In this episode, Naomi shares her 4-step process for processing fears and the inner critic. She does so using her fear of public speaking as an example or case study.
Before listening to this episode, you might like to download her free Process Fears and the Inner Critic infographic to refer to or use in the future.
Listen to this episode
What you will learn:
- Naomi’s framework for processing your fears and the stories of your inner critic – particularly those that are getting in the way of you achieving your goals or living the life that you want to live.
Featured / Referenced:
- Process Fears and the Inner Critic infographic
- Megan Dalla-Camina
- My Speaking page
- My Free Resources
- Geraldine Barkworth
Prefer to read? Download the full episode transcript:
Read the full episode transcript:
You are listening to the Dream For Others® podcast with Naomi Arnold, Episode 8.
Dream For Me, Dream For You, Dream For Others®. And now your host, award-winning life and business coach, Naomi Arnold…
Hello there dear listener,
Thank you so much for joining me today.
The topic that I’m going to talk to you about in this episode is one that you may have heard spoken about many, many times before.
However, like so many things, it can sometimes takes us a while to find a theory or an approach or a framework or a practice that works for us.
And sometimes it can take us a while for a message to truly sink in, even if we’ve heard it before a number of times.
Sometimes we just need to hear it explained in a slightly different way, by maybe a different person, with a different tone or way of explaining things, in order for it to really click or awaken a deeper knowing of sorts.
So the topic I’m here to chat with you about is how to process your fears and the stories of your inner critic – particularly those that are getting in the way of you achieving your goals or living the life that you want to live.
There are many different models and exercises out there for how you can work through fears and the inner critic. But the one I wanted to share with you, is one that I’ve been using myself for pretty much as long as I can remember.
I used to consciously take myself through the process of writing down the steps and the questions that I’m going to share with you today and responding to them in my journal, every time I felt a fear get in the way of something I want or every time I felt my inner critic might be holding me back.
With practice over time, I’ve got so good with this process, that I generally don’t need to write it down anymore – it just happens very quickly in my mind, a lot of the time without me even acknowledging so, it’s so well practiced and effective for me.
I give this framework to many of my, both business coaching and life coaching, clients as it often helps them too.
I’ll share it with you today and then I’ll cross my fingers that it speaks to you too.
Now if you would like an infographic that summarises this 4-step process for you to refer back to at a later date or to put somewhere where you can easily access it when you feel a fear or the inner critic rear its head, you can find one on the Free Resources page of my website or in the show notes for this episode.
Okay, so the first step in the process is AWARE. You must of course first become aware that there is a fear holding you back or your inner critic is getting in the way. In doing so, you want to become super AWARE of everything your inner critic or negative voice is saying to you. What is it’s story? What are you scared of? And what triggered it to speak up in the first place?
When I explain this framework, I like to use the example of public speaking. You see, I’ve had a phobia of public speaking since I was in high school. I can pinpoint the very moment it started.
I was standing in front of my English class delivering a speech on the use of phallic symbols in The Footy Show, an Australian football show.
I remember feeling the physical sensation of nerves and fear as I spoke. The heat and the trembling – and from that moment forth, every time I did public speaking, including even today, a rash spreading up my chest, neck and face. And people would comment on the rash, because feeling it wasn’t enough, they had to tell me it was there too.
So from that moment forward I have feared and avoided public speaking, despite getting top marks on that speech, and positive feedback every time I did speaking since.
When I started my own business, I started to get enquiries about speaking and I always found a reason to automatically say “no”. Having a little one at home, was often the best excuse ever – I didn’t have a babysitter.
Then one day, I started to question myself here. Do I really hate public speaking? Maybe if I gave it a try, I would like it? Maybe my avoidance of it is not helping my business growth?
My business coach and strategist at the time Megan Dalla-Camina, also challenged me to think about it, as she felt my message and my work would have a greater impact or reach if I added speaking to my business model, let alone the revenue benefit that this could bring.
She challenged me to start by publishing a basic speaking page on my website and listing a handful of topics that I speak on, plus encouraged me in our final session in that series to start identifying some events or people that I could pitch too.
Now I did the former, I launched the site with some topics – but I avoided the latter and didn’t pitch anyone. I was still resisting the idea. I was still fearful.
Then one day, an email landed in my inbox from CQ University, the university that I did my Bachelor of Psychology with Honours through. They were inviting me as an alumni to speak at their staff conference on the topic of resilience.
For the first time in a long time, I observed my inner critic. I became aware of some of the fears that came up for me and the stories it would tell.
I get too nervous and they’ll notice how nervous I am. They’ll think I’m a poor quality speaker. They won’t like what I have to share. I’m an introvert. I don’t do crowds.
I’m terrified. I might stuff this up so bad that I won’t ever be able to show my face at CQUniversity again.
I reflected on the things my negative voice has said to me before I’ve walked up to the stage in the past. The physiological sensations I feel. The concern that I’ll forget what I have to say. Or that my mouth will get so dry that I’ll be unable to speak. That people won’t receive me well and will find me boring.
Then I transitioned to the second step in the 4-step process, which is to ASSESS. Are the stories I’m telling myself really true? Are they the full truth? A part truth? Is there any evidence to support that they’re true or not?
Heck yes, I will get nervous and the audience will very likely notice. So there were some truths. But I’ve survived my nerves in the past and have got wonderful feedback.
I know that my views on this topic have supported my clients, so why couldn’t they resonate with a larger audience when I was speaking?
So overall, I was able to recognise that my inner critic was potentially telling some porkies and was definitely being melodramatic.
