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Believing the quote, “Real change comes from self-love not self-loathing” has radically shifted my life both professionally and personally. It is a simple quote but a challenging idea. We learn that we are so flawed and broken that the only way to achieve success is through beating ourselves up and being critical. Ironically, this self-loathing tends to make us less motivated and less successful thus creating a self-fulfilling process. An easy example of this phenomenon is starting a new exercise routine. We try to start a new routine; our inner critic tells us how terrible we are how we should be doing it differently. Inevitably, we get tired of all the self-criticism, so we stop exercising, and our inner critic says, “See I told you, you are lazy and unmotivated, good thing you have me to keep you in line.” So we either stop altogether, or the cycle repeats. UGH! How frustrating!!
Recently, I decided I wanted to get back in shape. I wanted to make an intentional shift so I could avoid the cycle above. This is my story:
I am out of shape. I have a regular yoga practice, and I do some movement most days of the week, but as far as cardio/strength training I am out of shape. So last week we decided to buy a Total Gym so we can have a way to build muscle and strength and add to my routine of walking and yoga.
We set up the Total Gym on Friday afternoon, and I clumsily tried to use it. With laughter and embarrassment, I fumbled around the machine trying to figure out the pulley system and how it all works. I realized there was going to be a learning curve, and I was going to need to be patient (not my strong suit). But I wanted to approach this working out experience differently. Here’s what I found:
Past: I would try to do it perfectly, get frustrated if it wasn’t going perfectly and be so critical of myself I would rarely if ever use the equipment again.
Present: I watched a few videos on how to use the equipment, and I gave myself a grace period of learning how to do it. This was more motivating. Each time I got discouraged I reminded myself I was in the learning grace period and I had time.
Past: I would have jumped on the equipment (not knowing how to use it) and put it on the hardest level possible (because that is after all how you get the best workout). I would have injured myself or been so sore the next day I wouldn’t want to get on it for days.
Present: I picked a beginner’s workout and fumbled through the exercises keeping it on the lower settings. I was winded and a bit sore but excited that I was able to do it and motivated to watch my progress.
Past: I would have been so frustrated that I was so out of shape and would have spent the entire workout being critical of how I let myself go and how I was a lazy, out of shape 40 years old. (with a few insults that I can’t post here)
Present: I did become frustrated with how out of shape I am. I remembered fondly the times (not that long ago) when I was in killer shape. AND then I reminded myself that I am where I am. I am out of shape, and that is ok because I am working on getting back in shape. I also reminded myself that I will see a lot of progress because I am so out of shape, and that will make it more fun.
Past: I would have set HUGE lofty goals for how much I wanted to accomplish and how much I was going to work out. Only to get discouraged and disappointed when I didn’t reach those goals so I would inevitably stop working out altogether.
Present: I am more realistic, the temptation to to get huge and lofty is still there and then I remind myself to be realistic. I want to be able to move and do fun activities without worrying about being sore and out of shape. I don’t want to run a marathon or lift a certain number of pounds I want to feel good in my body.
Like I said in the intro, this process has taken some serious intention setting!! I haven’t banned my inner critic permanently, she still shows up in her cunning, manipulative ways. But I can see her now without letting her run amuck in my head and keep me from my goals.
This example is a simple and universal. Our inner critics do this same routine any time we try something new whether it be a new job, new relationship, new goal or new experience. We need to be as intentional and present as possible to not let the cycle continue.