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Are You Your Own Worst Boss?

My Mean Face

I have a friend who often talks to me about my "mean boss." She's appalled at how my boss is so demanding, pushing me to perfection, nitpicking and second-guessing me all the time.

I make a decision, begin to implement, and my boss is ON me, reminding me constantly of all the little ways that I've screwed up in the past and will most likely fail in the future. As my friend points out, my boss never shuts up and, is frankly, a little maniacal and sadistic. 

But here's the thing. I work for myself. My terrible boss is my own ego. 

What's amazing is that behavior I would never accept from a real boss seems perfectly acceptable to me when it comes from inside my own head. Frankly, much of the time I take my inner boss's monologue for granted, accepting her unending stream of criticism as some sort of gospel. 

I've talked with a lot of people whose inner boss wields way too much power in their lives. What's interesting is that many times when people are complaining about their real bosses, it turns out that it's their inner boss whose really controlling what they do. 

It's their inner boss whose constantly criticizing and second-guessing. It's their inner boss who tells them that they must be perfect or else. Their inner boss doesn't want them to take a day off or to unplug from their computers and cell phones. It's their inner boss who is driving them into the ground. 

Lately my inner boss has been getting a lot of pushback from me.  She's looking out for me, I know--her heart is in the right place--but she's killing me with her perfectionism and constant barrage of criticism.  

What I've realized is that my innner boss is acting out of fear. And like most fearful people, she's focusing on the negative and what can go wrong. She's particularly good at making her fears seem real. She is also excellent at distracting me from questioning her by keeping up the non-stop barrage of worry and criticism. 

But I've noticed her now. I see what she's doing and I'm asking a lot more questions. It also helps to picture her sitting in a chair in my office, nattering away. I know that I would never listen to a real person who kept up such a stream of negativity, so why should I listen to her all the time? Telling her to shut up has been tremendously satisfying. 

Part of the professional development process to me is paying attention to our inner boss and separating out what our inner boss is pushing us to do from what we're getting from our external environment. Many times I think we believe that it's our work that's driving us into the ground. But on closer examination, we discover that it's our own expectations and our inner tyrant who are really the culprits. 

So. . . are you your own worst boss? And what are you going to do about it?

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