People are so held back in life by their inner critic. Girls especially, very capable girls, are lacking confidence. And how ironic is that when we have just had on of Britain’s second female prime minister and a female dominated cabinet.

School and the workplace appear to be having a big effect on girls today. It seems they lack the confidence to speak out. They are holding back, scared of being judged and branded “just a female” or “women are not as tough as men”. Instead, they are sitting back quietly, getting on with their work, and hoping someone will notice them and catapult them to success.

Hey guys – or, more accurately, girls – wake up – that’s not how it works! And you know it. Because far too many of you are taking the soft route &, when you fail, you blame it on the “glass ceiling” or “the biological clock” (which means you had to choose between career and babies) or whatever other gender discriminatory impediment is in vogue at the time.

Seriously, come on, times have changed since my day. And thank god they have!

Of course, I will always, and can see it from a different angle.

My brothers sure helped me become a woman willing to stand up for herself. At the time it was unpleasant. I felt they just saw me as a crying, complaining sister and not as an equal party. However, in Britain today it would be labelled “sibling abuse” which is utter bollocks! I look at it now and realise they helped me become the extroverted, confident person that I am today. Thanks bros!

But I wasn’t always like that. Not at all.

I became a mum in my late teens. And I was very sensitive to comments and opinions about single mothers, particularly those about people like me who needed to work to provide for her kids. You know, the sorts of sexist comments I mean. And those opinions and comments really held me back. They really damaged my confidence.

Perhaps the worst part of this – at least the most painful – is that many of the comments and opinions came from the two people who were supposed to love me, to support me and to care for me – my first 2 partners (the fathers of my 2 children).

My first partner, my son’s father, said I would end up nothing more than a stay at home, unemployed mum. My second partner, my daughter’s partner, saw me as nothing better than someone to cook his dinner and commit to a life at home, cleaning the house and acting as the obedient girlfriend.

Living in this environment – with no mentor – to be honest, living with the complete reverse of mentors – it was hardly surprising I lost all my confidence for a fair few years of my life.

But I eventually woke up. I realised these two losers were nothing; and their opinions did not and would not define me. I realised I was far more than that. I would not be defined or silenced by these two or anyone.
It was only when I decided that single life was more attractive than a meaningless one-sided relationship that I started to listen to my inner cheerleader over my inner critic. I knew I had to find and gain confidence in my own abilities and work to develop them. I wanted to be heard.
Don’t get me wrong. It is never a simple exercise to silence the inner or external critic. It took a while and a lot of hard work to achieve. I had to learn to ignore the barrels of hateful comments and ‘put downs’ by my former partners and others. I had to learn to listen to and believe in my own voice.

People are more than happy to provide negative feedback. In Australia, they call this the “tall poppy syndrome” – you know when you’re a kid, you take a stick & run through a field & take the tops off any poppies (or any other flowers) that have the audacity to be taller than any others. And trust me, Britain, just like Australia, is very, very good at knocking down tall poppies – anyone who shows the signs of wanting to get above the pack is dealt with very quickly.
Unfortunately, human nature is such that you start to believe these criticisms. Just as positive encouragement is incredibly valuable, negative criticism is incredibly damaging. It holds you back. It makes it hard to achieve what you want. And it makes it especially easy to give up and accept what your inner and external critics condemn you too.
However, there are ways to overcome both the inner and external critics, and to learn to flourish. Here are some thoughts to help you on the way.

Ways to banish your inner and external critics

Eliminate from your mindset what you can’t do. Turn it around and say, “I am going to do this.” By stopping telling yourself you can’t do something, it will make you focus on what you can do. Remember, it’s trying or at least starting that counts. Even if it only lasts a day or two, congratulate yourself for trying. Ignoring your negative inner critic will help you hear your inner cheerleader.

Write down your thoughts. Start with your big-ticket goals – what you want to achieve.

Then write down the things you feel are wrong with you – particularly the things that you think are holding you back from achieving your gaols – the ones you like the least – you know, the usual ones – I’m overweight, useless, weak, a burden and anything else you think you are or that you think others think of you. Now, eliminate those from your thinking and your vocabulary.
Then, list the negative comments and accusations other people have inflicted on you, such as – bad girlfriend/boyfriend or a work colleague calling you useless or crap at your work – again, focus particularly on those that you think are holding you back from achieving your goals. Again, eliminate those from your thinking and your vocabulary.
Then, jot down what’s good about you – what you like the best – what you think people might admire about you – and finally, again, focus on those traits characteristics that you think will help you achieve your gaols. This bit feels good, doesn’t it?

Ask yourself what would happen if you stopped listening to your own and other people’s negative opinions and comments, and instead focussed on the positives? What would happen if you stopped fighting with yourself ? Ask yourself what feels best – your inner critic, or your inner cheerleader!

The answer is going to be your inner cheerleader, the one that congratulates you, makes you feel secure and appreciated, right?

The worst thing we can do to ourselves is listen to put downs – your own or other’s. It’s an opinion yes. But that’s all it is, an opinion! Once you see it as just an opinion, you can decide which opinions to value and which to ignore. Embrace and learn from the positive. Ignore the negative. Let the negatives – anything that is not helpful in achieving your goals – wash over and pass you by. Take on board and act on only the positives – those aspects of you that will help you achieve your gaols.

I found that physically removing myself from people or situations that were negative was really helpful. It helped me get an outside perspective – a truer perspective – one that was not influenced by local politics, emotions, self-interest or jealousy etc…. I would go to the park or sit by myself and look into the situation and ask myself what I wanted from the relationship or the situation. Again, I would write that down. It helped me to stay true to my goals and helped me achieve them.
What really helped me to start using my inner cheerleader was a visit to an aunt who asked me one simple question, “in a year’s time, where do you want to be?”
She made me look at myself and face my inner critic, then asked if it was my critic or others holding me back. I quickly recognised that it was mainly others.
She went on to say “it’s only you who can change it”.

That day I went home and changed my outlook on life. I told my partner our relationship was over and within a year I was a working full-time single mother of two and felt fantastic! I have never looked back.

I have also realised over the years not everyone is happy for our success – classic tall poppy syndrome! But it’s not them that matters. It’s you! Learn to be around people who notice and comment on your positives and leave the negatives at bay, and silenced. If someone wants the best for you they will encourage you.

Assumptions are also something to avoid. Never assume anything!! Humans have a knack for assuming too much and that’s when things go wrong. Stop assuming things and situations. Get all the facts before making a decision. People that assume something of you are not a positive influence and they don’t really know you.
Now go to the mirror and repeat: “ I am able to do it. I am going to make my dreams a reality, and no one is going to stop me!”

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