Our lives demand so much in the way of doing things right, but how often do we pause and ask ourselves if this is right, or good enough, or even toxic to us. We want validation, but unless our actions match our thoughts and feelings, we can’t validate ourselves until we are doing what is right for us, whether it means letting go and walking away from other peoples opinions and plans for us, or taking that class that might help us move forward from our current professional or creative goal, or simply unplugging and spending more time with ourselves and our loved ones.
Ultimately, what matters is what is good enough for ourselves. This means that sometimes we need to push ourselves a bit and spend an hour or more meticulously scrubbing that grout with a toothbrush and scraping old paint splatters off the floor or hitting that note perfectly when playing music, but sometimes this means that it’s OK to rinse the dishes and leave them in the sink for later or to do something on our Someday list instead of our To-Do list.
There is nothing wrong with expecting our best, and doing what it takes to expand our own limits, but in this day and age, most people are so overwhelmed by the expectations of everyday life that we don’t know how to slow down and relax without some kind of external input (usually electronic in nature). Take a little time every day to do two things:
- Sit in silence with no music, television, computer, ebook, smartphone or other device. If you like to meditate, go ahead. If not, yoga, qi gong, or tai chi might be helpful.
- Make something free-form. Paint, play an instrument, draw, write in a journal with no punctuation/grammar/structure, work with clay or even play dough. Get in touch with what feels right instead of what looks right.
When that voice in our mind rears it’s critical head, we can take a moment and have a conversation with it. Ask it the 5 W’s; Who, What, Where, When, Why.
~Whose voice(s) from our past have we adopted in our mind as our self-critic? If we can identify this voice, we can take some time to get to know this voice, and prod at it, asking ourselves what we really believe and desire, then gently thank that voice and invite it to move on. We can even be angry at the origin of that voice, but we must practice compassion with our self before we can master forgiveness.
~What is really important right now? What are my priorities? Will this waste precious time and energy that I can better offer to someone, or something else (maybe even myself)?
~Where will listening to this voice lead? Will I find myself in a loop of negativity, justification or victim-hood? Or will I choose to focus on the truth about myself and be gentle with my faults and celebrate my assets?
~When will I make the choice to be happy? Can I make that choice right now, even if I don’t feel positive or hopeful? Will this really matter in a day/week/month/year?
And the hardest question of all:
~Why do I choose to continue to believe this voice? What am I holding onto and how does that belief benefit me and those around me?
Whether we are having a bad hair day, our kid breaks a glass during dinner, someone cut us off on the road, or we get fired, we can choose to love ourselves, including our inner-critic, by being gentle on ourselves and others. We have already perfected the art of beating ourselves up, and if you are resonating with any of this, you know that the solution does not lie in the problem. Rather, we find that any lasting change in life begins with a commitment that we renew daily (sometimes more often) to practice compassion for our self and those around us and to step up and take responsibility for the trajectory of our lives.