Now the third step is to REFRAME. What is an equally or more plausible outcome or truth? What is a more healthy and helpful reframe? If I was my most confident self, what would I say?
Naomi, being nervous is okay – some of the best speakers in the world have a fear of public speaking. I can still deliver my keynote with integrity through the
Nerves. I can’t control whether others like what I have to say, I can only control what I say, and the rest it up to them. Heck, I might even enjoy myself. And who knows, they might enjoy it too.
Then the final step of the process is to ACT. I find that if I don’t do this part, the cycle doesn’t rarely breaks. I stay in the fear-based part of my brain, rather than move to the solution-focused part, and I don’t move forward, nothing changes. So I like to ask myself a few questions here. One big overarching question: What is one thing that I can do to move forward?
In this case it was saying YES to the university gig. Saying YES and trusting that I would figure the rest out.
And then if I’m still fearful or I’m ready to move forward in a much bigger way, I break this stage down into three parts. Before. During. After.
So what can I do BEFORE the fearful event happens or before a predictable trigger around these negative thoughts happen?
What can I do before the speaking gig?
I hired a public speaking coach, Geraldine Barkworth, to teach me strategies for better managing the nerves and for feeling as prepared as possible.
I asked the venue organisers a lot of questions about the room set up, the equipment, the number of people, the agenda, whether they would be intro’ing me, everything and anything that would help me feel like I won’t be caught unawares.
I prepared and prepared and prepared. I knew what I wanted to say so well that it was ingrained in my bones and it would be near impossible for me to forget.
I printed a copy any way to ensure I had it there as a backup if need be. I knew I’d take a bottle of water up with me incase I did need a drink as it was a 45 minute keynote.
So I took the time to really plan and think through all the things I had to do and at what points to feel as prepared and safe and supported as possible BEFORE the event.
Then the next part was DURING.
I planned what I would do on the day, to try and stay as grounded as possible.
Focus on my breath. Focus on being present and actually listening to those speaking before me or those waiting with me beside the stage – rather than pretending to listen but really be in my head panicking.
I knew I would identify my exit routes, so I could make a run for it if I needed.
When I got up on the stage, I would take my time to start. Ground my feet. Take a deep breath. Remember these are real people, they’re likely rooting for my success.
Reminding myself to just be me. Reminding myself that I don’t need to be perfect. Reminding myself that vulnerability is important and tha showing this, especially when speaking of a topic like resilience, is a strength not a weakness.
Reminding myself that this will get easier with time. And nowadays, I also remind myself that I get invited back time and again, so I must be doing okay.
And then the last part was AFTER.
Working through a big fear or through some really stubborn negative thoughts can be exhausting. So I like to ask what can I do after the event to take care of myself, to recharge, to acknowledge my progress, and to even better prepare myself next time this trigger or fear or thought comes up.
So for me, being an extreme introvert as well, I need to have quiet alone time after a speaking event. If possible, I need a day or two of no client-contact. Just refuel time.
I can add the testimonials to my website and consciously use them to remind myself that I did good, I got through it, and I will again.
And if needed, I would reach out for more support to continue moving forward.
So in this case, I am still today a couple of years and many speaking gigs later, terrified of public speaking. I still go through this 4-step process every time I accept a speaking gig, it’s just a much quicker and less exhausting process now.
I no longer feel the need to see a speaking coach, I know my formula for getting through the event, the things I need to do to feel prepared and okay, and I have so much more evidence now when I do the ASSESS stage, because I have previous gigs, amazing feedback, and many word-of-mouth referrals to remind me that I’ll be okay.
Now let’s quickly summarise those steps again.
- Become AWARE of your fears, the stories of the inner critic and what triggers them.
- ASSESS their validity and any evidence.
- REFRAME in a more healthy or helpful way.
- ACT. What is something you can do to move forward? Or what can you do to better prepare and take care of yourself using the BEFORE / DURING / AFTER breakdown.
Then as I said, you’ll find if you continue to use this process it’ll start to happen really naturally and in a much less daunting way.
Now if you’re willing, I would love if you would block out 5-10 minutes now to think of one fear or one negative thought that you know your inner critic likes to place on repeat and work through this process. If you are willing I’d love if you would then let me know what fear you worked through and maybe what your one action is going to be. You can do this in the comments section of the show notes, or on social media by tagging me at @NaomiLArnold #DreamForOthers.
And I should probably note here, if you’re going to focus on a fear, focus on one that you actually want to work through. Some folk are of the opinion that we need to conquer every fear. I’m the opposite. I have a fear of heights and would be fearful of jumping of a plane. But I have no desire whatsoever to overcome this fear. Who knows that might change in future, but right now, I personally and you might disagree, but I personally don’t feel like I’m missing anything. If this changes, I will use this process to help me, but right now, I only use it for things that I genuinely want to work through because I feel like they are getting in the way somehow.
Of course this is going to be different for all of us – you might have no desire to work through a fear of public speaking, but every bone in your body wants to get out of your fear of heights so you can jump out of that plane and see the sights. And that’s great. Be true to yourself.
And finally, don’t forget that you can get the free one page infographic from my website in the shownotes or my Free Resources page that summarises this process. It’s handy to print off and put in your journal or pin up on your desk or somewhere you can easily access it.
Plus if you know anyone who you think this episode might help or the resources might be of use to, of course feel free to forward it on.
I hope this episode supports you in some way, and I can’t wait to hopefully connect with you in the comments or on social media soon.Are you finding this content useful? Imagine having Naomi in your corner all year for monthly 1-on-1 coaching sessions, unlimited email support and bonus resources. Visit www.naomiarnold.com/coaching for details.