Fear. We all experience it.
But we often don’t recognise it for what it is.
Many coaches talk about the unhelpful responses in different ways: they may be defined as “limiting beliefs”, “unhelpful automatic thoughts”, the “gremlins”, the “inner critic”, your “mean-girl voice” or even “monsters.”
However, at the end of the day, we all experience this voice; and it’s often hard to know how to handle it. I call mine Kitten.
What The Voice Does
- The voice stops us.
- It makes us feel low, causes us doubt and worry.
- It criticises us and finds fault in what we’re doing.
- We begin to feel de-motivated.
- Our progress on our tasks slow.
- Often, we slow down. We stop pursuing that dream, or we take a rest from that job.
But in doing this, it’s doing something very innate. Very instinctive. It’s powering those emotions for a reason.
Your brain is trying to protect you.
“Your monster is small and vulnerable and fuzzy. And it just wants to know that you’ll be okay. And that’s why it makes itself so big and fierce — to scare you into letting it take care of you” (Havi Brooks, 2010.)
What The Voice Wants
It wants to keep you safe.
Honestly, if you really dig down and ask where that voice came from, you’ll find one thing at it’s base: FEAR.
- I fail, like running out of money?
- I end up alone?
- I’m embarrassed?
- I can’t make it work?
- I don’t survive?
- Everyone else is right and I can’t do this?
- I never recover?
- I lose all my reputation?
This is the hind-brain: the reptilian part of us which is trained to perceive threat and plan the possible ways to stay alive, safe and uninjured.
The lizard brain does not know that the worry, the anxiety, the concerns are about your social reputation in a public speaking event.For all the instinctive brain knows, you’re hidden in a bush from a hungry tiger out to eat you.
Your voice is trying to help you: to problem solve all the possible options: including perceiving those threats so you can make an informed decision.
This understanding doesn’t change the emotion, but it can inform how we respond to those moments.
How To Manage Unhelpful and Fearful Thoughts
1. The first thing I did, was stop being upset with it. I call mine Kitten, to remind me of the vulnerable, frightened voice it really is.
- This isn’t a Mean Girl trying to bully you because you’re a failure. It’s a tiny kitten saying: “Are you sure you’ll be okay? I’m worried.”
2. The second thing is to uncover the fear. Have that internal conversation to really explore what the worry is about.
3. Now you know the worry, you can find the appropriate response.
- Is the worry true? Is it likely to happen? If so, how would you handle it?
4. And, although a little ‘woo,’ I find it helpful to visualise an actual kitten, because it just takes away some of the power in how I perceive this negative voice.
- It doesn’t hurt to be grateful for the information your brain has told you because it worries you’ve not made a plan and thus might panic in the moment.
- Reassure your voice that you’ve got this -> You’ve made a note of the concern, here is the action plan and it can go back to sleep now.
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