Episode 073: A.S.K. Part 2: Acknowledge What You Are Feeling

Part 2 of my system for quieting your Monger (inner critic) and hearing from your Biggest Fan.  Gain peace, productivity and be happier. 1st step: Acknowledge What You Are Feeling.  I promise it isn’t as painful as it sounds.

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Hey there and welcome. You are listening to the Happiness Hacks podcast, and I’m your host Nancy Jane Smith. I’m a licensed professional counselor, and in this podcast, I shared the lessons that I have learned, and I continue to learn on my quest to live happier. This is Episode 73, Acknowledge What You’re Feeling.

Hey everyone, I am so excited to be here. I’m excited to have you listening. I am committed to showing up here once a week and doing these podcasts this year and hoping that these quick, short episodes will help you find ways to be happier. If you have not listened to last week’s episode, I highly recommend you go back and listen to Episode 72. It kind of kicks off this series that I’m doing which is in honor of my upcoming book called The Happier Approach: Be Kind to Yourself, Live Happier and Still Accomplish Your Goals and that is coming out January 30th.  I wanted to do some teasers to that, give you some information about the content that’s going to be in that book, encourage you to pre-order the book because I think this book is a game-changer and I’m very excited about the content in it.

And I wanted to give a little background story into how the book got written and how the idea came about. For years I would teach these classes on how to quiet your inner critic, and in the classes, I would do what I’ve always heard to do, what I was taught to do, what I taught other people to do, all the books I’ve read, talked about two things.

One, find your inner critic, you know, get to know her or him and be able to pull him out of yourself so the key I was taught is to make the Monger become another person that you realize that wait, that’s a Monger talking, and that’s not myself talking. That’s a voice that’s separate from me, which I still do in my work around Mongers.

But the second piece was to then be self-compassionate and be kind to yourself. So step one, really get to know your Monger. Step two, be self-compassionate. And so I would teach classes on this topic, and I worked with my clients in really getting to know their Mongers and being able to draw pictures of their Mongers and understand the themes their Mongers had and what their Monger talked about. We would spend lots of time on the subject of what does your Monger look like. Then we would do a little bit about “be kind to yourself,” and it was always like this frivolous be kind to yourself part.

A couple of years ago I was teaching this class, and I taught it to a group of women that I know well, and one of them who’s a very close friend of mine came up to me after and she was like, “It was amazing. You did a great job. I love the presentation. It was absolutely fabulous. It doesn’t apply to me though because I still need my Monger. I won’t get anything done if I don’t have my Monger.”

And we laughed and joked around about how her Monger was helping her, blah, blah, blah. As I got home, I realized that’s kind of how I feel too, that I won’t get anything done without this Monger. So from that point on, I stopped teaching as much about the Monger. I pulled back because I was like this isn’t working, A, and B, I’m getting eaten alive by this Monger, and I don’t quite know what to do with it because I have a secret belief that I need my Monger.

So, way back years ago, she put the notion in my head of we need a different way.  So I figured out after years of working on this and researching, and doing my own work and helping clients, that it wasn’t so much that we needed to do this big piece about getting to know our Monger and understanding her. It was more about the part B which was how to be kind to yourself. That was the piece that had so much complexity and so much depth to it, and we would just do this blanket “be kind to yourself” piece.

The book The Happier Approach dives into that piece. Exploring the piece of what does our Monger look like. But, more so what does it look like to not have something telling you what to do all the time, and what does it look like to be kind to yourself and how does that work when we’re so used to be nasty to ourselves all the time? That’s kind of a backstory on how this all got involved, and I just was talking to that same friend earlier this week. I had given out a free copy to the group that had come to that presentation I had done years ago, and I called her and said, “You are part of the reason this book exists because you challenged me by saying, ‘Wait a minute. I love my inner critic,’ and she was like, ‘I don’t love my inner critic. I just need it,’ and I was like, noted, I totally get that. It’s for those of us who have a love-hate relationship with our Monger, and we know we don’t want it to be in our lives. It drives us crazy, but we can’t imagine a life without it.”

