I've given the negative voice, that tries to sabotage my best efforts at doing great things, a nick name. She's my "mean little cow". Not nice I know, but sometimes she's not nice either!
John Williams in his fantastic book, "Screw Work, Let's Play." Talks about training your 'Top Dog'. We all have a negative voice inside that may tell us we 'shouldn't be doing this or that', it tells us we are a bit rubbish when we make a mistake or that we shouldn't be attempting x, y or z because that's for other, more successful, people.
For some people it's a little voice, for others it dominates the conversation.
If I'm honest, when I was younger I let my "mean little cow" get the better of me. I believed the rubbish it was spouting and I let it's big, sneering voice drown out all the other real people who were telling me what I was doing was great, fantastic, or at the least good enough. When I allowed my "mean little cow" to be the dominant voice I believed my mistakes were massive, and not just an opportunity to learn, or my efforts weren't good enough, no matter how many hours I put in.
Now, if one of my beautiful best friends had come to me and told me what I was telling myself at that point in my life, I would have been outraged. I would have given them all the evidence they needed to disprove the lies that they were telling themselves. I would have showered them in hugs and love and showed them how much they are loved, even if they had messed up a bit. Guess what, we all do sometimes.
In fact my friends and family were doing it, but at that point the dominate voice kept winning.
Unfortunately, if you don't train your "mean little cow", "Top Dog" , negative inner voice call it what you will, it will drown out all reason and leave you feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and at worst with rock bottom self esteem.
The great news is, it doesn't have to be this way.
By following the 6 simple steps below you can put that "mean little cow" in her place and be your own Best Friend. How do I know? I've done it myself and I've coached a few people who had loud negative voices too. So, if you have been listening to your "mean little cow" too much lately, then read on and take action.
If you find your mind racing and saying lots of negative things, breath, deeply. Give yourself a chance to hear the thoughts clearly and what they are saying, but don't stay here too long, you need to move onto step two quickly!
2. Ask yourself another question?
Is what you are hearing true? Negative thoughts are often a reflection of our need to take action on something else. The thought is, just that, a thought. It's whether you believe it that gives it any weight. At its worst "mean little cow" will look for evidence. For example, if it's saying you are a rubbish mum it will recall the day you lost it and shouted at the kids.
Well, two can play at that game.
The question, Is it true?, will allow you the time to consider if it is or not. Step three will give you the proof that it isn't.
3. Find contrary evidence.
Yes, you might have shouted that day, but you are human and mistakes happen. When "mean little cow" got started with her rubbish mum chant she didn't recall the 48 hour bedside vigil when your child was sick. She didn't recall the hours taking your child to all the parties and extra curricular activities. She didn't recall how you made your child feel secure and loved when you listened to the problem they had with a friend. She didn't recall the nightly routine of putting your child to bed with a smile, hug and kiss. If your "mean little cow" is being mean, find evidence to prove she is wrong.
4. Act on the action signal
"Mean little cow" can really get going when you are starting a new task, job, relationship, anything where you are out of your comfort zone. She'll start raising the bar on the insults. Before she gets operatic, hear what she is saying. Perhaps the negativity comes from a lack of knowledge or understanding in a certain part of your work.
Act on it!
Find resources or people who can help you build your skills so you feel more confident.
It might be you aren't communicating effectively with your partner, colleagues husband or kids or they aren't communicating effectively with you.
Act on it!
Work out how to improve the communication. Explore how the other person is feeling and come to a solution that meets both of your needs.
Perhaps you've taken on too much and are juggling too many things.
Act on it!
What can go and what can stay? Can someone else help?
By listening to the first time she starts bleating, you can cut her off at the pass.
Is this something that comes from your past? Is it reoccurring behaviour? Is it really vicious?
Act on it!
5. Ask yourself what would your best friend say to you?
Often, when you are being mean and unfair to yourself thinking what would my best friend say to this will help you find a way to be kinder and gentler with you. They would show you the proof that you are telling yourself lies or if there is some truth in it, they'd tell you to act on it. Ultimately though the only way to tame that horrid voice is to believe what you are telling it. Therefore, above all, you need to....
6. Be your own best friend.
One of my greatest pleasures is encouraging my friends to pursue their dreams and explore their gifts and talents. I'm lucky to have some fantastic, gifted people I can call friends.
Well do the same for yourself.
It's very unBritish to say I am this and I am that. We feel big headed and a bit daft. Well, not any more.
Why is it OK to sit and tell someone all the bad stuff that's happened to you and not to say, "Do you know what I did X well today and I'm proud of myself."? Isn't it better to sit with a friend and pour out all the good stuff too. Be your own cheerleader.
If you have good self esteem and appreciate all the wonderful things you have to offer the world you are less likely to believe the "mean little cow" when she rears her ugly head or any other person who tells you you aren't good enough or you can't do it.
Get a nice little note pad and on a weekly basis write down 5 things you've done well or that you were proud of.
It might be small.
For example, I didn't lose my temper when my colleague left work early, leaving me to finish off a project we were working on. Instead, I am going to discuss what the consequences for me were with him on Monday in a calm professional manner.
Or it might be big.
For example, I raised £500 for a charity by abseiling a tall building.
Whatever it is, read over them once a month and let your "mean little cow" know you don't believe what she is saying, so she might as well be quiet.
Using these techniques builds confidence and improves self esteem. So, what are you waiting for?
A new course in "How to be your own best friend" will be here in the spring. So watch this space......
What does your "mean little cow" say to you and how can you disprove her?