One of the most damaging aspects to your confidence is overthinking. Over analyzing a situation until your mind brings forward all the possible scenarios that could happen, both good and bad. Unfortunately, as humans, we have a tendency to dwell on the negative aspects until a simple encounter can fill you with dread.
The worst part is, that once you allow this part of your mind, your inner critic, to take over—to dictate your actions, it grows stronger and becomes the default mode. This internal dialogue saps at your confidence. You begin to believe that anything new comes with the potential of being disastrous, and this is the reason that so many people get stuck in a rut.
Giving in To Your Fears
Let’s look at some examples. A chance of a promotion comes up at work. Initially you feel a surge of excitement, the thrill of progression and perhaps, the satisfaction of additional monetary rewards. However, soon you’re thinking about the drawbacks to a much larger extent.
What if I can’t handle the responsibility and end up losing my job?
What if I make a fool of myself in the interview and undermine my current level of authority?
Why would they pick me anyway? There’s going to be lots of applications going in and let’s face it, I know these people. What do I have that they don’t?
Pretty soon you’ve talked yourself out of the opportunity and managed to convince yourself that the most sensible course of action is to just stay as you are. It’s the safest option and maybe you even convince yourself that it’s the best route to take in regards to your career and now’s just not the right time to make a move.
But when is the right time going to be?
Another scenario—You’ve dreamt of owning your own little bakery for as long as you remember, getting up at the crack of dawn to bake delicate pastries, rich breads, and delectable little cakes. You’ve always put it off, maintaining the fact you don’t have the finances to start the entrepreneurial journey. But lo and behold, a sizeable inheritance has come your way making your dreams not only feasible, but would keep you secure for the first year of operations.
You can almost smell the baked goods!
But there’s that nagging voice again…
I’ve read 9 out of 10 startups have failed within ten years, where’s the guarantee mine will still be here?
Owning your own business is actually a lot of work and I don’t even know where I’d start.
Maybe getting up that early in the morning would actually be a torture and I’d end up asleep in the batter.
Can you see how quickly we spot opportunity, only to turn it into what seems like a burden?
Over-analysis usually turns into self-justification.
You justify your fears as certainties. In this regard you can pretend by letting your fear dictate your life, you’re making the sensible decision. But when’s the progression going to happen? When are you going to let good things happen to you? When are you going to allow yourself to be happy?
If we look at the two examples above with a clear head, not ruled by fear, we can see the opportunities there. The doomsday scenarios we eventually land on actually have a slim chance of happening. Take the promotion for example. Sure, competition is always tough, but that’s no reason for not putting yourself out there. In fact, if an employer see’s an employee actively avoiding the step-up in responsibility for too long, they might start asking questions.
Even if you were to go for the promotion, but it went to someone else, it’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and ask for feedback, which you can then work on in time for the next chance at promotion. This is what the confident person does. The unconfident person is ruled by fear and inaction.
So how can you challenge this over-analysis and stop your inner voice talking you out of any opportunity that comes your way? First, you need to be aware of it happening. Most people aren’t aware it happens and focus on the feeling of relief when its work has been done and they can stay exactly as they are.
When an opportunity presents itself, begin to listen to your thoughts. Notice the initial excitement, feel the exact moment when that excitement begins to transform into fear, hear the excuses you’re giving to yourself. Once you have got into the habit of identifying your over-analysis, you’re ready to move onto the next step—challenging it.
Remember how we discussed by letting your inner critic, or the superego in Freudian terms, take control, you’re allowing it to grow stronger? Well the reverse is also true. By challenging the process, you’re taking steam out of it’s engine. You’re presenting reasonable alternatives to its suggestions and you’re fighting your fears in a healthier manner. But how do you challenge this critic effectively.
Getting the Inner Critic On-Side
Let’s explore the superego a little further.
“The superego is the ethical component of the personality and provides the moral standards by which the ego operates. The superego criticisms, prohibitions, and inhibitions form a person’s conscience, and its positive aspirations and ideals represent one’s idealized self-image, or “ego ideal.”