So that is the spirit of this book The Happier Approach. With that, last week I talked about the three steps I think are necessary to bring in what I call the Biggest Fan. And the Biggest Fan is the person in our head, similar to the Monger, except the Biggest Fan wants us to get stuff done. She is supportive of us and is wise and kind. This is the voice that is kinda quiet probably for most of us because you’re probably not used to hearing that voice because your Monger is just so loud and so overwhelming.

The Biggest Fan voice is very quiet, but she keeps us on our goals. She always knows what’s best for us, and she is very kind and wise and pushing us toward our goals. What I like to say is that there’s the Monger who’s the voice that’s continuously berating us. There’s the BFF who is the voice that’s like, “Go ahead. Do whatever you want.” I call her our false self-compassion, so a lot of us think self-compassionate with ourselves, but in reality, we just have a BFF. The BFF and the Monger argue and go back-and-forth all the time. They’re like siblings constantly fighting.

And then there’s the Biggest Fan who is the voice of wisdom and kindness who says, “You can do this. It’s okay. It’s going to be hard but let’s keep plugging along.” To channel the Biggest Fan, when we hear our Monger talking, we need to engage in what I call A.S.K., and we need to ask to hear from our Biggest Fan. A.S.K. is an abbreviation for Acknowledging what you’re feeling, Slow down and get into your body, and Kindly pull back to see the big picture.

So last week I did an overview of A.S.K. and this week I want to dive specifically into Acknowledging what you’re feeling. The first thing I want to say is that no one wants to acknowledge what they’re feeling, and I get that. You know, I joke that I went into therapy so I could figure out my feelings and be able to justify them away, and I would never have to deal with them at all. It isn’t so much I am the opposite of most therapists, and I hate feelings, especially those negative, you know, sadness and anger and anxiety and fear. Those are hard to deal with.

For a lot of us, we were taught let’s just pretend they don’t exist. Just keep moving on. Just keep soldiering on. Think positive. Be grateful. Whenever those negative feelings come up, just push them down and soldier on and forget they even exist. The idea of acknowledging your feelings is scary and is one that people are going to be like, “Yeah, no, I’m not doing that.” So bear with me. Keep listening. I promise it’s not as painful as it sounds.

Let me give you an example of what I mean by Acknowledge what you’re feeling, and why this is so important. Let’s take the example of you’re caregiving for an elderly parent. Your Monger steps in and is like, “You’re totally dropping the ball. They are unsafe in their home by themselves. I can’t believe you’re doing this. You suck. You’re a terrible daughter. How can you be doing this?” And just really hammering you.

And so, the ability to acknowledge what you’re feeling is simply to pause and say, “Oh my gosh. I am so scared that one day I’m going to be sick like this. Are my kids going to be able to take care of me? Am I going to be a burden to someone?” Or, “Oh my gosh. I’m so scared of losing my parent. It just makes me so sad to think that they may not be here one day.” Or, “I am so angry that this disease has taken over my life and my parent’s life, and I just don’t know what to do with all this anger I’m experiencing.”

So the idea of just being able to label it and own it, and what we do is when our Monger comes in and says, “You shouldn’t be feeling this way” or “You shouldn’t be upset” or “You should be doing a better a job,” we immediately jump into, “Okay, I need to be sucking this up, and I need to be doing this differently.”

And so we immediately go into justifying our behavior and justifying what we’re doing or trying to rationalize it away. “So I shouldn’t be feeling scared. That’s stupid because it’s going to be fine. This isn’t going to happen to me” or “I have kids, and that’s what they’re there for, and they’ll take care of everything.”

So we jump into a denial. We jump into a super rationalization. We don’t give ourselves the, “Oh sweet pea, you’re right. This is so hard right now.” Instead of acknowledging the feeling and giving ourselves some grace around that feeling, we immediately jump into fixing it, to avoiding it, or stuffing it down. That’s the beauty of acknowledging what you’re feeling. It’s just allowing a little space to come in so that you can hear the “It’s totally understandable you’re feeling this way.” That’s all you have to say. “Wow, this must be hard.”

