The Inner Critic versus the Inner Mentor


I’ve been listening to a wonderful book by Tara Mohr called Playing Big (I'm the slowest reader on the planet so listening is my preferred method). I’m only a third of the way through but I’m finding it to be profoundly important, especially at such an uncertain time in my life.

In her book, Tara explains how powerful the voice of the inner critic can be. She refers to this voice as one which tends to, unintentionally, keep us small. To stop us from ‘Playing Big’. This voice in our minds eye is there to protect us. It protects us from being vulnerable should we be placed in foreign situations. Unfortunately, however, it’s this same inner voice, this inner critic, that prevents us from trying new things, from experiencing new potentials. It’s the voice that tells us we have nothing valuable to say when we sit down to write that blog post or start the novel we’ve been planning to write for the past 5 years. I know my inner critic has prevented me from doing many things with my life. Why? Because I allowed it to. It felt safe and comfortable listening to this voice, indulging it. I didn’t have to try as much for I had an excuse not to. After all, “…as if you have the power to influence others in a positive way Jessica? Who would want to listen to you?” See how it works.

When I met the wonderful man in my life 10 years ago, he saw just how paralyzed I was by this internal world I had created for myself. Just as we get stronger when we go to the gym and do weights every day, this inner voice, my inner critic, had developed Hulk-like strength. This voice dictated my life.  It was so limiting that leaving the house without having mopped the floors and done my washing on a Saturday was verging on unbearable. OCD much! Heaven forbid had I left the bed unmade! 

10 years ago I made a decision I didn’t want to ‘play small’ anymore. I didn’t want to allow myself to live a life that was so bound by (my own) rules, so afraid of change and so victimized by the negative stories I repeatedly told myself – over and over and over again. So I began the long and ongoing journey to begin strengthening the voice of my inner mentor, as Tara would call it. She is the person I aspire to be. The person who is free from worry, from irrational thought, and is completely secure in how she stands in the world. She is the person who reminds me to keep going even when the present world around me feels as though it’s about to fall apart (which is most days at the moment – there’s no point lying!).

At the end of the day, I don’t know all the answers. God help me if I did! But what I do know is I’m taking active steps every single day to be the person who I believe I can be. To do what makes me smile and what gives meaning to my life. There are days when I allow the inner critic to take control of my thoughts and therefore my behavior. Those days are generally not fun at all. But when I take a moment to gather my thoughts, breathe deeply and just be, suddenly the drama disappears and my self belief reappears. This doesn’t mean the difficulties are gone. Let’s be totally frank here – life is always going to be filled with challenges. The difference is in how we respond to those challenges. That is what defines us.  That is what determines whether you follow a meaningful path, headed toward the place of wisdom where your inner mentor waits, or weather you remain stagnant, afraid and playing small.

For 10 years now, I’ve always maintained an attitude that anything is possible, and I maintain it to this day. Through my career in Rehabilitation, I’ve seen people recover from some of the most horrendous accidents whilst others who have had relatively minor incidents in comparison spiral downward. Why? Because it comes down to our choices. It comes down to the person we want to be in this life. No drug, no outfit, no amount of yoga can turn your life into what you want it to be. You need to want it for yourself, believe it can be yours and then fight hard for it. From here, yes, absolutely anything is possible.

So with that said, take some time to think about the stories your inner critic likes to share with you on a daily basis that keep you small. Be grateful for them and then graciously let them go. Visualise your inner mentor and the characteristics she/he possesses. When you feel anxious about a decision, ask yourself, what would my inner mentor do? And do that. Remember, your inner mentor is your place of wisdom, a place you can trust. There is nothing to fear here for he/she holds all the qualities you’re aspiring to possess. He/she is now showing you how to attain them.

I would love to hear from you? What is something in your life you dream to do but fear trying? Moving house? Changing jobs? Going on a holiday – alone! It could be anything. Then – let me know what your inner mentor would do in the same situation? You might be surprised at would you find out.

Be strong. Be powerful. Be you.

Sending huge hugs and love your way,

Jessica xo

We are what we think

Presentations for our thesis’ have begun as of today. (I’m presenting tomorrow on migraines). Today’s topic, stroke, led onto many important discussions. Firstly, yoga can offer wonderful benefits to a stroke patient, helping them to regain motor movements etc. But bigger than that, is the person’s ability to challenge their mind and learn to believe in their own ability to become stronger - regardless of illness, disease, injury.

This is a fundamental problem, not only in yoga, but in life. When looking at yoga specifically,  people are often so fearful they will hurt themselves (myself included - don’t get me wrong). This fear stems from a lack of belief in ones own ability to do something, Chakrasana for example. But this fear stops people from reaching heights they never thought imaginable. “We are what we think.” This so important for people to remember. If we think we are ill, we are ill; if we think we are depressed or anxious, then we are depressed or anxious; if we think we have chronic back pain and will never be able to do Sirsasana - guess what, you never will and the pain will follow you everywhere you go. I’ve been there. Believe me. And it’s something I have to work on daily (in various areas). But it’s through a willingness to learn and trust the body that the monumental benefits of this practice can help people. When looking into illnesses or diseases, these are so many problems in the world which could be cured just from a more positive frame of mind (yoga aside).

