07.31.09 Issue #386 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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How Harsh is Your Inner Critic?

If you’re a high achiever, it’s likely that you have an inner critic. You know what I mean. That uninvited guest with the running commentary about the things you do and say. You’ve heard it, those rumblings in your head that have a lot of influence over you. The words are rarely flattering. More often they are harsh judgments or disparaging remarks.

Sure, the inner critic can be motivating, rousting you out of bed in the morning to get to the gym, demanding that you attend your daughter’s ballet recital at the end of an extremely busy day when you’d rather be home. This version of the inner critic is generally healthy. Unfortunately there is tendency in high achievers to merge the always work hard mantra with the it’s never really good enough attitude. While both will interfere with your ability to relax, the latter really makes life a battle.

Unrelenting self-criticism that accompanies unrealistic expectations are the breeding ground for a host of negative emotions - especially chronic anger, anxiety and depression. These disrupt work and take attention away from the important tasks at hand.

Even if you try to convince yourself that the negativity and doubt in your head don’t exist, it can be distracting and can drain you of a lot of energy and focus. If the inner critic is always telling you it’s not good enough, it is impossible to enjoy what you’re doing. On the opposite side, feeling good greases the mind for mental efficiency, helps you to understand information better and enables you to make complex judgments more easily.

How harsh is your inner critic? Here is an abbreviated version of the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale by Weissman and Beck. For each of the following statements, select the number that best represents how you feel most of the time.

1 - Totally Disagree; 2 - Moderately Disagree; 3 - Slightly Disagree; 4 - Neutral;
5 - Slightly Agree; 6 - Moderately Agree; 7 - Totally Agree

  1. It is difficult to be happy unless one is good-looking, intelligent, rich and creative.
  2. People will probably think less of me if I make a mistake.
  3. If I do not do well all of the time, people will not respect me.
  4. If a person asks for help it is a sign of weakness.
  5. If I do not do as well as other people it means I am a weak person.
  6. If I fail at my work then I am a failure as a person.
  7. If you cannot do something well, there is little point in doing it at all.
  8. If someone disagrees with me, it probably indicates that he does not like me.
  9. If I fail partly it is as bad as being a complete failure.
  10. If other people know what you are really like, they will think less of you.
  11. If I don’t set the highest standards for myself, I am likely to end up a second-rate person.
  12. If I am to be a worthwhile person, I must be the best in at least one way.
  13. People who have good ideas are better than those who do not.
  14. I should be upset if I make a mistake.
  15. If I ask a question it makes me look stupid.

A total score of 24 or less represents a low level of self-criticism. You probably don’t berate yourself. A score of 39 is average. The good news is you may have trained your inner critic to work with you. If your score totals 54 and above, it’s likely that you have a high level of self-criticism and perfectionism. Over the next 1 to 2 weeks, take note of all the negative things you say to yourself. It is especially useful to write them down each day and determine if there is a pattern or a theme to what your inner critic is telling you.  When the drive to achieve gets hijacked by perfectionist thinking, it’s time to tame the beast.

In my next article, I’ll give you some strategies for controlling the inner critic.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like information about any of her practice-building seminars, contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

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