8.12.11 Issue #492 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter
 

Nancy Haller, P.h. D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Snap Out of It!
Nancy Haller, Ph.D., Leadership Coach McKenzie Management

It’s estimated that the average person makes between 300-400 self-evaluations per day. Certainly it can be beneficial to know what you're doing wrong and what you could be doing better. It helps you to improve. You vow to work harder and smarter. Unfortunately, for many high-achievers that inner voice becomes the inner terrorist who wields tortuous self criticism. 

That inner voice was originally designed to protect you. Freud called it the super-ego, the internalized parent who keeps you in line, warns you about doing things that might be embarrassing or intervenes before you get into trouble. The trouble is that the inner critic doesn’t know when to stop. Left untamed, it can run rickshaw over your physical and emotional well being. It blocks you from being more creative or trying new things. And it definitely interferes with relationships.

Dentists are notoriously perfectionists who expect to be top-notch at everything they do. On the positive side, this bodes well for high standards, precision, accuracy, and follow-through. However, perfectionists also tend to be highly self-critical, of themselves and those around them. They are anxious about meeting their own unrealistic expectations and routinely feel discouraged when they are not perfect. And even when they give themselves permission to feel good about something, it is frequently short-lived. Discounting successes with “It was dumb luck” and “It could have been better” are frequent refrains of a harsh inner critic as it focuses on what you didn’t do (or should have done) instead of celebrating what you did well.

If you believe this kind of self-criticism is good, think again. Research shows that people who beat themselves up have more depression and anxiety, they are more self-indulgent, and they have a lower sense of well-being. It’s clearly in your best interest to stop the self-whipping. Mistakes are a part of life, and resiliency is a necessary leadership competency.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you analyze and critique yourself relentlessly?
  • Are you judgmental about your flaws and inadequacies?
  • Do you compare yourself to others and feel inferior?
  • Do you sweat the small stuff vs. focusing on bigger issues that really matter?
  • Do you drive yourself with fear?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then harsh self-criticism plays a role in your life. Fortunately, there is a way out. Telling yourself to stop thinking negative thoughts is not enough. Nor are the “touchy-feely” affirmations of the Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley played by Al Franken - “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

The first step to beating the negative thinking is to monitor your thoughts. This is difficult because being self-critical is second nature to you. You’ve had years of practice. It happens so fast you don’t realize it. It’s a habit. One way of making yourself more aware is to put a handful of paper clips in your pocket. Every time you make a disparaging remark to yourself, link one paper clip to another. You may be surprised to see how long the chain of paper clips becomes by the end of the day.

Next, identify the most common negative thought, the one that is most distressing. For example, “I am terrible at managing my employees.” Then, create a positive substitution that is objective and factual. You might use the following (if it’s true): “I was trained to be a dentist and managing a team of people is difficult (or new) to me. I am learning how to be a better leader.

Now, place a thin rubber band around your wrist. It shouldn’t be too loose or too tight. Every time you are aware of your “terrible” thought, snap the rubber band and replace it with the neutralizing statement. Remind yourself that you are not willing to tolerate the unproductive self-criticism. Practice throughout the day for several days. The unwanted thoughts will slowly diminish as you attend to changing your focus of attention.

Loosen the grip of self-critical thoughts. They are often the barriers that stand between you and greater success. Mark Twain said it best:  “I have been through some terrible things in my life and most of them never happened.” Stop beating yourself up for perceived failures and redirect that thinking to the place of possibility

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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