The brain is not always our friend.
Thoughts come that are unhelpful, and undermining:
❌ “I am a failure”
❌ “I am a fraud”
❌ “I’m not good enough”
But you can learn how to replace these thoughts with more empowering ones:
✅ “I’ve got this”
✅ “I am worthy”
✅ “I am good at what I do”.
This is what I call turning an internal critic into a powerful internal cheerleader.
And that’s the subject of this week’s blog!
(This is self-empowerment, the Second Pillar of my approach to Banishing Your Imposter and Building Your Naked Confidence™. To read about my First Pillar, Self-awareness, click here.)
Why do we get negative thoughts?
The brain's foremost job is to keep us safe - to keep us alive so we can spread our genes.
Unfortunately this means we are programmed with a strong “negativity bias”: to notice the negative things more, because they are the ones that could harm us.
You may have noticed that there are many words to describe negative feelings in our language, but fewer to describe positive ones.
One research study found that when a group of people, were asked to list the names of as many emotions as they could, 50% of the words were negative, with only 30% positive and 20% neutral (regardless of culture, background or age).
In addition, our brains are more stimulated by negative inputs.
In one study, participants were shown pictures of positive, negative, and neutral images.
Negative images created much more electrical activity in the brain than the positive or negative images: ie they have far more influence on us.
And this negativity bias starts very young: researchers have seen it emerging in babies from 3 months upwards (as they get more mobile, the brain needs to do more to keep them safe).
So negative thoughts are a natural part of being human - and in fact, are partly responsible for our survival as a species.
But they do not contribute to us living happy and fulfilled lives in the modern world.
Not only do those negative thoughts undermine our confidence, and stunt our careers.
They also create dangerous impacts in the mind and body.
I’ve written before about the fight-or-flight response, and how this ancient programming to help us respond effectively to threats is triggered excessively in the modern world - including by negative thoughts.
The chemical reaction we have in our body as a result are proven to result in a wide range of negative impacts, from increased propensity to anxiety and depression, to weight gain, digestive issues, sleep problems, and inflammation.
So negative thoughts are both natural, and dangerous!
BUT THEY ARE NOT INEVITABLE.
There is something else in the brain’s make-up that actually helps you change your negative thoughts and limiting beliefs into an internal cheerleader: the power of neuroplasticity.
What is neuroplasticity?
Imagine a field with two gates.
As people walk across the field between the gates, the grass is worn away and that becomes the obvious path for the next person to take.
A pathway is created through repetition.
The same happens in the brain.
When we think a thought, a neural pathway is fired in our brains.
The more often we think a thought, the more easily we go down that neural pathway again in the future.
This means that thought patterns - including those unhelpful negative ones - get more and more ingrained over time.
But the power of neuroplasticity works both ways.
Let’s go back to that field.
If you imagine one of those gates is moved.
People will still be travelling across the field, but on a different route than before.
Over time, a new pathway will be created - and crucially, the grass will regrow over the old one.
The same happens in the brain.
If you choose to redirect your thoughts away from these negative pathways, you can actually create new, more positive pathways (that become the paths of least resistance).
And the old, negative pathways become weaker.
They’ve actually monitored this happening in the brain.
This is how you can turn your negative inner critic into an internal cheerleader.
This is what I call “self-empowerment”.
How to replace that inner critic with an internal cheerleader
This is a wonderful journey of exploration, and one of my favourite parts of coaching.
First, how to tackle that inner critic.
There are a number of different tools and techniques to help you achieve this, so I’m going to focus on one today.
Visualise that critical voice so you can minimise it
The first step is to realise that YOU are not YOUR THOUGHTS.
That negative inner voice inside you is NOT YOU - you get to choose whether or not to listen to it.
It can really help you to do this by actually visualising this critic outside you - creating separation, so it’s not just inside your head.
So imagine that voice coming from an actual person.
Who exactly is that critic? Are they old or young? Male or female? What are they wearing? What kind of hair do they have?
Really allow yourself to manifest that actual critical voice. And give them a name.
Even just this step can be helpful.
