It’s been a challenging few weeks for me. Not because the work isn’t wonderful (because it is – we have some of the nicest customers and colleagues and we are delivering fulfilling and meaningful programmes) but because I set myself the task of braving the tendering process for much larger contracts for my business, Boo Coaching and Consulting and we have received a few of those “…we regret to inform you” emails! I know it is the next logical step as I grow the business but it has been the toughest because my inner critic got quite loud!

A year ago when we didn’t get anywhere close to winning a major contract I was devastated, it really did break me and I cannot tell you the amount of times I looked at the job market to see if something way less stressful was out there! It took me months to look at other opportunities as the process was too stressful/complex/tricky etc. I didn’t believe I was capable and I really questioned whether running a business was actually the right thing for me to do so I allowed my inner critic to become loud and very distracting! It was not the most fun of times for me…

Before the summer I guest hosted a tweetup in partnership with Northern Power Women where we discussed the inner critic and encouraged others to get involved in the discussion, share ideas on how to dial it back and what you can do to build up your resilience levels. It generated some great conversations and was, I am sure, heartening for others participating (including me) to learn that we are not alone and there are some tricks to get back to believing in yourself. Here are a few that might be of use…

1. Ask yourself “Would I say that to somebody else?” the answer will most likely be NO so watch how harshly you treat yourself and make small steps to shift your thinking through reframing the statements – it won’t happen overnight but you can become kinder to yourself over time.

2. Acknowledge NOT ignore! When your inner critic is banging on with statements like “you shouldn’t follow up that contact it might look pushy” or “you mustn’t step onto that stage because you could fail” or “there’s no point in completing that bid because a better company will win it anyway” it is important to acknowledge the thought and remind yourself that it is NOT your belief but one that has grown and developed out of other experiences. Maybe your school days, maybe your peer group or performance in a previous role?

3. Reflect daily – notice when you caught your inner critic before it became too overpowering and write it down so you can head it off next time. Keep a journal within reach and scribble stuff down when you get a chance.

4. Look after yourself – my inner critic is at its loudest when I haven’t been the kindest to my body. For me it’s lack of sleep caused by worrying about the business that leads to the loud voice. It is a tricky cycle to break for a small business owner. I am certainly not going to preach here about hitting the gym daily and eating clean – I am far from that! I do, however, notice a difference in my mood and confidence when I have taken better care of myself – give it a try and see what works for you.

So, I have been following these tips and working hard to be kinder to myself. Last week I received 2 of those emails and I didn’t fall apart. My response was a world away from the heartbreak a year ago, my inner critic was still there but at a much lower volume and guess what..? Today we received a “…we are pleased to inform you” email.