During my life coaching sessions, I often ask participants to reflect on what it’s keeping them small when they are about to do something big. They find it hard to define what that something is, but they know it’s there.
Picture this: you get what-seems-like-an-incredible idea, you plan the actions to take to bring it to life, you are all confident and ready for the launch and THEN that voice gets in the room.
“You are not good enough”, “You didn’t go to school for this”, “You will never going to make it with that”, “Who do you think you are to make this happen.”
We are all very familiar with these self-judging affirmations, because we all have a saboteur voice.
The Saboteur is a voice that shows up when you are tired, when you are about to make a big change, when you are about to do something really brave. It’s precisely and constantly ready to criticize you, even when you do small harmless things, like eating an extra pizza slice, making a joke no one laughed at, or submitting an unsuccessful proposal. The saboteur is ready to keep us small and in the darkness, that’s its job.
If we constantly have a negative presence in the room, how can we play big?
First of all, we need to identify and acknowledge the saboteur, and we do this by naming it. Alfred, Silly That One: whatever the name you wish to give your own saboteur is, find it now. Mine is “Fuckin’ Nikki”.
Name it = Tame it
By naming the voice, you are already halfway through, as you can finally place yourself at the same level. It’s no longer an abstract presence: you can finally define it and communicate with it. The next time it shows up again, you will have the tools to recognize whose voice that is and you won’t mistake it for your own.
Ask yourself: is it a voice from an old story? Or has it some wisdom I need to listen to? More often than not, the Saboteur comes from something that happened in the past and that got stuck. Something that it is no longer relevant and that only likes to keep you in your comfort zone.
There is something great about Alfred, Silly Willy or Nikki though: they allow you to realize you are about to do something big and different. That’s when the things in our life start changing!
Our goal is to neutralize the saboteur’s job.
The more we engage in activities that keep our saboteur employed (i.e. body checking, criticizing ourselves, comparing our successes to others’ etc.) the more the Saboteur will have their job.
Another great tip to neutralize the Saboteur is adopting a superhero vs villain strategy. Let’s make space in our life for one (or more) superhero, a new character that will be by our side whenever we need them. This new crew member will be incredibly confident, brave, grounded and will back us up whenever we hear the saboteur’s voice. By doing this, we start giving ourselves more of an identity that helps us get away from our old story.
We might never be able to keep the inner critic out of our life, despite the many years of practice that I’ve already done myself. However, we can learn to tame it, to place it back where it should be (small and in a corner), without letting it dominate our life with its destructive thinking.