All presenters have one thing in common regardless of experience, status or confidence. It’s that voice in their minds that is always there offering unwanted and unhelpful thoughts. The volume of criticism and negativity gets the loudest the moment we stand to speak. It’s that inner critic that takes great pleasure in telling us that we aren’t good enough.
This voice is a permanent tenant; you’ve tried everything humanly possible to evict them but they just won’t leave.
Sadly, it isn’t a voice that only tries its very best to interfere when we are about to present, it’s far more pervasive and insidious.
‘I can’t do this’
‘I’m such a fraud’
‘I never do anything right’
The moment we stand to speak however, the voice becomes even more specific.
‘What if I forget what to say and freeze?’
‘They probably know far more than me’
‘What if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to?’
‘I bet they won’t even like me’
It’s not a voice to be taken lightly as unchecked and left unmanaged, it can be very harmful. It can limit and inhibit us in a great number of ways and when it comes to presenting our thoughts and ideas at work, it can even be career limiting.
The question is then, how do we silence it or make it go away for good?
The fact is that we can’t do either.
It’s part of the human experience and conditioning which is a greater challenge for some people than others but exists for all of us, no exceptions. That said, there is a great deal you can do about it and it all revolves around mindfulness.
Following these 3 steps will serve you extremely well in managing your inner critic and liberating your true voice, the one that deserves and needs to be heard.
Step 1: Name it
Most of us can relate to the first part of this article quite easily, but if we are honest with ourselves it’s not something we pause to think about very often.
The Mindful Presenter will acknowledge, name and own the voice as a part of them. It’s far easier to manage something which you feel you have a relationship with and some element of control over. Rather than being regularly chastised by some strange voice that you constantly turn your back on it makes more sense to me to at least acknowledge it and open up a dialogue with it. It’s also easier to have a conversation with someone who has a name.
I’ve named my inner critic TAZ.
One of my favourite cartoons as a child was one called ‘The Tasmanian Devil’. This was a devious and destructive little character that would spin like a vortex causing havoc and chaos everywhere he went.
If I leave my inner critic unchecked and unmanaged he can often feel like the Tasmanian devil of my mind so I call him TAZ.
That allows me to be aware that he exists. He has always been there and has over the years already done a great deal of damage left unchecked, so now I have to have to the courage to speak to him. Given that it was a cartoon character that I really liked, found hilariously funny and knew he wasn’t real, he never scared me.
In that knowledge, I can have the same relationship with TAZ, my inner critic and sometimes he can even be quite entertaining.
Give your inner critic a name before you take the following steps.
Step 2: Talk to it
You wouldn’t believe the things TAZ says to me. If I listened to, agreed with and believed every word he told me I would probably never step out of my house. I certainly would never be able to present or speak in public.
If I let TAZ do all of the talking as I did for many years then I give him all of my power. I don’t do that anymore, we have a conversation where sometimes I very politely and respectfully tell him to shut up.
I never ignore him.
I always listen carefully and then tell him what I think. Often I will tell him he is simply exaggerating or even lying to me. Sometimes I tell him that what he is saying is nonsense and a great deal of the time I simply tell him to leave me alone because I’m not in the mood for his antics.
I always thank him for his opinion and for keeping me on my guard so that I can remember to be the best that I can. I always, always close our conversation by reminding him that I’m the boss and that he gets to do what I tell him and not the other way around.
Step 3: Give it a rest
Sometimes TAZ has an insatiable appetite for noise and chaos and even when I tell him to calm down he doesn’t, so I have to make him. I’m mindful of the fact that I can never put him to sleep completely but I can get him to slow down and ‘chill out’.
I meditate twice every day and also for a few minutes just before I stand to speak.
This short article The Neuroscience of Why Meditation Works explains more and offers a very simple meditation exercise for you to being with.
Please don’t make the mistake that so many people do and try it just once. It takes commitment, discipline and practice but your inner critic will thank you for sticking with it and you’ll thank yourself too.
I’ve tried countless remedies and antidotes over the years but the only solution I have found that works to calm TAZ down is to meditate. People have been meditating for centuries and with very good reason. It works and it has been scientifically proven over many years as a way to slow down, calm down and begin to transcend thought. It’s an extremely simple and extraordinarily powerful thing to do, yet most people still don’t do it.
The most common reason we hear in our presentation workshops every day is ‘I don’t have time’.
Our response is always the same ‘find the time’.
If you have an inner critic like TAZ, he has the energy and determination to challenge you all day long. You can talk to him all day long if you’d like but I wouldn’t recommend it; make the time to give him a rest.
Something fascinating happens when you find the time and discipline to make this a regular practice and part of your daily life. Your inner critic gradually takes a liking to the sense of peace and is left a little subdued for far longer throughout the day, especially when you stand to present.
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