Disarm Your Inner Critic (Before It Sabotages You) 

Perhaps you are familiar with the Cherokee parable of the Good Wolf vs. Bad Wolf. It goes something like this:

A Cherokee elder was teaching his young grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a vicious fight between two wolves. One is evil. He represents anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. He represents joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you and every other person.”

The grandson considered this silently for a moment and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win the fight?”

The old Cherokee replied, very simply, “The one you feed.”

Let’s talk for a moment about the evil wolf within you, also known as your saboteur. Understanding it is essential if we’re going to put it in its place (in the back seat, where it belongs). You can think of the saboteur as “the little voice” that puts you in your place as a way of protecting you from pending danger. As described in Co-Active Coaching: The Proven Framework for Transformative Conversations at Work and In Life:

The voice is there to keep you from taking unsafe risks, but it is often overcautious at a time that calls for risk for the sake of change and a more fulfilled life. The saboteur’s voice may recite judgement, rules and limiting beliefs, false stories you take as the truth … Basically the message is that you’re not smart enough, attractive enough, wealthy enough, experienced enough, old enough … you are not enough. Or it could be the opposite: you’re too old, bald, grumpy, young, aggressive, introverted, extroverted … you’re too much. Most of the time this voice operates quietly in the background, influencing choices and lobbying for its preferred course of action or inaction. Be aware that whenever people take the initiative to change their lives, an alarm sounds and the saboteur will awaken. Expect it. This is when a coach, a partner you can be accountable to, comes in most handy.

Author Rick Carson calls these limiting beliefs “the saboteur” because they sabotage our attempts to become whole. 

In my case, I often caught myself yearning to hear other people tell me my strengths rather than believing in them on my own. Not hearing anyone validating them almost made me believe I didn’t have any. My saboteur really played with this. Therefore, I had far too many moments in which I felt that everything I was doing was wrong and that I lacked the power to change. My progress to my authentic self was not as quick and fluid as I wanted it to be as I embarked on the journey back to my true self.

Thanks to the saboteur, many of us have learned to think of ourselves as weak, helpless and incapable—if not all of the time, at least part of the time. Eventually, I realized that if my “good wolf” was ever going to be strong enough to ward off my pesky and persistent saboteur, I was going to need someone beside me to hold me accountable for feeding her. Instinctively, I knew to achieve the results I wanted, I couldn’t do it alone.

A certified ICF (International Coaching Federation) coach begins with the assumption that we are all born with the competence, power and wholeness it takes to achieve lasting fulfilment in our lives. They believe that we innately have the resilience to overcome any setback, the wisdom to create any new outcome, and the ability to learn whatever we need to know in order to move forward in fulfilment. These inborn capabilities are our birthrights as human beings. 

The coach’s tasks are to guide us as we claim those birthrights—as we uncover the strength and competence that is already within us—and help us actively battle any saboteur that tries to stand in our way.

I didn’t do it alone and you don’t need to either. Let’s unleash your good wolf together.

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