I used to have a very active and very harsh inner critic. Even when I was successful and did things well, there was always that voice in my head that told me I could have done better.
It often showed up with my writing, something I usually saw as one of my strengths. But, oh boy, when I would write something – a memo, a proposal, a report – and someone else would edit it, change it, or basically tear it apart. Phew. That inner critic got right to work, berating me for missing a point, using incorrect grammar, or leaving out details that the reader would need. And yes, berating is the right verb. That’s what inner critics do best.
Of course, that inner critic used to berate me for other things too.
Any little digression and my inner critic had something to say that made me feel small.
In its own way though, the inner critic served me well. It helped me succeed because it usually pushed me to get better, be stronger, and work smarter. It kept me on that path to perfection, getting things right, doing a great job.
And that’s a good thing, right?
Maybe, but it’s an unpleasant way to live, beating oneself up all the time. It really starts wearing you down.
Looking back, I can also see ways that my harsh inner critic held me back. If I had an opportunity to do something, but I wasn’t sure that I would succeed? Well, sometimes my inner critic would keep me from doing it. “Nah, you’ll never get that right, so you’d better not try,” it would say.
Or my inner critic would stop me from speaking up, in case I made a mistake or didn’t have all the facts or would upset someone. Or . . . yeah, there were a lot of possible “ors”.
Sound at all familiar?
And there’s one more thing I noticed about the inner critic. He or she can be directed at other people, too. If I’m making myself feel small, what are the odds that I’m going to make someone else feel small too? Yup, pretty high. If not often, at least occasionally.
Making someone small is never the intent. It’s just that if you’re so used to criticizing yourself in unkind ways, you’ve developed that habit. And habits have a tendency to show up when we least want them to, don’t they?
That’s what I love about Genshai.
Genshai is an ancient Hindi word that means “Never treat another person in a manner that would make them feel small, including yourself.”
When I’m practicing Genshai, that harsh inner critic doesn’t get a voice, because it means I’m done making myself feel small.
I received my second Genshai coin last weekend, a reminder of an important aspect of my journey of Transcendence and Transcendent Leadership. This one is for sharing, so I’m sharing it virtually with you.
Because when I looked hard at the concept of Genshai, I realized that it really is part of the path to Transcendence. It’s awfully hard to transcend, to rise above, when you’re busy shooting yourself down. And it’s even harder when you’re shooting other people down too.
So, have a chat with your own harsh inner critic, and tell it that you are adopting the practice of Genshai: “Never make anyone feel small, including yourself.”
And let me know how it feels because it felt pretty darn good to me.