Find a Parade and Get In Front of It

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Do you ever feel like everyone around you has figured out some big secret – and you’re the only one who hasn’t? In my family we talk about this feeling as if we have our noses pressed up against the glass, watching from the outside and wishing we could be on inside instead.

Lately my Inner Critic has been on high alert – telling me how behind I am. Turns out one of my most powerful Inner Critics (we all have many) loves to tell me I’m behind on things….behind on my deadlines, behind compared to the accomplishments of my peers, generally behind the times. Life is a race, this voice tells me, and I’m always in last place.

So this Inner Critic’s been preaching and poking at me this week, reminding me that I’m behind in some race I didn’t know I was running. But what’s the race for? Why am I running so hard?

As far as I can tell, it has to do with the swirling together of money, entitlement, courage and control. But honestly, I’m still a bit fuzzy on it all. That’s the crazy thing about these Inner Critics: they don’t have to be rational. In fact, they’re anything but. Instead, they create paralysis through confusion, sowing fear and distrust under the guise of safety and self-preservation. That’s their job.

What I do know is that when the voice of this Inner Critic plays in my head, it’s practically impossible for me to hear anything else. Like a white noise machine turned up to 11, I can sense other voices – helpful voices – want to break through, but all I see is lips moving with no sound coming out.

When faced with a situation like this, I’ve learned how important it is to pause, take a deep breath, and get curious. Without judgment I ask: what’s going on here? And then I start talking to myself (yes, out loud).

This stream-of-consciousness self-talk can feel silly at first, but I’m often blown away by the wisdom that comes out when I push my brain out of the way and just start talking. It takes a few sentences, and a few ‘Whys’ – but more often than not, the truth I’m seeking appears faster than I expected.

This morning I took my own advice and got curious about this new race I didn’t realize I was running. Turns out it connects to some advice I heard on a podcast the other day: “Find a parade and get in front of it.” The guest, acclaimed technologist and venture capitalist Caterina Fake, used this metaphor to describe how to think about identifying emergent trends that can transform our culture and society. At the time I was listening, I found her thinking inspiring and actionable – yes! I thought, that’s how I want to build my business so that I can create the impact I’m hoping to achieve.

Fast forward a couple of days and I realize now that my Inner Critic heard this advice, too, and saw how energized and enlivened I was. And what did it do? Distort the message. You can’t find a parade, Ashley, it said. Because all the parades are over. YOU’RE LATE TO THE PARTY.

Suddenly, I saw confirmation of this message everywhere I looked: new products and services launching that looked a lot like early ideas I’d been germinating; a couple of No’s from potential clients that shook my confidence; even social media accounts touting zillions of followers that I didn’t know I wanted….it was clear: I was behind. And I’d probably never catch up.

When I was in coaches training, we learned a lot about this Inner Critic. But we spent even more time understanding and getting to know our Inner Leader. Yes, it turns out that each of us has a leader within us that knows our true self – an infinitely wise, compassionate being who’s been there and back, who knows and loves the essence of us without judgment, and who unflinchingly champions our right to live an authentic, fulfilling life.

My Inner Leader always has the same powerful and unwavering message for me:

Keep up the good work.

You are enough.

Onward.

And boy, reconnecting with those three sentences is all I need to conquer any kind of Inner Critic. Reconnecting with those three sentences grounds me not only in a new headspace, but a new heart space. One where I can recognize the journey that I’m on. Where I can find compassion and love for myself, as well as appreciation for how far I’ve come. And ultimately where I can trust that the only race I’m running is the one I choose to be in. And I’m only running with myself.

Whenever we pursue change – whether that’s a shift at work, saying yes to a new relationship, or saying no to something or someone else that no longer serves us – we can expect our Inner Critics to show up. These voices will tell us they’re trying to protect us, but really they’re trying to paralyze us. And unfortunately I don’t believe that we can ever really, truly silence them. But there are ways to turn down their volume. And it starts with getting quiet, getting curious, and listening for the answers that are deep within us.

What does your Inner Leader know is true for you? What whispers of guidance does she or he tell you when you get quiet enough to hear it?

Onward,

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Curious about developing your Inner Leader? I believe it’s such a powerful inner resource that It’s one of the first things I do with new coaching clients. Book a free sample session with me to explore your Inner Leader and find ways to tap into the words of wisdom it has to share with you.