On a warm day in April 2013, my husband-then-boyfriend introduced me to Henk.
I knew right away that Henk wasn’t exactly friendship material. He is the superficial type, only interested in status and prestige. On top of that, he’s always comparing himself to my husband, and gets extremely passive-aggressive when he believes my husband is more successful than him - so much so that my husband started hiding his successes from Henk.
Unfortunately for me, there was no way to avoid him. Because Henk is not an actual person - he is a part of me. And I wasn’t fully aware of him until that day in 2013 when my husband said: ‘whenever we discuss our careers, it seems like your personality completely changes. It is as if Arjanna is gone for a second, and some beastly alter ego starts running the show. And I’m like hey.. Henk (the name he uses for people he can’t remember the name of), get off the stage!’
It was painful to hear how Henk affected us, but somehow giving this part of me a name helped me see it from a distance, and get curious about it. What triggers Henk to show up? What is his goal? What is the impact Henk has on me and others?
In my coaching training, the ‘Henks’ of this world are called saboteurs. You may also know them as inner critics. They’re generally considered as mean and evil and something you need to get rid of.
That never sat well with me. Although I don’t particularly enjoy Henk’s style, I do see that his intentions are good (in the sense that he wants me to be successful in my career).
And when I listened to this podcast interview with Richard Schwartz, the inventor of Internal Family Systems therapy, something clicked for me. What if rather than demonizing the parts of us that we don’t like, and trying to push them away, we get curious about them?
What happens over and over again in Internal Family Systems sessions (and in my 1:1 coaching sessions as well), is that approaching the ‘Henks’ with curiosity and kindness, invites these ‘saboteurs’ to become more calm, confident and compassionate, and start working with you instead of criticizing you.
In practice, what that means for me is that Henk now understands that there is no need for me to compete with my husband, but that I can use Henk’s tremendous drive to achieve things that actually matter to me. And if Henk accidentally gets into comparing mode again, it’s a lot easier for me to calm him down, and tell him that I also benefit from my husband’s success, as he is on an incredible mission to make production far more efficient and sustainable.
How well do you know your ‘Henks’ (here’s an simple assessment to get to know them better)?
Do you have names for them as well? I’d love to hear from you!