It Starts with You…

 

 

A few nights ago, I was out for dinner with a friend and I ran into a woman who I met before but who I did not know well. We had seen each other around town so we had formed enough of a connection that we greet each other with an acknowledging head nod and a wave. While I was eating and talking to my friend, she approached us and introduced herself. We spoke about the fact that we seem to know each other without really knowing each other. Then came the question that always inevitably arises when I meet someone new: “What happened to you?” I tell her that I was born prematurely which meant that my lungs weren’t fully developed and as I tried to breathe, I acquired brain damage as a result of a lack of oxygen to my brain. I explain to her that I am very fortunate though because my brain damage has only impacted my ability to walk. Following my answer, she said “But you seem so happy” to which I responded “I am. I love my life.” And I really do. I am so grateful for the life I have been gifted, and I am even grateful for the disability I have been gifted. I regularly say that I know at the very core of my being that this was no mistake. I have become the person I am today because of it. Living with a disability has gifted me a sense of perspective. It has helped me find my purpose.

What stood out for me though, was her initial response: “But you seem so happy.” Although I know her words were in no way ill intended, it reminded me that as human beings we need to practice checking our assumptions at the door, if we really want to connect with another. We have to be careful to examine the pre- conceived notions we carry, if we are to ever move toward a true sense of equality within our society. Why is it assumed that because I live with a disability that I am bound to be unhappy? Letting assumptions rule only serves to reinforce stigma and drives disconnection.

Changing the world really does start with each and every one of us. Check your assumptions at the door, and open the space for people to teach you about their experience, knowing that the vastness that is the human experience can never be contained to a series of labels and assumptions.

By suspending judgement we free ourselves and others. Here’s to radical openness and ever abounding love. It starts with you. Never doubt that.

Confronting Your Inner Critic.

 

 

We all have one. That inner voice that tends to judge, use put downs, and continually tell us that we are not good enough. That voice that tends to control us and severely impact our sense of self-esteem. It tells us that we have no right to “play big” or risk. That we shouldn’t even try because we’ll never make it. It latches onto our perceived flaws, weaknesses, limitations and keeps us stuck in a place of mental and emotional paralysis. It tells us that others are more favourable, that they are better- more talented, better looking, smarter etc. That they would never “mess up” the way we have. That they have it all together. It conjures up illusions of the “perfect other” and keeps us dormant.

Your inner critic typically sounds something like this:

  • “That was stupid!”
  • “You could have done that better.”
  • “You should have known better.”
  • “You’re such a disappointment.”
  • “I am so weak.”
  • “I’ll never be anything.”
  • “I knew I couldn’t do it.”
  • “You may as well give up.”
  • “You’re a failure.”
  • “Look how capable _______________ is.”

 

Shaming, degrading, discouraging, limiting, and usually, completely automatic. The inner critic can take some time to identify, as we are typically not even aware of the voice inside our minds and the profound impact it is having on our emotions and actions. The inner critic is also habitual, learned, and therefore changeable.

It’s in your power to change the critical voice which holds you, but it requires a dedicated willingness, persistence, patience and an abundance of self-compassion.

Imagine for a moment, a time when your critical voice took over. Bring yourself to that moment. Immerse yourself in the feelings of that moment, as difficult and as painful as it might be, remembering that you’re safe now, and grounded in this moment. If you can, however, try and reflect on the following questions:

  •   If your self-critical thoughts took on the appearance of a person, what would           this person look like?
  •          What is this person’s facial expression?
  •         Is this person big or small in comparison to you?
  •          What is this person’s tone of voice like?
  •         Is this person directing emotions your way? If so, what are they?
  •          Does he or she remind you of anyone?

(Welford, 2013, p. 40-41).

What have you discovered through reflecting on the questions above? Not surprisingly, the critic can often take on the appearance, stance, and tone of the person who was most critical toward you. We internalize their voice, until self-inflicted pain is all we know and the belief that criticism is all we are deserving of overwhelms us, making it all that more difficult to break the pattern. Plus, as odd as it may seem, there is comfort and security in the criticism for it is familiar, and solace usually comes from what we know, and what is predictable.

