I used to self-sabotage. A lot. I used self-sabotage more often than I’d like to admit because I was almost always caught up in a messy web of insecurities and immobilizing self-doubt, spending more energy telling myself that I wasn’t good enough, than actually trying it out to see that I was worthy of the things that I wanted. I would tell myself that I am going to be better at staying in a relationship and not run away because I don’t believe the happiness will last; but in all my relationships I always had the proverbial suitcase ready, my hand on the door just in case, ready to leave before I was left. I would tell myself that I was going to lose weight, and I’d hear myself suffocate the idea in a mocking laughter. I told myself that I am going to run a blog to empower people to rebuild a relationship of love and compassion with their bodies, and nearly 2 years after, I still doubt myself with every article that I publish; but mind you, I still sit in front my laptop three times a week, typing away to learn with you how to live our best life through self-compassion.
In every single plan that I have ever made to boost myself into next level greatness, I’ve had to battle countless demons of self doubt. my inner dialogue always goes something like this:
“Who do you think you are, thinking you can just up and start a blog helping people envision a different relationship with their body”?
“Oh please. This plan again? You know you’re going to stop this drinking water challenge in less than 2 days”.
“Who are you kidding? You? To be able to do the splits one day? With what body”?
“You’re not good enough”.
“Stop trying to be extraordinary, you barely got it together with ordinary things. Look at how clumsy you are darling, greatness requires grace and guess which one you have in abundance”?
This inner voice trying its best to bring me down, that is the inner critic. In Their book “Embracing The Inner Critic”, clinical psychologists Dr Hal Stone and Sidra Stone describe this voice as the one that is always generous with criticism, the one that makes everything about you seem awful and hopeless. You life according to this inner critic has been never good enough, is never good enough and will never ever be good enough. The inner critic is like living your life through a gloomy filter along with a narrator who constantly tells you that nothing in your life is ever going to work. And if your inner critic is anything like mine, it is draining isn’t it, to imagine your life through a lens tainted in dread and soundtracked by the writer from a Series of Unfortunate Events?
I am telling you all this to not only bring your awareness to your inner dialogue, but also to tell you don’t have to carry on living your life according to your inner Debby downer. I remember watching a short video from Dr. Deepak Chopra, who gave a short but effective response to managing your inner critic. It is the Acronym S.T.O.P. What does it mean? Let me break it down for you. When you make your plans and that inner dialogue begins,
Stop: You might think that the best thing to do is to ignore your inner critic and pretend it’s not happening, unfortunately it will seep into your consciousness and poison the little self-confidence you might have. in his poem entitled “The Guest House”, the great Rumi talks about welcoming all your feelings as guests and hearing what they have to say, what they have to teach you. As soon as that inner dialogue begins, take a few seconds to breathe and make room to hear them out. Be your own best listener.
Think: As you are listening to your inner critic, begin to map out your decision-making process. Think of it as movie night, and you are thinking about which movie to watch, but this is a movie about your life. You can have the inner critic’s choice of a movie about fear, insecurities, defeat and failure. Or you could choose a movie about overcoming fear, having discipline, patience and perseverance and ultimately getting to your goal. Remind yourself that you always have a choice and you must choose a storyline of victory.
Observe: While thinking about which path to choose, observe the way all this makes you feel. How is it when you think about the gloomy (yet comfortable and predictable) story of not being good enough to get what you wish? And how is it when you think about the story of victory? One makes you feel helpless and hopeless, while the other one makes you feel empowered even if you’re a little scared. Which do you choose?
Proceed with love and kindness: Now that you’ve done all the thinking, chosen your storyline and it’s time to make a move, do your best to fill up on compassion and kindness as you move forward (hopefully) on your path of overcoming and victory. Why compassion? It is easy to think about your inner critic as an enemy, sort like your own dragon to slay in order to rescue yourself from the isolated tower. But if you think about it, your inner critic is just a defense mechanism because it knows that when going after a goal, there is always a risk of failure. It can be painful to fall from the height of hope and ambition, so your inner critic wants to keep you in the comfort of stagnance. Proceeding with compassion means making peace with all the parts of yourself, the good and the bad, and recognizing that through it all you are are just trying to do your very best. Just tell your inner critic “I know you don’t want me to get hurt and that’s why you love this comfort zone, but I want you to think about the bliss that awaits us at the other side of this struggle, including the patience, discipline and courage we would have gained along the way”. Making peace with yourself in this way allows you to spend more of your energy on the efforts of going after what you want. Because you are worth the effort!
So if you have something you’ve always wanted to try but felt immobilized by the concerns of your inner critic, now is the time to S.T.O.P
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.