Part 1: Inner Critics
In my last post, I talked about self-image and the mirrors we use to see ourselves. The emphasis was on reflections we see in the mirrors outside of ourselves: other people, marketing, etc, and whether or not we are looking in the right mirror. Whether we are getting as true a reflection of ourselves as possible.
At the end of that, hopefully, thought provoking post I mentioned that I would address two of our inner mirrors. And today I will come through on that promise.
My thoughts are inspired by the writings of Tara Mohr, (link) life and executive coach, and author of "Playing Big". (Thank you to my youngest sister for introducing me to this wonderful book). I will be quoting some of her words, but I highly encourage you to check out her website and buy her book. I haven't even finished reading it, but already it has had a wonderful impact.
At the beginning of "Playing Big" Tara addresses our two inner "voices". Her remarks are addressed to women in particular, but also apply to men. (I am quite certain that men also have inner voices, they just might experience them a bit differently. I don't know. I'm not a man.) Getting back on track. She calls these voices our inner critic and our inner wisdom (or inner mentor).
The Mirror That We Are Most Familiar With
The inner critic. That voice that sometimes seems to hound us with doubts, fear, shame. That tells us we aren't good enough, or ready enough, or loving enough. We're too selfish, too much of a doormat. Where's your backbone? Can't you just relax a bit? You spend too much time on (fill in the blank). Why are you so (fill in the blank). It's never satisfied.
We often mistake this voice for reality. We are deceived into believing that it is giving us a real reflection of ourselves. It's showing us who we truly are and that person is simply not enough. We can never get it right and we might be very tempted to just give up.
I am quite familiar with my Inner Critic. She didn't want me to start this blog and doesn't want me to write. She tells me that I have nothing new to say and others are saying it much better than I could anyway. She reminds me, rather harshly sometimes, that I don't have an educational background in any of this stuff. Others do. Heck, I didn't even finish high school until I was 25 (long story). This is just another "opinion" blog (I prefer to think of this as a "get people thinking and share resources" blog). And don't get me started on what she has to say about my mothering, the kind of wife I am, my appearance...etc.
My Inner Critic has won far too many times in my life. I have given more credence to her words than was merited and because of that I have many regrets for things I did and didn't do. Can you relate?
Reading Tara's insights on inner critics really opened my eyes to the fact that I was believing in a distorted image. Like those mirrors in the fun houses (why do they even call them that?), the reflection my inner critic shows me an image that looks enough like me that I give it my attention, but the emphasis is on all of the wrong parts. Make sense?
But according to Tara, our inner critics aren't "out to get us" (though it often feels like it). They are actually trying to protect us.
"One of the primary qualities of this voice is that it looks at every situation through the lens of possible danger, with danger being loss, change, loss of face, loss of the things that prop up our sense of self. Its sort of the protector of pride and of the status quo. It's the scout for any potential threat to sense of self." TM
When I read this it all just made so much sense. Now I can interact with my inner critic from a place of understanding and compassion. She isn't the authority on my life, what I can and cannot do. She doesn't want me to get hurt because she doesn't understand that pain is essential to growth, to being my authentic, beautiful, unique self. To being more than I am now. The same goes for your inner critic, my friends.
So How Do We Deal?
"In most spiritual traditions, awakening lies in a very simple insight. “You” are not this voice. You are the person aware of this voice, feeling perplexed by it and bummed out by it and feeling its effects. You are the person trying to understand it and work with it and get rid of it! So, instead of saying, “I get insecure” be more precise – “I hear this voice telling me I can’t do x, I’m different, flawed, etc. and I can get caught up in it and believe it, even when I also don’t believe it, even when I see its absurdity.” Be honest, claim your victim-hood: you get attacked by this thing! Why is it empowering to claim that victim-hood? Because when you do so you are stating that this voice is clearly not “you.” TM
I can honestly say that my inner critic has less of a hold on me, but it's still a work in progress.
Case in point. I started a 90 day health and fitness challenge that requires not eating certain types of foods, as well as exercising 5 days a week for about 50 minutes. Oh boy, the lady has had fun with this one. She demanded to know how I planned to fit in those workouts with two young and attached little boys. My baby was 5 months old when I started. Well, I figured it out and I have not missed a workout yet. And I've been able to do more in my workouts than I thought. And I am discovering an interest and, quite possibly, a passion for fitness and nutrition. I am definitely more passionate about my health and the health of my family.
That's just one example. This blog and the fact that I'm writing is another.
What are your experiences with your inner critic? Try to recognize it for what it is and not let it become your reality. Please share your thoughts in the comments. And read more of what Tara has to say. Here are links to just a few of her articles to get you started. There are also some wonderful resources available on her site to help us all "Play Big".
Stay tuned for Part 2. The Mirror Inside that gives us a more honest and empowering reflection aka our Inner Wisdom/Mentor. It's going to be a gooder.