And where are they taking you? To dark places you don’t want to be, where you feel anxious, afraid and small? Or to places where there seems to be big thick walls and ceilings to keep you locked up? Or to places where you feel frustrated and annoyed with yourself, that you can’t reach your own standards? Or to places where positive voices are drowned, belittled or mocked?
Maybe these descriptions are too dramatic for some of you, maybe you only have these inner voices taking over sometimes. When they do take over, though, they take the driver’s seat and it’s difficult to take back control.
Here are some signs that your inner voices have taken over the driver’s seat.
- You hold yourself back. You regularly talk yourself out of doing something new, different or unusual, saying things like “that’s not me”, “I can’t”, “I shouldn’t”
- You are overly critical of yourself. Others tell you that you are doing fine or even well and you still put yourself down.
- You find it difficult to receive praise. You find ways to deflect acknowledgement – that it wasn’t just you, that you were lucky, that it wasn’t such a big thing.
- You feel awkward to name your strengths. You feel like you have many weaknesses to fix and lose sight of the strengths you already have.
- You compare yourself to others. You are not yet comfortable with doing things your way, which may not be what others may do. You work hard to fit in.
- You create reasons why you don’t succeed. You believe you can’t succeed because you are not like others you perceive to be successful.
- You have perfectionist tendencies. You don’t share, submit or publish your ideas because it’s not quite ‘there’ yet.
- You worry a lot about what others think. Your fear of being seen as incompetent, feeling embarrassed or exposed causes you to hold back from speaking up, sharing or publishing.
These voices get even louder when you try doing something new. It is a cunning strategy adopted by the inner voices to keep you exactly where you are.
I’ve referred to these in The Internal Glass Ceiling, how limiting inner voices can create a glass ceiling, bamboo ceiling, all other ceilings inside ourselves. When these inner voices are in the driver’s seat, people may stop themselves from putting themselves forward for promotions, asking for new opportunities, meeting new people, sharing what they know, learning new skills and behaviours. Some stay in their comfort zones, others only stretch themselves occasionally and others give up before trying.
When internal glass ceilings are not addressed, organisational efforts on talent / leadership development, diversity and inclusion becomes ineffective at best, stalled at worst because talented individuals hold back or are unable to perform at their best.
Over the last few months as I spoke with hundreds of people at talks, workshops, many asked what to do with these self-limiting voices. It suggests to me that many people are affected by these inner voices taking the driver’s seat. These voices can be incredibly forceful and sometimes very sneaky. Before you know it, they are sitting in the driver’s seat and driving us around to places we may not want to go.
Something interesting I’ve learned through my own and others’ experiences and personal development is that many of these voices are not yours in the first place and that they don’t go away so easily. What you can do, though, is to take them off the driver’s seat and have strategies to stop them from pushing you off the driver’s seat.
What kind of voices have you had take over your driver’s seat? What have you done with them?