How our thinking can impact our decisions… by Fiona Buckley
How our thinking can impact our decisions…
by Fiona Buckley
When making decisions, our inner critic can be our friend or our foe. On a good week it can act as a motivator to us and really assist us drive healthy decisions and get things done but on a bad week it can derail us and cause us to overthink. This derailment can spiral and before we know it we are dealing with fiction and not fact.
The inner critic refers to the voices in our head and according to Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss we have seven types of these critics.

When left to fester, these unprocessed thoughts can act as serious blockers to our self-improvement and self-development. These internal critics may cause us to make irrational decisions or to not make a decision at all. Let’s examine each of them below:

1. The Perfectionist

This inner critic is often the most well recognised one and sets the bar so high in your head that these high standards can often be unmet which then sets unrealistic expectations.

Opportunities go by all the time when this critic is busy “perfecting” things. This critic wants you to do everything flawlessly. This can cause overthinking, stress and anxiety and make us less responsive to change. In the long run it can make us less agile. This can really slow down decision making, often leading to procrastination.

2. The Underminer
This is one of the most dangerous and self-sabotaging critics. It is also one of the more well resonated critics and often comes alive in the evening time, following a day’s work. This inner critic fears rejection and warns you off doing things so as not to get “hurt”.

It can undermine your ambition, goals and keep you stuck in one place, prohibiting you from progressing forward. It continually under-mines your self-confidence and self-esteem and traps you in a perpetual comfort zone.

3. Inner Controller

This critics task is to control impulses and when you give in to impulsive behaviour it criticises you. This often comes into play in work when you speak up at a meeting or say too much and later regret/overthink it and replay the entire meeting in your head.

Equally if you don’t speak up at a meeting, the same inner controller could chastise you for not speaking up and owning your voice. Our emotional intelligence is also very relevant here and how we regulate and control our emotional impulses. Another example is how we sometimes take a lot of time to redraft email responses as we listen to our inner controller critic. At times, the Perfectionist critic can also intertwine here with this critic.

4. The Destroyer
This is the voice that tells you that you are a failure and you’re not worth it. It directly attacks your self-worth and is the most debilitating critic. It can often work in tandem with the underminer and a critic that is often repeated internally on loop. This one is self-deprecating and tells you not to apply for jobs, not to volunteer for things as you won’t get picked etc and infiltrates your self-confidence at its very core. Anyone who is prone to confidence dips or has low self-esteem will often relinquish to this critic.
5. The Guilt Tripper
This critic is unable to forgive you for wrong decisions you have made in the past or people you have possibly hurt you in the past. It is often concerned about relationships and tries to protect you from repeating past mistakes by making sure you never forget or feel free. If you have ever made a wrong career or job move this voice reminds you. If you have had a challenging conflict with someone this voice recaps it for you when you have any current or present dealings with that person. It triggers your past to be in the present so you are not free of the feelings. It basically prevents us from moving on and can have a causal effect on present/future decision making.
6. Taskmaster
This critic wants you to work hard and fights against your inner procrastinator. It’s fear is that you will be judged as mediocre or lazy if you don’t work hard. This often works alongside the Perfectionist critic. It reminds you of your to-do list and goals. If this voice is a positive one it can drive us but if its negative it can make us feel overwhelmed and not worthy.
7. The Conformist/Moulder
This critic wants you to conform. People often feel pressure from parents, teachers, mentors and loved ones to follow a certain career trajectory that has been moulded for them. Entrepreneurs and corporate mavericks are known not to listen to this inner citric. The culture that you work in also comes into play here. This can have a detrimental impact to your decisions.

We can have all seven inner critics but usually there are a few more dominant or frequent ones that will surface over others. Certain contextual situations can trigger certain critics and then they may revert back to a dormant status for some time. It is also worth noting that when we are tired this can fuel the negative inner critic.

We all have daily demands at work and home- meetings, emails, deadlines, reports, childcare, cooking etc. Equally we have resources: our energy, patience, commitment, experience, skills etc. When our demands exceed our resources we can get depleted and tired.

So what we can do about these Inner Critics?
  1. Create an awareness that these inner critics exist- bring them into our consciousness.
  2. Recognise that not all seven will be present in each and every one of us, so isolate which ones are most prevalent for you and which ones are blocking you.
  3. Start journaling/tracking when these critics are at their worst.
  4. Try to track back why these inner critics are prevalent for you. How long are they there? Do you remember a time where you didn’t have them? Sometimes it can be helpful to talk this out with someone.
  5. Develop an action plan to help manage the inner critic through self-coaching, reflection or using an independent coach/mentor.
  6. Start using positive self-talk to combat the inner critics and consciously reframe your thoughts with positive affirmations. This can be done daily if required.
  7. Use the technique “Fact or Fiction”. This technique asks us to look at the facts when the inner critic negatively impacts us. All too often we look at fiction, which is a worry, a fear over something that may have happened in the past or will happen in the future.

It is often irrational overthought anxiety or a prognostication of the future but it is not bound in reality. Fact is Fact, it is right or wrong and is objective. The sooner we apply fact to the inner critic, the sooner it quietens down as we put rationale in its place.

Aside from the inner critic, we also have four Intelligence centres within ourselves that assist us in making decisions. These are the head, the heart, the gut and the feet. The head comprises of the logical/factual side and the heart is where our feelings/ emotions are housed. There are approximately 30 feelings/emotions we can experience day to day. The gut is that “pit in your stomach” feeling and is often where our values/morale’s lie- that feeling where we know something is right or wrong. We commonly refer to it as the gut instinct. The last intelligence centre is the feet- this is where we make the next step on a decision i.e. set up a meeting/send that email /say no etc.

When we are due to make a decision one of these intelligence centres can take over and this is often completely in our unconsciousness. For example, the head and gut might be synched up together but the heart takes us in a different direction.

Let’s take the example of resigning from a job, this can be a really difficult decision for most people. The heart houses the emotion of loyalty, fear and relationships and these emotions can stop us from making that key decision to leave a job, despite the head and gut advising us otherwise. It is important to run key decisions through all of these intelligence centres to tap into what is really going on within ourselves. When we do this, we can ensure we are monitoring the inputs into our decision making.

By nature, many of us will be slow and cautious decision makers and some will be more impulsive and quick off the mark. This is often deeply ingrained as part of who we are, however we can learn to flex this through developing both our awareness and skills. Our inner critic and our intelligence centres are only two of the areas that can input into our decision making. There exists many more variables and elements that can impact our outcomes.

Headshot of Fiona Buckley
Fiona Buckley
Work Behaviourist, Key note Speaker & Empowerment Coach