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From PhD to Life

Dealing with inner critics


Noticing and coming up with a strategy to deal with inner critics is an important part of coaching. We all have these “gremlins” messing with our lives. They are there to protect us, but we rarely need this protection. We are all much stronger than our inner critics think we are. Here’s how inner critic work played out during one recent coaching session.

I had a client last week who, as we spoke, told me about how she kept coming up with things she needed to do before she could “get my damn website up!” She realized that fear was holding her back. I asked her about inner critics, and she came up with a wonderfully rich metaphor: a football game. She told me she was seeing in her mind a football team running out onto the field. Suddenly, the players were all tackling her, trying to get the ball that she held. That ball represented her doing what she wanted to do to move forward. She was her best self.

Who were her supporters, and where were they, I asked. Her champions from real life were there, she said, but they were cheering her on from the stands. And what about her teammates, where were they? They were on the field with her, blocking the opposing team members. When I asked her to tell me about those teammates, she told me that they were her character strengths: Love gave her self-compassion; perseverance never gave up; “the encourager” kept her motivated; zest, humour, and playfulness treated everything like a wonderful adventure; courage took risks without worry. These strengths gave her what she needed to win the game, that is, to get her website out into the world.

To remember this, my client decided to add to a vision board she’d already created. She told me that she had specific NFL players in mind for each strength, and that she would post a photo of each man on her board. And do the same for the people in the stands. Looking at this board would help her in moments when inner critics showed up. I’ll be curious to find out if it worked when we next coach!

Jennifer Polk
Jennifer Polk is a career coach and entrepreneur. She earned her PhD in history from the University of Toronto in 2012. For more information and resources, check out her website:
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