step by step- contribute your idea anyway!
What difference would it make to you to adopt this as your new mantra? What would you do differently? What would you give yourself permission for? Where would you take the pressure off yourself?
Start questioning that voice in your head A.K.A. your inner critic that says, “You don’t know enough or you have to be an expert to do that, speak out about that, start a business in that area” etc. If you love nutrition and healthy food, start your blog; if you have experience in an area and see how it could be relevant somewhere else, share your ideas. You don’t have to be more than you are to get started.
Gurus are asked for their advice and their wisdom whereas anyone can be a contributor; you don’t have to wait and be asked- you can just start right now. Don’t wait for your boss to tap you on the shoulder or to all of a sudden remember how fantastic you are- you need to stand up, allow yourself to be heard by contributing to the conversation.
You’ve got this!
Paula Coogan is the founder of The Quarter Life Coach – a vibrant career and life coaching company aimed at empowering women in their 20s and 30s to practice courage, figure out their true desires both personally and professionally and then, to make it happen.
Her work is delivered through several live group programs and Masterminds including Career Breakthrough Mastermind and The Wisdom Circle. She also works one-on-one with clients who are ready for big transitions in their relationships, careers and businesses.
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