You may be one of those few and far between people that naturally have a wonderfully supportive and loving internal dialogue. Or you could be like most of us and struggle to keep that negative inner critic at bay.
Years ago I lived in ignorance that I could have conscious control over my inner critic. That I could replace that stream of negativity, with supportive and nourishing self talk. At that time when a negative thought entered my head I let it run and run...sometimes allowing it to became a bit of a mental monster.
I found I could pick holes in myself for the smallest of things. I could berate myself for not doing well enough, for not saying the right thing at he right moment. I was over critical and at times out of control.
Does this sound like you?
If you had a young dog and were overly critical and judgemental of it all the time, it would start feeling fearful. It would hold back from wanting to do something for fear of getting it wrong. YOU are no different.
You create change in yourself when you learn that change happens through love NOT fear.
Instead of berating yourself, tell yourself how wonderful you are.
It is human nature to want to be seen and be accepted just as we are. We have a desire for others to approve of us and in turn we want to approve of them, unconditionally, accepting who they are.
But do we really?
Even though I have been on this spiritual and personal development journey for quite some time, there are occasions when life throws something at you to show you that you aren’t actually practicing what you’re preaching.
It was parent’s evening last night and my husband and I went along with our daughter to see the teachers about picking her GCSE exam options. When we got there we were handed a pack with all the details of the courses, and as we settled down the head of her year group told us about the English Baccalaureate which the school wanted pupils to work towards. They said that they had placed recommendation letters in the pack if they thought your child was currently achieving at a high enough level for them to follow this route.
We, as every other parent did, flicked through the pack. But I didn’t spot a letter. Oh well, I thought it doesn’t really matter. I am still proud of my daughter. If I am honest with myself though, I was a little disappointed.
After the talk we had the opportunity to speak to teachers from each subject so we could start helping our daughter make choices about which subjects to study. As we were waiting to speak to a History teacher, our daughter bumped into one of her best friends. After a brief conversation with the other mum, she asked, ‘did Mae get a recommendation letter?’
Suddenly I felt the kick of that question and the slight disappointment of having to say, ‘No, I don’t think so’. As she talked about going off to inquire about the subjects that her daughter would need to complete the English BaccalaureateI I could feel my heart sink a little…suddenly we weren’t quite good enough.
I hid this feeling from my husband and my daughter, but it was there and I could feel it. And I know it said more about me than my daughter.
The interesting thing was when we got home and opened the pack up properly, there was the recommendation letter.
That’s when it hit me…it was almost as though for a short while my acceptance of her was based on conditions. That she had to be good enough. That she had to compare favourably with others. That I would be happy with her if she met the grade…
Now that was only a fleeting moment of conditional acceptance, but it still shocked me. I’m a strong advocate of accepting others as they are. But it made me think that we if we can have conditional acceptance of others, no matter how small or short lived, we must do the same for ourselves.
So I would like to invite you to think about the times when you have placed conditions on yourself in order to feel acceptable. Did you have to get the job with the fancy title, or a pay rise, or a promotion, a bigger house, or did you just have to feel that you were doing better than others around you?
The subtlety of conditioning isn’t always apparent at first. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. So many of us were conditioned during our formative years that we would be good enough if we did what we were told, if we were quiet, or if we achieved good grades etc.
As we reach adulthood we take over these conditions from our care-givers and talk to ourselves in the same way…berating, belittling and putting ourselves down.
It shouldn’t be this way. So, when you understand the conditions you are placing upon yourself and others, in order to feel acceptable…you can bring about the process of change and learn to support yourself in more nourishing ways.
For, as they say, you are worth it!
I was around nineteen or twenty when I was handed my first self help book. At the time I didn't even realise books like this existed!!! For the previous four or five years I had struggled with coming to terms with the death of my dad two weeks after my fifteenth birthday. My confidence and self esteem was on the floor. These books were just what I needed and I soon began devouring book after book.
Personal development books helped me to increase my self esteem and confidence and I noticed a gradual change in the way I felt about myself. My addiction to personal development grabbed hold of me from then on.
Within a year or so I noticed that the way I felt about life and myself seemed to plateau. The books seemed to have stopped making me feel any better...so I stopped reading (for a while at least).
Looking back on my journey I understand how these books had an immediate impact on my incredibly low self esteem. I can also understand why they stopped taking effect after a while.
What happened was that my brain was soaking up knowledge like a sponge...but there it stayed...in my brain. I knew what to do. I knew how I was supposed to feel. Yet I didn't change.
Years later when I began my intensive personal development journey with coaches, tutors and mentors, I had a revelation. Everything I had learnt was held intellectually only...I wasn't living most of it. And if I wasn't living it, how on earth could it make a difference to my life?
Having a tutor and mentor made a massive difference in my life. I learnt how to let go of anger, resentment, fear, frustration. I could start to forgive. I could really start to grow and fall in love with life again.
I have seen this change in my coaching clients too. Many come to me having read many personal development books over the years. It only seems to take a handful of sessions before I am asked how on earth coaching is creating such a positive change in their lives.
My answer is...you are not just knowing the information, but actually living it. And that makes all the difference.
It is not unusual for many people to have a strong desire to achieve something, but then live a life totally contrary to their desire.
It is like they are seeing what they want on the other side of gate and are working hard to find the key that will unlock it. Yet only a small part of the time do they truly believe they will actually find the key...
