Everyone has inner voices that speak to them. Some of us have as much, if not more dialogue going on inside our own minds as outside. I have heard many names to describe these inner thoughts: the voices, the saboteurs, the hamsters, the frisky monkey, and what I call, the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee.
What Exactly is the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee?
The Committee represents the thoughts in your mind, how you speak to yourself. There is often at least one prevalent ring leader (often in a tone of voice you have known since middle school) and several supporting members. A woman in a program once exclaimed “Committee? Not only do I have a Committee, I bake brownies for it!”
Essentially, each of us has a Committee of these voices that chime in, especially when we are up to something big.
There is also a lesser remembered Committee member who some refer to as our higher self, or as we refer to in our BOLD Leadhership program, as your Inner Skipper. This represents your wiser self that helps to keep perspective, ground you in what you know deep down, and provide sage counsel when the other Committee members are acting like mean girls.
Get to Know Your Committee Members
If you want to know the root of your actions and results, the first step is to listen to the chatter in your own head.
It sounds easier than it is. Most of us operate on “autopilot” and don’t observe or listen with consciousness. The first step is to fly in “manual mode” and tune in to what you are actually thinking.
Where to Start
Start by paying attention to your thoughts, so you can gather data about your Committee’s dialogue. Is it frantic? Worried? Focused on perfection? Filled with self-doubt? Identifying the mood and thoughts can be a huge first step.
- Start small: listen to your thoughts while you go through your regular day. Listen to the ongoing commentary of your Committee members on anything you do. Fun fact: the brain wanders or daydreams 50% of the time – you have already done it at least twice since reading this post!
- Take it outside your comfort zone: When you want to speak up in a meeting, apply for the job, provide your point of view, take credit for work you have done, or tell your co-worker you need them to pull their weight, listen to what your Committee members are saying. They tend to exaggerate the truth and go something like this: “stay quiet: you don’t know enough to weigh in….don’t waste others’ time….you don’t have the relationship or enough experience….you’ll appear foolish…who do you think you are commenting when you are the newest / youngest / fill in the blank one here? What makes you qualified to tell him that?”
The Committee IS NOT the truth.
The Committee’s role at its core is to keep you safe; it just happens to be over-extending its job description.
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway
I had a vivid example of quieting my Itty Bitty Shitty Committee on vacation last summer. I was at a lake that had a ledge 900’ over the lake (it was closer to 15’, really). I’d been at the lake multiple times before and never noticed the ledge until I saw someone else jump off it.
I have always been terrified of heights (yes there’s that word mentioned in my last post on taming your inner imposter), but I knew that it was a chance to
Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable.
The more we practice, the easier it gets to quiet the Itty Bitty Sh**y Committee: feel the fear, and do it anyway.
As I stood on the platform I had trouble breathing, had visions of drowning or paralysis (I never said goodbye to my children!) or hypothermia (it was 90 degrees outside).
Our mind will do anything it can to take us out of the game.
It didn’t help that people around the lake were watching and waiting to see if I was really going to jump. And…I did.
Turns out exhilaration is just a tiny notch away from terrified and I ended up actually enjoying the ride.
I still don’t like it, and, with practice, I know I can do it. Intentionally seeking places to choose courage over fear is a practice like going to the gym so I am strong and courageous when I need it.
Quieting the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee
Fear often surfaces as overthinking, overanalyzing, questioning, ruminating, and second guessing.
It surfaced strongly in a recent large meeting I was leading. Multiple people confessed they had fear of speaking up: “What if I say something that is incorrect or adds no value? If I speak up, it might hurt my brand. I only want to be perceived as a leader who doesn’t make mistakes.” Here’s the thing: that’s not leading.
Leading is feeling uncomfortable at times, and doing it anyway.
It is often a self-fulfilling prophecy; whatever you want least (appearing unclear, non-assertive, wrong etc.) is often what you will indeed create if you don’t have the courage to step out as a leader and be you. If you want to be a great leader, this is a skill you must continue to practice.
Whenever anyone tells me they are stricken with fear, terrified, or think there is no way they can do it, I say “Whoo Hoo.” It means they’re on the court challenging their Committee voices, feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
How to Quiet the Committee:
- Listen to your thoughts. Observe them in your daily routines. Bonus points to notice them when you’re stepping outside your comfort zone.
- Get to know your Committee Members. There is usually one main voice that is calling the shots. Tune in to what this voice is saying and if you notice one or more starring members.
- Find Your Inner Skipper. It’s easy to hear the Mean Girls, and harder to find your best self. Imagine the wisest part of you being part of this Committee dialogue. Talk to yourself like you’re talking to your child or to your best friend. Eventually you will build the muscle of hearing the voices, finding your Skipper and giving her control versus listening to the chatter. Stay tuned for more posts on how to do this.
- How aware of my inner dialogue am I, and how can I start to tune in?
- Is there a pattern where the Committee gets particularly vocal, loud, mean, kind?
- When the Committee starts the “chin wag” (i.e. vocalizing), what is one thing I can do to interrupt the voices?
If you would like to have a conversation about quieting your Itty Bitty Shitty Committee, feel free to reach out. I look forward to hearing your comments and reactions!
Yours in practice,
PS If you want to hear a talk on this topic, one resource for more details is Stanford professor Shirzad Chamine’s Ted Talk, Know your Saboteurs.
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