Struggling to quiet the voice inside your head that always something negative to say? The thing about negative self-talk is that it can sometimes feel like an isolating experience, but you aren’t the only person who is battling their inner saboteur. Most of the advice that we get when it comes to dealing with that inner voice, is learning to quiet and ignore it. While in some cases this can work, it is a short term solution that doesn’t guarantee that our inner saboteur won’t come back to haunt us later.
Your Inner Saboteur
I first heard this phrase while binge-watching RuPaul’s Drag Race.
The Emmy Award winning reality TV series is competition-based and features a crop of America’s best Drag Queens handpicked by the Queen herself – RuPaul. On the show, Ru (as she’s so fondly called by everyone else) does a workroom walkthrough in between challenges while the competing queens prepare their garments, review their scripts, or otherwise get ready to walk the runway before facing elimination.
In every single walkthrough, I can count on RuPaul having an inspiring chat with at least one queen who feels overwhelmed and is battling their inner critic and struggling to deal with the negative self-talk that comes from being in such a high pressure competition. Not only are they vying for the title of America’s Next Drag Super Star, but there’s also a $100,000 cash prize at stake! Needless to say, imposter syndrome sets in heavily and some fall victim to their own inner saboteur.
The most common advice that RuPaul gives each queen every single time is, “you gotta take that, and own it.” But, how can you own such negative comments and transform it into your new best friend?
What is your inner saboteur saying?
Describing the feelings that come along with constantly hearing the same negative thoughts on a loop day in day out is extraordinarily difficult, for me at least. However, it’s important to tackle this process with a little curiosity.
You know that the thoughts occurring in your head are negative, but can you pinpoint exactly what that voice in your head is trying to tell you?
Grab a journal or open your notes app and spend a few minutes listening to what your inner saboteur has to say. Why? Because therein lies the key to your sweet freedom. Within each of the negative thoughts you can identify you will be able to spot the doubts, limiting beliefs, fears, expectations, and insecurities that are holding you back from showing up in more empowering ways.
Whose voice is that?
I remember the first time my coach asked me this question in response to a negative thought that had me in a paralysing chokehold, and it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
With 12,000+ thoughts running through our mind daily, it’s easy to lose track of where you picked up the majority of them in the first place. Our brains work in such interesting ways, soaking up everything around us and internalising it in our heads in our own voices.
Asking yourself, “whose voice is that?” helps you to put some distance between yourself and those negative thoughts. When reflecting on what your inner saboteur is saying, you might be surprised to find that you don’t actually identify with those thoughts and that maybe you heard a friend, family member, or even a celebrity say it and somehow it became part of your inner script.
Once you’re able to identify the origin story for some of your negative thoughts, you can find better ways to learn from your inner saboteur, and even befriend it.
What is my Inner Saboteur trying to protect me from?
Again, through a lens of curiosity, you can determine if your negative self-talk is coming from a place within that doesn’t want you to get hurt. It is not uncommon that part of you (read: ego) is worried that by even attempting to get out of your comfort zone and do something different you fail, embarrass yourself, or even get hurt by others.
Look at the thoughts you’ve written down that did not come from an external source, and ask yourself, “How is this serving me?”
Just like with a best friend, take into consideration what your inner saboteur has to say and determine if there is a valid point being made here or if you would be better off replacing that thought with one that better fits your desired outcome.
For example, if you’re feeling stuck and overwhelmed because that voice in your head keeps telling you that you are not good enough, start by getting clear on what purpose that thought is currently serving. If you can’t identify one outside of just keeping you in a loop of fear, ask yourself “How would I like to feel instead?” and reframe that thought from “I am not enough” to “I already have what it takes” or some other affirming thought to counteract the negative one.
Your inner saboteur might come off strong, but upon closer inspection you can learn a thing or two from it and use that information to set yourself for success on your journey to achieving your goals.
Just like the contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race often are told to embrace their inner critic, you can do the same and use these three steps to meet him/her and find out what is really keeping you back and take a more proactive approach to repairing and creating a strong foundation for such an important relationship with yourself.