What we say both out loud and to ourselves ALL the time is vital. We just can't bring about what we want when we only have a strong belief 10% of the time...we must make sure ALL our language is in alignment with what we want.
Change is such a big thing. We find it happening more and more in our lives and in our businesses. And yet it isn't always easy to deal with. Whether we like it or not, those who aren't good at dealing with change will gradually be left behind.
People often think that they haven't the confidence to change, or won't change until they have the confidence to do so. What they don't realise is that it is the change that gives you confidence.
We may feel anxious about change...and avoid it by hiding our head in the sand. We can numb our emotions to change by becoming addicted with things that avoid the issue, like substances, gambling, buying things to make us happy, watching too much television...actually there are so many different sorts of avoidance measures. When we do this our lives shrink because our defences have built up a mechanism to avoid what we feel anxious about.
The way to counteract our negative feelings about change is to start by developing healthy thinking habits. Coaching can help with this. One of the things you can learn to do is to.stop criticising yourself as it does nothing except affect your energy and confidence. Rather than sizing ourselves up against others and wonder what they think of us... What we should think instead is...
"What you think of me is none of my business".
Do you notice how often we say things like...
Sometimes we can go over and over the negative thoughts, thinking that that will bring abut the positive solution. But his is a total waste of time...what you need to so it change your thinking to the positive.
So this week put your attention on what you DO want...focus on it with as much as your thought energy as possible and see what a difference it can start to make in your life.
Do you realise how much time you spend in any moment thinking about the past, (maybe what we should or shouldn't have done) or in the future (worrying or thinking about what may happen)...and how little we spend in the present moment.
We can eat our lunch on the go...giving the food we eat hardly any thought at all. Never really fully experiencing the fullness of the flavour.
We rush from person to person, our heads full of what we need to do next, that we never fully engage with them. Which is a shame, because it has been said that the deepest need of most people is simply to be heard.
So how do we better engage with others? Or get to really taste and enjoy the food we are eating? Or really enjoy life...
The answer is to become more aware of living in the present moment. We do, after all, only have a small window of opportunity to create our lives...and that moment is now. We cannot change the past, and we have limited ability to influence the future. The only time we can have any influence over is now...
Most of us have a life that looks great on paper. To the outside world we are successful and prosperous because we tick all the boxes. There is, however, a fundamental difference between success and happiness. Just because we may look successful, doesn't mean we are happy...
Brene Brown said in her TED talk about the Power of Vulnerability, that, "We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability." and it is as a result of that numbing of emotion that, "we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in US history"
And this isn't just the case in the United States...but in many other countries around the world.
In order to find kindness and compassion for others, we need to find it within ourselves by treating ourselves kindly. And yet our inner chatter is often harsher than we would talk to anyone else.
To strengthen your inner resilience to dealing with the vulnerable and ever changing world in which you live, it is a good idea to look at your own levels of happiness in each area of your life.
It's interesting how our brains think in patterns.
What happens is that when we stumble around trying to make sense of a problem or situation, our brain searches its data-banks of experiences to try to find a recognisable pattern it can latch onto. When it does, it will flow your thinking along it towards an outcome or conclusion.
But that can result in a problem...
When we are upon the tidal wave of thought along recognised patterns we bi-pass untested, new and interesting opportunities along the way. We don't see them because our brains haven't wanted us to take the stepping stones across the water towards them. So our resolutions to problems can become predicted and safe.
Now the solution you reach following a predicted thought pattern may be a great resolution to the situation...and yet it might not.
When I look back I recognise that years ago I allowed my thinking to follow predicted patterns...which led me to feelings of being stuck and not moving forward. If I knew then what I know now, I would have looked for tools and techniques to open up my thinking and allow it be more flexible and receptive to new ideas.
But we are where we are...and I'm wanting to share all the research and experience I have generated over the years around creative thinking/storytelling and lateral thinking, so that you can apply these techniques to your life and work to help you to keep moving forward and exploring ideas and opportunities without allowing them to pass you by.
When contemplating or making change in your life or business, don't let the past patterns of thinking and working hold you back from being open and receptive to new ways of doing, being and having. Remain curious about the way things work. Learn new tools and techniques for generating ideas and looking at situations in different ways.
Above all, don't be afraid to explore.
image by Tacluda
Getting yourself in the right place to start thinking creatively is easier for some than others.
There are many businesses that are crying out for someone who can put forth ideas and innovations, but then they sandwich a meeting or workshop to capture these ideas in-between logical meetings like sales forecasts and sales reviews. Hardly a great space for creative thinking! It is as though creative thinking can somehow happen as part of a business process.
The same goes in our personal creativity. We sometimes need a ritual to get us in the right head space. Just like a painter sets up for work mounting a canvas on an easel, preparing the brushes and choosing the paints, you want to set up your creative stage for best results.
Some people wait until the muse is upon them before they can start to come up with creative solutions. This is fine if it suits. But what if you need to find a creative solution here and now? What if the situation won't wait for the muse to find you?
What you need is the mind-set of being in the moment. The more you search for being in the moment, the quicker you will be able to get yourself in that place when you need to. You'll also find your ability to concentrate increases as will your ability to filter out extraneous sounds and other distractions.
image by AndrewBernard