Who is your biggest critic? They might be closer to you than you think.

It__s_Like_Looking_in_a_Mirror_by_SamsSisterOften when mentoring, in a one to one, it will be clear that the mentees worst critic is the one they see very regularly, daily in fact.  Often when they are tired and stressed.  Often when they are at a low point.  It’s the one they see in the mirror.

Its very common.  In my latest book, The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, we quote a returner from maternity leave who says: “Day to day I’m just as ambitious, but I’m so grateful now when I get given a break or a step up.  I have so much guilt.  Why do I feel like that?  I shouldn’t.  It’s my due.”

In the questions sessions that follow our talks about the book, all too often questions will be raised where it becomes clear that the questioner is doubting their own worth.  “I’m so lucky,” they might say, before going on to talk about a situation that they clearly deserve.  “I don’t want to speak up about this, in case I am not the expert” is another common trait amongst capable, intelligent and awesome performers.

Where does this come from.  In my experience it is certainly not always from their managers, who are often nurturing their talent.

It might be from their peers.  There are some work cultures that operate on zero sum game basis as far as success and recognition is concerned.  In cultures without a growth outlook rewards are limited and therefore success for one person means that no one else is recognised.  The team is therefore motivated to do each other down whatever the declared culture of the organisation might be.  It’s no surprise then that people don’t feel encouraged to take risks or to speak up about something that they haven’t 100% nailed down.

In this situation your worst critic might be the chap on the other side of the desk.

Most of the time though the worst critic lives inside people’s head.  It might be the relic of criticism that you heard at school or college.  It might be the voice of unfriendly so-called friends.  It might be a parent or guardian, sibling, perfect cousin.  You can’t always shut those voices up.  No matter how much you want to.  You can however recognise that they are internal voices and cultivate a strategy to counteract it.

If you can have an internal critic you can also have an internal cheerleader.  One technique is to give yourself advice that you would give your best friend in that situation.  If you’re worrying about not being good enough at something what would you say to your best friend in that same state?  You’d probably tell them that it would be alright, they’ll sail through it, that you believe in them.  If you can do it for your best friend, you can do it for yourself.

You can also build a network of actual cheerleaders.  As I said in Nicola Kemp’s feature on my colleague Claudine Collins, we’ve built a network of internal cheerleaders at MediaCom.  We’ve got each others’ back.‎ When, as is so often the case, ‎negative internal voices dominate, or we have a tough moment, we’ve got into the habit of turning to each other to check in and to get support, to be each other’s cheerleaders and sponsors. We won’t let each other down and knowing that we have this network makes us better and stronger. And better able to deliver outstanding work for our clients.

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