And I love the phrase, “Oh sweet pea.” It’s just a term of endearment that I say to myself. For me I know that’s what the Biggest Fan would say to me is, “Oh sweet pea. Oh my gosh, this is so hard. You’re right. Let’s give yourself a little room here.” That immediately just relaxes everything. The minute you acknowledge and give yourself the permission just to feel that.

You know a really simple example is a lot of us are exhausted. We’re so tired from jumping from thing to thing, and running and pushing ourselves so hard, and the minute we admit, “Wait a minute. I’m a little tired today,” a Monger jumps in with, “What? How can you be tired? You got eight hours of sleep” or “You’re supposed to be superwoman” or “You have too many things to do. You can’t be tired. This can’t be happening.”

Instead of softening and saying, “It’s not a personal defeat that I’m tired. I’m just tired. That’s all it is.” That piece of acknowledging what’s going on and giving yourself that trust to say “I don’t have to keep denying a large part of my life. I can just make room for it here. I can acknowledge that this is happening, and it doesn’t mean I need to do anything.”

When I acknowledge, “Wait a minute, I’m tired” then I can pull back and see is there a chance for a five-minute nap today, or can I go for a walk and try to re-energize? How can I take care of myself? When we spend our lives in justification and analyzing it, that’s a huge one that we do. We just analyze the feeling. Well, why am I feeling sad? The analyzing it is trying to find a justification for why you feel sad, and your Monger will never give you the justification. That is the power of just saying, “I’m just going to own it. I’m just going to own that I’m sad. I don’t have to find a reason for it. I just am going to label that it’s there and that’s what I’m feeling.” That’s all step one is about.

Now, a lot of times people have resistance to this step because we are so afraid, those of us that have the love-hate relationship with our Monger, we’re so afraid that we’re going to be whiny or needy or overly emotional. To the minute it comes up that I’m feeling sad or I’m feeling scared, in rushes the Monger saying, “You’re needy” or “You’re too much.” So start recognizing, “Wait a minute. By acknowledging the fact that I am sad right now, which is a pretty normal human reaction to a parent being sick, am I being overly emotional? Am I too much? No. You’re pretty normal here.”

So the idea that we who have trained ourselves to keep it down and stuff it down and soldier on, any emotion that comes up that is slightly less than positive, we totally hammer ourselves with it. To start recognizing how often you do that, and the pressure and the stress that is caused by pushing down our feelings is so overwhelming. It just amplifies everything by ten-fold.

So all it involves is acknowledging, acknowledging what you’re feeling, simply saying to yourself, “Oh my gosh. I’m feeling sad right now.” Now trust me. I know there’s a lot of pushback around this concept. I know that the idea of doing this is scary and your Monger is going to flip out, but what I want you to do is practice it this week. This week when you notice your Monger talking, and you’re feeling especially hammered, stop and say “What am I feeling?” Just start labeling it. “I’m feeling sad. I’m feeling scared. I’m feeling angry.” No justification is necessary. No positive thinking necessary. No gratitude is necessary. Just labeling the feelings. That’s all I want you to do. Step one, acknowledge what you’re feeling.

Okay, so that’s Acknowledge. The first step in A.S.K., how to channel in your Biggest Fan. This is all from my book called The Happier Approach which you could pre-order right now if you go You can also download a free chapter from the book to get a teaser for it, and there’s some more information there.

The biggest thing is if you pre-order the book, you will automatically be enrolled in my mentoring workshop which is a group workshop that’s going to be ongoing that will help you do this process. It’s one thing to read a self-help book. It is another thing to actually implement it which is why I wanted to do this ongoing group, and the ongoing group will include Q&A’s with me, a private community where you can gather. It’s all online, and you will automatically be enrolled in that if you pre-order the book, which is an awesome deal because I’m going to start charging for that. It’s going to be an upcoming thing.

So that’s the show. Thanks for listening. The Happiness Hacks comes out every week in 2018. I’m very excited about that. So I hope to hear from you. You can send me an email or visit my site, and please go pre-order that book and download the free chapter. I think you’ll get a lot out of it. I’ll see you next week when we talk about Slowing Down and Getting into Your Body. Take care. Here’s to living happier.

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