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My experience with fighting the Saboteur (Inner Critic)

You might have experienced your inner voice saying, "You're not good enough, you're too old, too big, too small, not pretty enough, not rich enough…who are you to think you can make it?". Sounds familiar?  

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This is the voice of a self-sabotaging inner voice that is a master of judging yourself, others, or circumstances. Often operating as a structure that seems to protect us, it, in fact, keeps us from moving forward and getting what we truly want.

Knowing your Saboteur is crucial because it can prevent us from making the right life decisions.

Our brains are programmed to hold the status quo because change is perceived as dangerous = "Warning! Something new and different is about to happen!"

The more significant the change (e.g., new job, new partner, new life decisions), the louder the Saboteur's voice becomes.

  • Case Study

In one of our sessions, my client Dylan mentioned that he wants to work on exploring more of his inner voices. He said, "Every time I see other people outside, I start to judge them and compare them to myself. This not only stresses me out, but these thoughts are dominating my life and holding me back from moving forward in my life.

Five ways to help clients deal with their inner critic

  1. Simply acknowledge the Saboteur

The best way to get aware of your Saboteur is to shine a spotlight on it. Once you hear your inner voice judging yourself or others, say, "This is my inner critic (or Saboteur) talking," The more often you catch your Saboteur, the weaker it will get.

  1. Personify your Saboteur

You are not your Saboteur. Your inner critic is a personality inside you, and by giving your Saboteur a name, it gets easier to separate it from you.

  1. Give the Saboteur a job to do or a place to go

Be playful and experiment with your Saboteur. Once you recognize your inner critic, say, "Hi Saboteur, what about a trip to Hawaii for the rest of the day? You sound like you have worked hard all week and could use a vacation."

  1. Talk to your Saboteur and move it out of the way

Ask yourself, "What do I want to say to my Saboteur that will have him step back and let me continue with my daily agenda?"

  1. Refocus on your life vision

When you hear complaints or concerns from your Saboteur, focus on your vision/purpose in life: "What do I really want?" or "Imagine this situation one year from now; how do you want it to be?"

Result of coaching

During the session with Dylan, we explored his Saboteur (he named him Detractor) and co-designed an action plan for him.

Whenever he recognizes his Saboteur, he'll say, "Hi Detractor, I caught you; you are not welcome right now, I’l send you away.”

In the next session, Dylan told me that he had already experienced a feeling of "Freedom." He is more relaxed and finds more balance in his life. In addition, he doesn't have the impression that his Saboteur is dominating his daily life anymore.

Working with your clients on finding their Saboteur will help them recognize and find more balance in life.

In the Co-Active training, you will learn much more about your Saboteur to help your clients explore the inner voice that holds them back from reaching professional success and personal fulfillment in their life.

About the author
Matthias Hombauer is a Co-Active Coach and former Molecular Biologist. He loves working with creative minds who want to bring their vision and dreams alive. He lives with his two kids (Mia and Noa) and his wife in Vienna, Austria.

Matthias Hombauer - 9 August 2022
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