When negative, your inner critic not only saps confidence, it also produces feelings of shame, inadequacy, low self-esteem, and depression. This is why it’s essential to manage this internal dialogue effectively. There are two schools of thought on how to do this. The first is to treat it as an enemy—to fight against it, ignore it, and eventually overcome it. The second is to treat it as an ally—to transform, or even befriend, it to work in a more positive manner.
Both methods can be effective, however, this article will focus on the second method—treating the inner critic as an ally. There are many reasons why this method is so effective. Firstly, it removes the combative element that negativity thrives on and secondly, transforming the tone of the critic can serve to boost your confidence and allow you to make confident decisions going forwards.
There are two stages when it comes to transforming a negative internal critic to one who works with you. The first is to use visualization Methods. If you’re a visual person who can keep images in mind, this technique will be particularly powerful for you.
First of all, imagine the inner critic as a person. How do they appear to you? Are they male or female? Young or old? How are they dressed? What do they look like? By creating a person from the otherwise disembodied voice, you’re creating something that you can work with. You’re also separating it as a part of you.
This makes it much easier to understand that the advice they are giving you doesn’t necessarily need to be followed.
Secondly we challenge this inner critic in a positive manner. If they tell us something is bound to happen, we reply with a reasoned argument that this is not the case. We’ll look at this in action. Let’s take the arguments the inner critic made when we explored opening a business earlier on in this chapter.
I’ve read 9 out of 10 startups have failed within ten years, where’s the guarantee mine will still be here? —
“10 years is a long time and if I conduct the proper research and find a gap in the market then there’s no reason my business can’t be successful.”
Owning your own business is actually a lot of work and I don’t even know where I’d start. —
“Anything worth having takes a lot of work and effort, that’s what makes it something to be proud of. As with any large task, I’ll break it down into smaller tasks and create a schedule to keep me on track.”
Maybe getting up that early in the morning would actually be a torture and I’d end up asleep in the batter.
“Getting up in the morning has never been an issue for me, in fact it’s my favorite part of the day. If I adapt my sleeping schedule, I’ll still wake up feeling fully refreshed.”
If you study the answers above you can see they’re well-reasoned, pro-active, and positive. The inner critic is not used to being challenged and by presenting these counter-points to its argument, you’ll lessen the impact their initial statements make. If you make well-reasoned arguments, it’s going to find it very hard to come back with a compelling argument. This takes some practice and initially the hardest part is going to be identifying when the inner critic is at its strongest.
But by combining the visual element of this exercise with a more positive one you’ll make sure that you’re both working together to make the best decisions for you.
The Last Push
Sometimes the inner critic can feel particularly spiteful and hit you with the low blows. If it feels its losing an argument, then it might throw out a thought such as You’ve failed everything you’ve ever tried. These types of statements can rain serious blows on your confidence and it’s important to know how to deal with them. Again, we challenge them in a positive manner. So if you are told that you’re a failure, you might respond with,
“I have succeeded before and failure teaches me lessons essential to my growth. I accept my self completely for who I am.”
In this example, we are using affirmations to affirm our self-love and worth. If you recognize the inner critic’s statement as fear of its loss of control over you, you can respond strongly and with an understanding of what’s happening. Remember this takes practice and there will certainly be times when you’re taken aback, but if you stick with it you’ll transform a negative inner critic to a positive internal ally who works with you for the best overall outcome.
Silencing the inner critic is an essential first step in growing your confidence. Internal hits to your confidence can be more damaging to external ones and you need to be confident in yourself to stop outside issues having such an effect. Knowing who you are, having belief in your abilities, and recognizing your strengths are all essential components.
Meditation is a powerful tool when it comes to mastering the mind and self-assurance. Daily practice where you focus your mind on a particular object, thought, or even an activity will help you gain a healthy outlook on life.
Learning to observe without judgement is crucial. With improvements in memory, attention, self-awareness and self-control, I would highly recommend that you begin some form of daily meditation.
It may feel somewhat unusual in the beginning but after a while, you’ll be wondering how you ever survived without it. If you’d like to try some daily meditation and would like some guidance why not check out Daily Meditations for Everyday Life with Marianne Williamson.
Meditation is a great way to release stress, anger, and pain from your life. Learn to experience that deep sense of calm and watch how your life is transformed by a spending a few minutes each day meditating.
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