Welcome fear and hesitation around the prospect of ending your relationship with your critic. It’s natural. Be patient with yourself.

  •         What’s your greatest fear around giving up your self-criticism?
  •         What do you think might happen if you let it go?
  •         When reflecting on the emotions brought up by your self-critic do you think it          has your best interests at heart?
  •          Does it take joy in seeing you be happy and doing well?
  •          If your self-critic does have your best interests at heart, is it going about it the           right way?

(Welford, 2013, p. 42)

The thing about self-criticism is, it often makes us believe that we need it in order to grow, change and evolve. That without it we are destined to a life of mediocrity. That it is what motivates us to do better and be better. We begin to believe that achievement and criticism go hand in hand, because it is through being hard on ourselves that we are able to strive and succeed. And, this is all well and good…for a while at least. It’s all well and good until it begins to hinder our willingness to risk because we become fearful of the consequences we will surely endure if we fail.

Risk is the birth place of personal evolution.

The mere prospect of failure becomes crippling because we begin to feel that we would not be able handle the messages our internal critic would deliver to us should we not attain or achieve the outcome we desire. And so, we become stagnant, and mediocre.

Personal growth must come from a place of self-love.

Softness and gentleness are imperative mechanisms for change, because they allow us to give ourselves permission to falter and fail without condemning us to a feeling of complete and utter shame if the outcome is not that which we hoped for.

So, I encourage you to get cozy with your inner critic, as uncomfortable as it may be- for it is only through our awareness of its presence that we are able to eradicate it, and welcome the freedom found it unwavering self-love, for that is where your happiness, joy, and fulfillment rest.

 

Release (Negative) Judgement: Honor the Uniqueness of the Journey.

 

 
We’re all guilty of it, and I’m more guilty of it than I’d like to admit… passing arbitrary, and often unfounded judgement on others. It usually goes something like this:
 
That rude customer service rep?  She’s a bitch.
 
That friend who seems to keep making the same mistakes again and again? She’s stupid, and should really know better by now.
 
That waiter who took “forever” to bring the meal to the table? He’s slow. Lazy. Clearly not suited for the job.
 
That employee who keeps making mistakes? She’s not smart enough.  
 
That guy who is quick to lose his cool? He’s an asshole.
 
And it goes on… the list is literally endless. To judge others, is part of the human experience. We all do it, for various reasons. We do it to make ourselves feel better, to prove that we’re right, to compensate for personal insecurity and sometimes, we judge in an effort to connect with and be accepted by others.
 
To pass judgement signals the creation of a hierarchy in which the individual making the judgement places him or herself above or apart from the individual being judged. It says “there is nothing about this person that I can identify or connect with.” At its root lies disconnection and the notion that we are inherently different from one another. It fails to recognize the commonalities of the human experience. It denies that fact that at the end of the day, we are all striving for the exact same thing: to feel loved, and accepted and to know that we matter.
 
The act of judgement is a failure to recognize our humanness. It is a failure to recognize that it all boils down to this:
 
We are all doing the best we can to make it through this beautiful mess called life, the best way we know how.

 
“Have compassion for everyone you meet, even when they don’t want it. What seems conceit, bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.”
– Miller Williams


The truth is, none of us really know what we’re doing. We are all students of life, and none of us have the answers, and to believe that we do only serves to stunt our personal growth. To believe in the idea of absolutes is to shut ourselves off from the possibility of expansion, and novel insight. It hardens our hearts.

To adopt the stance of not knowing keeps us soft, open, and compassionate. It allows us to give others a break, because we recognize how often we need one too. From this standpoint, the question becomes “what gives me the right to judge if we are all on equal ground?”
 
That customer service rep? That friend? That waiter? That employee? That guy? They are just doing the best they can. They are on their own path colored by a myriad of unique experiences, some of which have been joyous and uplifting and others which have been immensely painful and heartbreaking.
 
Speak with love. Act compassionately. Give generously.
 
We are all in this together.