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Years ago, I worked with an African American youth who was told by his mother that he was not going to amount to anything, just like his father.
This belief had been so ingrained in his psyche that he began to fulfill this prophecy. I challenged him on his faulty beliefs about himself and the world and his willingness to confront the internal critic who happened to be the voice of his mother, not himself.
Together, we wrote out a plan of action to attain the vision he saw for himself without his mother’s own internal beliefs. It worked powerfully. One of the highlights of my career was to see this young man walk across the stage with his cap and gown on college graduation day. Was it hard work? Absolutely! However, where there is setback, there is a deep-seated reward that is worth every penny.
We all have that inner voice that has the power to encourage us to achieve—and tells us we can make it.
That inner voice can even tell us we will fail, and in our minds, this is enough to confirm that belief.
This voice can be helpful when we are going for that last pull-up or running that extra mile.
This voice may say, “One more push-up” or “You got this!” or “I know your legs are burning, but there is only one more mile. You can do it! No matter what, you can make it!”
This voice brings into focus all of the hard work that proceded the obstacle in front of us. It may take two strokes off of our game of golf. It may help us make that winning shot with five seconds on the board.
However, sometimes this voice is not so helpful.
It may say, “Do you honestly believe that you can start your own business at your age? Remember when you tried that last time? Look what happened!”
This is an interesting phenomenon of the human mind. Where do these negative beliefs come from? Why are they so influential and pervasive over our thoughts and behavior? What is the origin of these false premises that lead us to an irrational conclusion about our capabilities?
Most of these thoughts are based on fear. However, it becomes more challenging when we get that bill in the mail, a call from a collection agency, and an added hospital expense.
It would be easier to stick our heads in the ground like an ostrich and hope that the problem will vanish away.
The upshot? There are more practical ways of combating this faulty belief system.
Here are three ways to quiet the inner critic so we can appreciate small successes, reframe our problems as challenges, and believe in ourselves:
1. Do the opposite.
Our most significant first step is in dispelling irrational beliefs by proving and doing the opposite. For example, if the voice tells us that we are a “failure,” this negative voice speaks to a quality of our character—not a single act. Therefore, it cannot be true that we will fail at everything—all the time!
Small things like choosing to get up in the morning and facing the day are a success in themselves. Consciously thinking about and doing the things we have been successful at is a powerful tool for disregarding this untruth about our character. There may have been things that we have failed at, but this does not make us a failure.
Journaling the trials and tribulations that we have experienced goes a long way in quieting that inner critic. We can ask ourselves, “How have I managed to make it through these difficulties?” We can take a few moments to self-reflect on this. As we ponder this question, we might discover that simply believing in ourselves is a tremendous start to changing things in our life and actuating the vision that we have for our future. The problem lies when we do not couple the cognitive belief and thoughts with consistency.
3. Hard work.
Changing our circumstances takes hard work. There is no other way of getting around it. We need to practice putting what we want on paper as a goal, both long and short term, and making small incremental steps toward those goals. Most people know what they don’t want, but they are less clear and specific about what they want.
We can make a list of what we want by being clear and specific and reviewing these goals as part of our daily lives. If our goal is to get the partner of our dreams, then we can see what we’re doing in our life to attract our ideal partner. We have to be students of the game and learn every aspect of what it takes to be successful.
Life comes with challenges. Remember to celebrate the small successes, reframe the problems as challenges, believe in yourself, and have a backup plan when things do not go as expected—these are essential in your life journey.