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How the noisy critic in your head is killing your career (& 3 ways to fix this)

How often do you hold back from applying for a role because that noisy critic in your head tells you “you’re not good enough“?

How often do you look at other women at work and think “how does she do it?

How often do you sit down at the meeting table and hear that voice in your head “they’re going to find me out“?

How often do you brush aside praise or compliments “somebody needed to do it” or “it was very much a team effort“?

Career success doesn’t happen by magic

As women we are very good at listening – not just to others, but also to that noisy critic in our head. In fact so often we take the advice of the noisy critic rather than acknowledge the evidence in front of us.

The thing is, your career success doesn’t happen by magic. It happens on purpose. When I was promoted to Global Head of IT Service in a City law firm, it wasn’t magic. It wasn’t luck or fluke. It wasn’t me being in the ‘right place at the right time‘.

My success happened on purpose. I was clear about what I wanted and that gave me confidence. I knew my own strengths and talents. I was strategic in my networking. I volunteered to get involved in high profile projects. I coached my team and co-workers so that the whole department raised its performance. By the way, I had two children under the age of five and was taking full advantage of flexible working.

When you don’t have career confidence

In my experience, from the women I work with, when you don’t have career confidence:

  • You procrastinate and don’t get anything done because you don’t know how to get started.
  • You get overlooked for promotion because you’re busy being reactive not proactive (or wasting your energy on activities that the business doesn’t value).
  • You don’t get the right opportunities because you haven’t expressed your skills or ambitions.
  • That voice in your head says “are you ready for this?” or “are you sure you can do it?” or “do you really think you’re ready for this?

When you have confidence, you know what you want and what is most important right now. You get clear on your career goals and how you are going to achieve them.

You are able to balance work and life more confidently because you aren’t wasting time doing stuff that’s unimportant or irrelevant. You know where to focus your time and energy.

When you have confidence, decisions feel less daunting. Otherwise that noisy critic in your head is killing your career. Let’s explore three ways to fix that.

1 – Feel the fear and do it anyway

Sometimes you just need to “feel the fear and do it anyway“. This is the title of book by Susan Jeffers. (One on the Recommend Reading list for the women on my Leadership Confidence programme).

The theory is that the more often you ‘feel the fear’ and just do it, the less often you feel the fear and the more you expand your comfort zone. Pushing your comfort zone just a little in one area of your career (or life), gives you the confidence to do more in other areas too.

What’s your fear? Are you scared of what others might think? Whether and how you will be judged. What if it goes wrong? What if I fail? Will they think I’m being disloyal? That I don’t deserve it? That I’m too old? Too young? I’m not ready for it? I’m not good enough?

2 – Recognise the noisy critic for what it is

Many high profile women experience that noisy critic in their head judging them for daring to succeed or even daring to dream. They are bright and competent. Yet often they find it difficult to accept compliments. Sometimes they don’t believe they’re true.

First recognise that noisy critic for what it is. The noisy critic is the voice of your self-doubt and fears. Consider that your critic is trying to protect you; but your critic is probably still working on evidence from 10, 15 or even 20 years ago. I still remember my French teacher in Year 9 telling me “a lazy worker blames their tools” when I handed in homework covered in ink splotches where my pen had leaked on the page.

That “fear” of being judged as lazy has remained with me for more than 30 years. Logically I know I am not lazy. But guess what, the noisy critic in my head brings it up all the time “you don’t work hard enough” or “you don’t deserve that promotion, you’re too lazy“.

3 – Acknowledge your achievements

Start paying attention to how you accept compliments. Be mindful of how you receive praise. Do you brush it aside or do you thank the person for offering the praise? Notice what you notice. In the corporate world, people don’t offer compliments for the sake of it. For now, if you find it difficult to accept the compliments, at least acknowledge that their perception is different to yours.

All about the team? That’s the other thing hat really annoys me about ambitious women. Your manager says “Well done, great job” and you reply “It was all down to the team“. Hell no. For sure, the team had a role to play but who lead the team? Who kept the team together? Who kept the team on target? Who dealt with the  niggles and frustrations in the team?

Another way to acknowledge your achievements is to look at all your successes. Make a list. Keep it factual. Don’t qualify what goes on the list. Include things that maybe you didn’t recognise at the time as a success. Keep adding to that list and read it out loud.

Your next steps to fix the noisy critic …

Today we have explored how the noisy critic in your head is killing your career and 3 ways to fix this. You need to feel the fear and do it anyway to expand your comfort zone. Secondly, recognise the noisy critic for what it is. And finally acknowledge your achievements.

I’ve got more fixes up my sleeve for example watching your language, understanding the differences between female and male communication styles, uncovering your unhelpful beliefs … but I’ll leave those for another article.

In the meantime, if you need some help dealing with the noisy critic in your head, let’s talk. You will take away at least 3 very specific actions that will have a big impact on your career. It doesn’t cost anything to talk. And if you want to work with me, we can have a conversation about that too.

 

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Sherry Bevan

It can be hard to balance career and family. Sherry helps ambitious women get clear on what they really want, then find the confidence to do it.
If today's the day, you want to put your head in your hands and cry, know you are not alone. Why not check out these tips on how to cope with overwhelm.

Coach | Author | Speaker | Dog sitter
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