My teacher was run over by a bus at age 19, with 36 passengers on it. He spent 44 days on his back in the hospital unable to move at all. He was told his yoga days were over. He was also told that if he didn’t agree to have surgery on his shattered left thigh (which had tyre marks on it for months later apparently) or shit shattered left ankle, then he would lose his legs. My teacher knew he could heal his own body - it’s ever changing. We have a completely new body every 200 days, and he knew this. He also knew he would return to yoga no matter what it took. Other than his legs and ankle, he had severe sciatica, slipped disc in his back, dislocated knee and also damaged left shoulder. Today, he experiences no pain. My teacher, Bharath, is now a world leading practitioner who travels all over to teach at international events. Here, I watch him fly into asanas which I dream to do one day. His strength, flexibility and stillness of the mind is inspirational, and this story is a fantastic example of what can be achieved if we want it enough. Remember - “we are what we think”

My commitment to myself is to always; challenge myself, think positively and let go of the fear. Infinite possibilities are on the otherside. For me, this is truly living.

Namaste xx

Life in Gokulam, Mysore

Notice the little things. They will stay with you forever.

Today I want to focus on the highlights of my day. Yes, my back is in terrible condition at the moment (I have these ‘flare-ups’ every now and then), and yes it seems like an eternity since my alarm went off at 4.00am this morning, but overall, there were so many positives in the day. Here is where i want to place my energy.

To begin; during the midday teaching session (where we teach other students) our teacher today, Rosa, brought me to tears in a lovely way. During her class I could barely move the pain in my lower back was so dreadful. When we came to do group practice of Vriksasana (tree) I was unable to get my leg up without feeling as though someone was behind me stabbing a million knives into my spine. When Rosa noticed I was having trouble, she gently smiled and nodded to say “it’s ok - don’t worry”. This subtle and simple gesture meant more than she realised. When I gave my feedback to Rosa after the class, I became quite emotional and teary telling her this. Firstly, when you’re in class among other intermediate to advanced practitioners, you can’t help but feel a little silly when you can’t do a basic asana - the mentality which stops beginners from trying yoga in the first place (I’m very aware of that). But Rosa made it OK that I couldn’t lift my leg today. And not only did she make it OK, she didn’t make a big deal out if it either. As a teacher, this is an important skill, more like quality, to have; and as a student, it is important to have a teacher like this. She unknowingly made me feel so much better - emotionally anyway.

When I arrived home after class, the lovely Indian boy I was chatting with yesterday had an unusually large grin on his face. He followed me to my room, which he would never normally do, and prior to me opening the door, he told me they did not get to clean my room today (or get me pillows) like I asked. I had this moment of disappointment, realising I must have forgotten to leave my door unlocked again, and felt sick at the thought of having another night without extra pillows for support. As I opened the door, (the young boy within a couple of metres of me), I noticed my room had been beautifully made up, with extra pillows sitting waiting on the bed. Brand new sheets, bathroom and floors sparkling. They had actually gone to more effort than normal today, which was so lovely. Behind me, the young Indian boy was laughing as he knew he had tricked me. I giggled and said. “you got me!!” and he laughed even harder, repeating, “yes, I got you, I got you!” It was such a beautiful moment seeing how much joy this silly trick made him. 

As I mentioned yesterday, often people don’t even greet these young boys at reception as they enter the apartment. I however, always take the time to speak with them and ask how their day has been. I think in doing so, they have worked out I am no one to be threatened by. I will be sure to get a picture of the three boys prior to leaving Mysore. Their smiles will stay with me forever.

In keeping with the back pain theme, my practice tonight began very slowly. Vinyasa flow was not ‘flowing’ so well for me at first. But given time, listening to my body and being gentle with myself, I actually relieved a lot of tension in my back and ended up in postures I never thought were possible for me - especially in this condition. Well - first achievement was Eka Pada Rajakapotasana - only on my left side though (and not looking as graceful as in the picture, I assure you). 


I couldn’t believe it when I felt my way into this asana. I think I was one of two in the class who did it! I’m also now learning to walk in Chakrasana, up and down our mats. I can’t help but think of the Exorcist when I see people doing it - clearly some childhood scares there!

Lunch today at Anu’s (one of the best restaurants in Gokulam) was free, as by the time I arrived there wasn’t a lot of variety left. I still ate more food than probably two grown men would eat! But, Anu insisted I not pay this time and just pay the full fee next time I come for lunch. How sweet - an unnecessary!

And finally, I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who is supporting me during this time. I have received such beautiful emails from family and friends daily and have been told beautiful stories of my journey inspiring others also. There is nothing more special and inspiring (for me) to hear that. So, again, thank you for believing in me. You will all never truly know what this means.

On that note, I shall leave you as I have a big exam coming up and I need to keep preparing. Almost there!

Namaste xxx

Just keep training

I love Christmas. It’s such a wonderful time of year. There is a fabulous energy about the world at this time.

Today I spent lunch trying to collect last minute Christmas gifts. It;s suddenly happening too soon.

I haven’t done alot today in the world of yoga. This morning I went through the asanas I have learnt thus far, but I’m not doing very well. There are so many names for postures which all look very similar. I know I can learn them over time - but in 6 weeks? Well - anything is possible right!