We’ve all got a cast of inner characters happily nattering away in our heads – telling us we’re imposters, not good enough, could do better. Here’s how to work out just who made them the boss of you – and make yourself the Chair of your own internal board.
Most highly successful people struggle with an inner critical voice that prays on fears and insecurities. Let’s face it nearly all of us do! Coaches call these potent, self-inflicted tormentors ‘saboteurs’. They tell us we won’t succeed, so we give up trying. We mustn’t get too big for our boots, so we disappear. Or to always expect the worst so we spend unnecessary time feeling anxious.
Our saboteurs undoubtedly cause us mental and emotional distress and stop us improving our lives and reaching our potential. But sometimes the sneaky devils present themselves as beneficial. You know the sort of thing ‘I’m only successful because I’m a perfectionist and have such high standards’. It’s very hard to challenge your perfectionist saboteur if you think that it is beneficial to you and is the reason you’ve done so well at work. So you develop blind spots around what they are stopping you from doing. People with a dominant perfectionist saboteur quite often won’t try new things or new experiences because they think they might not be ‘good enough’ at it. So your perfectionism becomes a blocker and a barrier.
The bad news is that you won’t defeat your boardroom full of saboteurs by meeting them head on, they are too clever and devious for that. But you can prevent them staging a boardroom coup in your head. The key is to recognise them and find strategies to reduce their impact.
There as many versions of saboteurs there are people. This is because we carefully craft our own inner bullies based on our past experiences – parental expectations, cultural messages, and outdated survival mechanisms learned years ago.
Most of us can identify with having The Judge – the person that that stands in judgment and finds fault with self, others, and life circumstances. And the more harshly you allow it to judge yourself, the more you unconsciously impose those same impossible standards on others. We then nearly all have at least one co-conspirator adding to the negative noise in our heads.
Stanford lecturer, Shirzad Chamine has categorised 10 common saboteurs.
- The Judge (which we all have)
To help you identify and recognise your dominant saboteurs take this free Saboteur Self-Assessment https://www.positiveintelligence.com/assessments/