You’re angry because the meeting isn’t going your way. You’re frustrated because your partner never makes the bed. You smolder as the traffic piles up and makes you late to work this morning. What’s next? The self-critic pops in for a drive-by of self-berating. “My ideas stink.” “He doesn’t appreciate me making this bed. I’m a doormat.” “I’m an idiot. Why did I go this way?” Does any of this sound familiar?
It’s amazing how often my clients don’t realize the language they use when they refer to themselves. Client: “I’m the only one my mother has.” Coach: “So you are responsible for your mother’s addiction?” Client: (smile) “Well, when you say it like that…probably not.” Coach: “Probably?” Client: (bigger smile) “Why does it sound different when you say it. Definitely not.” We all have a ticker tape of the little self-critic rambling that goes on and on and on in our heads. That little self-critic is taking up precious space from valuable real estate for much better things. It’s time to let go.
Here are some things that you will create space for:
- Random acts of self-care. I gave up on the news about a year ago. I let go of the need to be constantly informed. I am calmer. I am no longer hyper vigilant, waiting for the next shoe to drop. With the thirty minutes I saved (actually it’s probably more like 2 hours, if you count all the news links I would take randomly throughout the day to get the latest on the stock market or the president), I’ve added 20 minutes of meditation and self-reflection. If I’m home early enough, I read or meditate. Create the space for self-care.
- Loving kindness for others. I have given up the resentment I feel when I do things for others. I used to get angry when I did the dishes or made the bed for someone else. I had to let go of my story that I was being a doormat. I had to quit keeping score. I changed the story to be one of loving kindness for my family, instead of constantly searching for the balance of power of “I did this” now “You owe me that.” It was exhausting to constantly keep score. Now I am in the space of having loving kindness for everyone. A sort of pay-it-forward love and kindness. There is no scoreboard necessary.
- Liberation for myself and others. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in your children’s success or failure. To see it as a reflection of you; as an extension of you. If your son doesn’t go to an Ivy League school, what will the neighbors think? I let go of the attachment to their outcomes. It’s the same when you want to implement a new procedure at work and it gets shelved. Oh well, move on. A year ago, I would have lost sleep over the shelving of the procedure and had mock arguments in my head with the nay-sayers for hours ad nauseam. I am set free. Embrace liberty.
- Embracing uncertainty. As I say to my clients, we all want control. We all want to be the Wizard of Oz with our hands on the joy stick of life. Fact is, there is no control. This can be uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. When I let go of control, I started to be more adaptable. I was driving home from Virginia last week. The tire pressure indicator on the car came on. I initially felt a jolt of anxiety. I took a deep breath and realized that I could control my reaction. I called my friend for a second opinion on a 29 psi and he told me it would be fine for the time being. I did stop at a gas station and filled up the tire (I have not filled a tire with air in about 30 years). No sweat. I didn’t panic. Let go the illusion of control and embrace uncertainty.
- Space for openness. When you let go of judgment, you make space for openness. Self-judgment is debilitating. Constantly judging others is also debilitating. “I’m fat.” “She’s fat.” “What an atrocious dress.” “He’s late again.” Judge. Judge. Judge. Judge. I am not completely free of doing this, but I am at least calling it out in my head. “This is judgment.” The first step is to label it. Acknowledge that you are doing it. Calling my judge out lets me embrace acceptance. I imagine writing on my forehead with a sharpie and masking tape: Judge. Label it. Then let it go. The universe is open to me (and you).
- Detach from emotions. I have been a stuffer of emotions. I would numb them or stuff them deep inside. I am learning to lean into the emotion and observe it. Oh, so this is anger. My throat is constricted and my head is hot. Oh, so this is sadness. My stomach is clenched and tears are streaming down my face. I love the analogy that I am just the movie screen and that the movie actually being projected is my thoughts. I am able to just be the movie screen and not the movie. Let go of the thoughts that create the emotion and observe.
This has been a deep and deliberate practice for several months, but I am reaping the rewards. Create space for what you really want and let go. It is better.