Realising that this voice is not actually you, but it’s an Other, that you can choose to listen to or not - like a horrible undermining colleague - instantly puts you in a different and more powerful relationship with your inner critic.
The next step is to reduce the power they have over you.
Notice where your critic is in space in relation to you.
Often they will appear directly in front of you, but notice wherever they are. And notice how big they are, and how vividly they appear.
Finally, turn their impact down.
Make them dimmer and darker. Reduce the colour brightness - even turn them black and white.
Make them smaller, so they are the size of a peanut or a raisin.
And move them to the side, so they aren’t in front of you, blocking your path to your future.
Finally, flick them away to the left with your finger and thumb.
All of these steps use the way the brain ranks and stores information to massively reduce the impact the voice has on you.
They are something you can easily do any time that inner critic makes an appearance.
And over time, with the power of neuroplasticity, your “inner critic” pathways will become weaker and your ability to dim it and flick it away even stronger.
It’s not just about removing your inner critic, however.
We also want to replace it with an internal cheerleader.
Creating your internal cheerleader
One of my favourite #SummerStories (about The Toad and the Tower) is about the incredible impact of having a positive internal voice.
Imagine what it would feel like to have an internal voice saying:
🌟 “You can do this!”
🌟 “I believe in you!”
🌟 “Go for it!”
It is possible to create this.
There are steps you can take to bring your internal cheerleader to life (similar to the process above, but building a positive impact rather than removing a negative one).
But for this blog, I’m going to focus on a different element: how to develop that voice by helping you work out what your inner cheerleader would most helpfully say to you.
Find somewhere quiet, take some deep breaths, and allow yourself to settle.
Then I’d like you to picture yourself as a child - a point in your life when you are young, innocent and vulnerable.
Maybe as a baby, maybe as a toddler or Pre-Schooler, maybe during Primary School.
Really bring that picture to life.
Notice the clothes you’re wearing, how you have your hair, whether you’re standing or sitting.
Then think of what that child would most like to hear.
This could be:
🌟 “I love you, and am here for you always.”
🌟 “I am so proud of you and what you've achieved.”
🌟 “You are brave, and strong, and you can do anything.”
Imagine what it would feel like, to hear those words.
Say them to you as a child.
Then practice saying them to yourself regularly
✅ every morning as you brush your teeth
✅ when you make a cup of tea
✅ when you get in a car, or go in a lift.
If you use this habit-stacking (ie the trigger of a regular event reminding you to do this), you will find it easier to make this a repeated and consistent part of your day.
And remember, the more you do it, the deeper and more powerful your new “cheerleader” neural pathway will become.
Negative thoughts are part of being human.
We can even be grateful to them for our survival as a species.
But we can choose whether or not they have an impact on us, our confidence, and our careers.
I still sometimes get “I am a failure” popping into my head.
But I have now got the ability to notice this thought, and turn it aside easily as the rubbish that it is.
I don’t allow it to take root in my head.
And instead I have built a strong cheerleader as my most powerful internal voice, and I use that to cheer me on.
The purpose of Pillar Two of my Coaching Programme, Self-empowerment, is for me to help you do the same.
And my promise to you as that while you’re still developing your own internal cheerleader, THAT IS MY ROLE.
💖 As your coach, I am in your corner, and on your side.
💖 I will be there to encourage you, support you and cheer you on.
💖 I will also challenge you (in a supportive way) if you would benefit from it.
💖 But above all else, I will be that positive voice, until you’ve learned how to create your own.
And that’s the power of coaching.
“Give a (wo)man a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a (wo)man to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.”
I will teach you how to create your own internal cheerleader for a lifetime.
But until you know how to do this for yourself, I will be your cheerleader.
If you’d like to experience this for yourself, through my transformational Banish Your Imposter and Discover Your Naked Confidence™ 1:1 Coaching Programme, get in touch.
Book your free 45 minute intro call (where you'll experience some of my powerful tools) by emailing me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or booking into my calendar here.
To find out more about the Programme, please visit my website or email me with any questions 😊
Wishing you a positive, productive and Nakedly Confident week! 😃🔥💪
p.s. don't forget that link to book into my calendar is here 😊