Are the opinions of others valid?

June has been an incredibly busy month for me and there is still more to come!  I have listened to podcasts, read a variety of articles and had the privilege to work with over 300 people.  And as I reflected on all this I’ve noticed, that in every connection, there has been a story or an example about how controlling our self-talk can be. When it shows up in a positive way, it can build our self-esteem and make us feel as if we can conquer the world.  However, when our self-talk shows up in a negative way, it can mow us down like a ton of bricks, turn us into gibbering wrecks and on some occasions stop us showing up at all.

One of my over-riding principles has always been to create transparency which is about being open and honest in everything I do.  Of course, this often means that I can lay myself bare and display my vulnerabilities, those things that I’ve struggled with and found ways to overcome or perhaps reduced the volume of Eeyore’s voice in my head.  And I do this, because I know that I’m not the only one who struggles with negative self-talk and if I can help one other person dare to dream and find opportunities to overcome some of their limiting beliefs, I’m a happy bunny!

As you know, I’m fascinated with how the mind works and am continually researching ways to overcome my inner critic.  I’m like a sponge learning techniques and practising them out before I bring them to my workshops, so using tools like the Emotional Perceptional Lens, Visualisation and Affirmations are a way of life for me, because it’s not a case of learning them and then hey presto, I’ve got it nailed.  These tools and techniques are like building muscle strength.  They require daily effort.

Even when you practice them regularly, there are the challenges and self-doubt that can raise their heads, especially when someone is being uber critical, because somehow that criticism hits an old limiting belief that we’re not good enough or we’ve been found out.  In one of my programmes, we create a conscious awareness of the limiting beliefs we hold for ourselves, because it’s only when we’re conscious of them that we can start to alter them.  Of course, I share mine!  And I do this, not only to be transparent in the process, but to also demonstrate that mine are the same as so many other people’s and together we can overcome them.

However, dealing with our own self-talk is one thing.  It’s when we’re put in a position to manage other people’s critic, that it takes time and patience.  Many years ago, I read Dale Carnegie’s book, ‘How to win friends and influence people’ and there was a quote that stuck in my mind.

I think this hit a note for me, because years ago I can remember having a debate about curiosity and forgiveness in the face of criticism.  There had been a particularly upsetting situation that had occurred, and emotions were highly charged.  Why people act and behave in a certain way can be very confusing at times, but if we boil it down to the basics, it’s usually down to their beliefs about what is happening in that moment; the story they are telling themselves based on their past experiences and the beliefs through which they now run their lives.

This is where your best friend becomes curiosity.  It’s a time when you put your own emotions to one side and find out what is going on in the head of the other person.  What rules are they playing their life by?  And even if what you hear causes pain, it lets you know how you are perceived in their eyes.  It’s up to you if you want to do anything with that information and feedback.  But that’s not where it stops.  For you to be able to move on, you also need to forgive, otherwise that person lives rent free in your head.  And this latter part was reiterated from me in a podcast I was listening to earlier in the month.

Recently I have been listening to Steve Bartlett’s podcast, The Diary of a CEO.   He said to think of holding onto a grudge as holding a prisoner.  When you release that prisoner and see them walking into the sunset, you realise that you’re the one that’s actually been the prisoner the whole time because you’ve been holding onto that resentment.  And this is how I see it.  When anyone has been unkind to me in either their words or their actions, I look to ways in which I can let the prisoner go … I actually call it ‘letting the bird out of the cage’, but whatever you want to call it, it’s the healthiest option as it stops you building neural pathways surrounding that negativity …. and as we all know, we need to build positive thoughts as those recurring thoughts are what build our beliefs and it’s upon those beliefs that our success in life is determined, not our potential!

So, three little take aways from me today….

  1. Before you take on board other people’s criticism, ask for examples of what went well and how you can improve it next time. Ask for facts, otherwise it is only their opinion, and you don’t want your beliefs to be built upon the opinion of others.  Their view of success may be very a different version to yours!
  2. Visualise what good looks like in the areas that you may be feeling some anxiety. The more vivid the picture we create in our mind’s eye, the more we will be drawn towards it.  Ask yourself what it will look like, feel like, sound like when it has all gone well and keep replaying those thoughts.
  3. And then write an affirmation, a statement to help you achieve your goal. For example, if you are nervous about doing a presentation later in the week and you’ve prepared all the information and materials, try saying something like …. ‘I have so much to tell you and can’t wait to share it with you’ or ‘I connect naturally with my audience because we both have a love of this topic’.  Then repeat it regularly as it will start to build the positive neural pathways.  Every time you hear your Eeyore voice rise, tell him you don’t have time for him and reread your affirmation.

And if I need that extra boost of energy, I play my favourite music loudly and sing along at the top of my voice.  Of course, I do make sure that no-one can hear me, as it may invoke a bit of criticism being thrown my way!!!!!

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