If you’re anything like me you are always striving for more. Striving to improve in all areas of life, personally, professionally, physically, working to get a little better today than we were yesterday. I have always been like this and for years I had always leaned into hitting the next stage, next level of growth.
Many of us who share this mentality also share a common trait of thinking there is a “there”, a destination at the end we will eventually reach. That once this next goal or level is achieved we’ll be “there”! Ironically, what many of us experience as we succeed in achieving our goals and moving to the next level is not a overwhelming sense of joy and accomplishment. It’s a sense simply of “what’s next”.
I love this mindset and I wouldn’t trade my continual growth for anything. This mindset though can be lead us to be very harsh critic of ourselves and our perceived accomplishments. Like most things in life we have to embrace the gifts of who we are and strengthen those areas we perceive to be not as good.
This inner critic many of us experience is not a bad thing when held in check. It can also be hugely damaging if we let it take over our sense of self worth. This inner critic can keep us sharp, on our toes and focused on the task(s) at hand; or it can ultimately demotivate and derail our progress altogether. So how do we embrace this voice within us instead of simply trying to ignore it or shout it down? Or worse, allow it to begin to infect our being as we start to believe some of the non-sense this critical voice throws at us?
The first step is simply to notice this voice and/or thoughts when they appear. When this critic starts it’s torrent simply take note that you hear this voice and it’s rant. That’s it, notice them, don’t buy into them. By simply taking note a profound shift occurs very quickly, which is a separation of yourself from this voice. You’ll notice it’s almost like over-hearing a conversation of other people, mainly one person talking AT another. You have a choice now as to how you wish to handle this. Would you allow another person to speak to you as this inner critic does? Not likely. By noticing this voice and creating a separation between it and yourself you can take ownership of your response if not the narrative of the voice.
Changing the narrative of the voice takes time and practice and can absolutely happen (for another article). Reducing the amount of air-time this voice gets is a natural progression as we remove the power this critic has over us. First though we have to get really good at understanding the voice is a crazy person. A self defense mechanism ingrained to protect us from perceived danger, even if this danger is simply and act or activity at the edge of our comfort zone.
Once you have practiced noticing the voice you will begin to notice other things. Perhaps you’ll notice the angry response many of us have when somebody cuts us off in traffic, or the frustration towards a co-worker. As we notice these things, many of us soon begin to notice our buttons are not as easily pushed because we are noticing the trigger and not responding blindly, but through a separation of rational thought and raw emotion.
The natural progression of this concept is simple. If you begin to respond to life in a more positive and understanding manner, can you see what the trend will be going forward? That’s right. As we improve our relationship within ourselves we improve all of our relationships outwardly, and this has all manner of positive outcomes. Our experience (life) is simply a collection of our choices and actions thus far. As we upgrade our thoughts and actions, our experience thus upgrades with us.
Going back to the beginning of the article, how does noticing our thoughts and separating ourselves from our inner critic have anything to do with reaching our goals and getting to that point we are all striving for?
That point we working towards doesn’t actually exist. It’s a mirage. Like seeing the end of the rainbow it can look so close, yet when you get close it’s not longer there, vanished. As we strive to improve ourselves in all aspects of life there is no point at which we’ll be done, will be at our destination and fully satisfied. When our inner critic hears this the tirade can become volatile and destructive if we let it. If we ignore it and keep trying to get to this imaginary “point” we ultimately will become miserable in the process. Most of us feeling as if we’ve failed, even in our success, especially in our success.
When we understand we will always be growing, it is indeed our nature as people who desire growth. We can quell the critic within and enjoy the process much more. After all, it’s the process and not the result which is the real prize and thing to be attained. The experiences along the way are what matter and the goals we set are simply markers along the way, like mileage posts on the highway.
Begin to notice these thoughts and pay attention to the shifts you will experience. Embrace the experience of all of it, the perceived good and bad of everyday. We wouldn’t notice the sun without the clouds.
Let me know how this works for you and what you notice along the way. This practice opens the doors for more profound change as you grow with it.