Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your two ears.
Listen to the podcast episode here.
You’re in a jungle. You’re up to your waist in murky water, wading barefoot, stepping carefully from one sharp or slippery surface to the next. Working out where to place your feet is tricky and the resistance from the water makes things all the more difficult. It’s hard work and you’re tired but you’re moving forward. One foot in front of the other. Suddenly and without warning, something bites you on the leg and pulls you under.
I share this metaphorical scene with you because it’s what I imagine when I think about my efforts over the years to achieve various goals. I would work and work and strive and strive and then something would happen and I’d let it all go.
This post – and the accompanying podcast episode – is about the things that would creep up and bite me before I’ve even realised they were there. They were the stories I told myself, the stories behind my goals that I never thought to question. Those stories lay in wait for me. They became my enemies and pulled me under at exactly the moment I needed them to buoy me up.
If you’ve invested any time in self-development, you probably know it’s best to have a compelling reason to work towards a goal you’ve set yourself. Having a compelling reason helps with motivation and helps you ‘keep your eyes on the prize’. The gurus call it “Your Why” and the importance of having one is clear.
What’s less clear though, is the necessity to think about why your ‘why’ matters so much to you in the first place. What story are you telling yourself about why that’s the thing you have to achieve?
I’ve set myself dozens of goals over the years – mostly weight and food related. Stop eating this, start eating that, do more of this, do less of that… If you’d asked me about “My Why”, I’d have told you I wanted to feel good, be fit and healthy and enjoy wearing nice clothes.
But the truth underneath that is far more sinister because the story lurking under the water was always some version of “I am worthless unless I achieve this” or “I’ll only be good enough once I achieve that”.
Of course, the whole ‘inner critic’ thing is not news. Most of us struggle with those nasty, judgemental voices, but what I hadn’t thought about is how much easier it is to fail when we listen to the stories those voices tell us.
If you’re on the threshold of failure, what difference does it make if you jump into it? If you already hate yourself, you have nothing to lose. The story stays true either way. At least by giving up, you get a break from the incessant wading through waist deep water. It’s exhausting!!
I failed to notice the stories under the water in my own life until they recently changed. My stories have become ones of self-like (I choose these words deliberately and will explain them in my next post). I am enough whether or not I achieve my goals and because I like myself, the stories under the water buoy me up. I find it easier to face challenges, easier to stay the course and easier to believe in my own strength and resilience.
How do you change the stories?
I struggled to write this bit because I’m not sure I completely know the answer to this question but then, Gabrielle Bernstein gave me the words. In Judgement Detox, she said, “The miracle isn’t that I no longer have judgmental thoughts. The miracle is that I no longer believe them.” I realised the same is true for me. It’s not that I no longer hear the negative stories in my head, it’s that I no longer believe them.
The list below contains a summary of the things I’ve done over the last 18 months to get to this point. There is more to say about each one so more detailed blogs to follow:
- Find ways to turn your mind and body into a team – yoga and meditation are great for this.
- Do things that nourish and revitalise you rather than numb you.
- Become as open-minded and non-judgemental towards others as possible.
- Treat set-backs as learning opportunities and figure out what you now know about yourself that you didn’t know before.
- Use what you learn to help you the next time you face something similar.
- Talk to people about what you’re experiencing.
- Ask for help.
- Believe the kind things people tell you about yourself.
What are the stories that lie under the water for you?