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

Growth happens when you get uncomfortable

 
 

I’m aware that most of the people in my life think I’m a little crazy. I’ve always been the one who steps outside of ordinary life to experience what I believe is truly living. Unpredictable, new and exciting. More often than not this translates into “bloody uncomfortable!”.

When I reflect upon my life so far, all 30 years of it, I can’t help but look fondly upon some of the weird and wacky things I’ve done. From creating my first roadside stall selling coloured drinking straws, to taking 48 hour train rides on an Indian train - alone! - and now starting my own yoga studio in pursuit of a dream - my life is full of experiences that have always fostered learning, growth and on the odd occasion, sheer terror (and not just on my end.. “It’s ok mum. Keep breathing!”).

As a little girl I use to dream about the big things I was destined to do with my life. I’ve always been aware this life is short and with that in mind, I’ve been absolutely clear I want to make a really good go of it. What I naturally always did, and continue to do, was to place myself in different and always challenging situations. Learning to dance when I really have two left feet for one! Singing in public, signing up for presentation opportunities even though I’m absolutely shit scared terrified getting up there! Quitting a six figure income and leaving my entire life as I knew it behind to follow a dream… Intelligent? Maybe. Maybe not… Regardless, why do I do these things? Because I believe my life is meant to be lived how I choose. Not how someone else chose for me.

Do you  remember those Careers Advising Tests you did in years 10, 11 and 12 at school – you know, the ones which are meant to tell you what your ideal path in life is? Your perfect job. I remember being excited about one of the options which consistently came up for me – drama (despite my terror on stage). The rest offered very little by way of excitement for me personally. Law for one.. But having an academic family (lawyers, teachers and business owners) combined with very little self esteem, I never felt the unique path of something like acting was ever going to happen. I recall electing all the same subjects as my siblings when choosing university preferences. Law. Psychology. Criminology etc. I had no idea what I wanted to be, and couldn’t help but feel like a failure because I was now an adult (surely finishing school makes you an adult???) and had NO idea who I was, what I wanted to be, what I was capable of. As such, the easy option was to do what everyone in my family did. I had no mind of my own. I had no answers yet - and upon reflection, nor should I (and nor do I come to think of it!).

I fell into the classic path of school, university, full-time career. I’ll never forget bursting into tears on my first lunch hour of my first full time job. I called my mother crying and asked, “Is this it?!!!”. I was devastated that the rest of my life was to look like this 9-5 job. Answering to someone else and sacrificing my time, my life in exchange for money. Surely there was more to life. Wasn’t there?

It took almost 10 years for me to finally wake up and realize life didn’t need to be that way. Yes – the money was great  - but was it enough? Of course not. My life was falling apart. The work I did brought little meaning. When I eventually found the courage to let it all go and begin from scratch, I felt so liberated. So in control. And whilst times are tough at the moment (trying to get a new studio off the ground) I’m living my dream. I’m living my life, my way. I answer to myself. Every day I’m growing, evolving, becoming a more powerful human being in my own right. And whilst there are days where I worry (maybe panic is a better word here) everything is about to fall apart, I know there will always be a way to get through it. How do I know this? Because no other option exists.

So if you feel your life is disappearing down a path you’ve not chosen, ask yourself these questions to bring about some clarity. Be sure you take a good 20-30 minutes to really think through your answers. Don’t rip yourself off here. Your time, or more correctly, your life is too precious for that:

  1. “Whose path am I on? Mine or the one I feel has been expected of me by others?”

  2. “If I could do anything in the world and not fail at it, it would be ……………………?”

  3. “What’s holding me back?”

  4. “Am I making excuses to keep myself small when really I have the potential to live a fulfilling and happy life?”

  5. “What steps do I need to take next to make this happen?”

And now, hold on and enjoy the ride!

Sending huge hugs, love and congratulations your way. You can do this.

Jessica xx

Thank you Guruji. Thank you.

 
 

Dear Sir,

I’m writing to you as I wanted to share my thoughts about the most challenging, intimidating yet also rewarding months of my life. As I sit on my living room floor (where else would I be!) writing to you, reflecting about the month just gone, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and peace for having taught alongside you,Guruji, for the past month. Words cannot describe how important this was for me.

But before sharing these thoughts and feelings about the month just gone, I firstly wanted to recap about how we met.

At a time in my life when work was extraordinarily stressful and life had become mundane and dull, I came across a yoga teacher whose approach (to yoga) so inspired me that I knew if I was ever going to become a teacher myself, I would seek out the person she trained with. I knew they must be brilliant. That person was of course you. When the moment was right to begin this journey as a teacher, I sought you out and committed to three months in India. Leaving my entire life as I knew it behind me was extraordinarily challenging, but nonetheless exciting. Getting to know you during my first visit to Mysore was one of the most memorable and meaningful times of my life. Despite the intense physical and mental challenges faced through your training, life was becoming so exciting with the possibilities I knew lay ahead. Returning to Australia after spending so much time together in the Shala was the next challenge. I was nervous about no longer having your ongoing support and guidance (in person). I knew there so much more to learn from you and that a certification to teach would not suffice. My journey as a your student needed to continue. This was why I made the decision to approach you regarding the possibility of assisting with the upcoming TTC scheduled for March 2016. Whilst this would mean sacrificing being trained by you (as a practitioner), to teach alongside you would be the most incredible experience as I would be granted the opportunity to observe how you interact with your students; how you correct them; how you sequence your classes and more. With a commitment to being the best teacher I can possibly be, I knew this would be an invaluable experience - for whilst there are many brilliant yoga practitioners in the world, there are few equally as brilliant teachers.

Asking to assist was quite possibly one of my most vulnerable moments as to be rejected would have been so disappointing. However, whilst there were natural moments of doubt and fears of rejection, I knew it was important to take the risk and enquire. To have been accepted for this opportunity was quite possibly one of my greatest honours and your kind and welcoming support made this experience even more special.

The months leading up to the TTC were a rollercoaster of emotions. Worry, nervousness, excitement, gratitude… Observing my emotional state during these months was an interesting process. Ups, downs, round and rounds! Fluctuations as you would say.  I feared not having the stamina, mentally, to get through the month. I knew what was in store for the students (after having gone through it myself) and I questioned if I could go through it again - and more!  But worries aside, I knew I needed to be there and that I would find the courage to keep going when the time came. And of course, this time certainly came - over and over… and over again.

In March I flew to Mysore and I came to visit you the moment I arrived. I remember crying last year as I hugged you goodbye, feeling so saddened by the knowledge I would not see you again for sometime. But there I was, back again and now preparing to teach alongside you. How humbled and honoured I was to sitting and talking with you that afternoon. I shall never forget that conversation.

The following day, our month long journey together would begin. During that month I was challenged in every possible way. Physically, as an advanced teacher and practitioner, I was pushed to limits I once never thought possible. Pratima, who trained with me in between the TTC classes, certainly doesn’t settle for mediocrity with her practitioners! But physical challenges aside, this past month has been more a challenge of the mind. There were days when I felt totally drained, inadequate and lacked confidence. Whilst I’m too stubborn to quit anything I commit to (sometimes to my own detriment) there were days when I questioned my silly decisions to put myself through such an intense experience. But of course, the sane and logical part of me always pulled through and reminded me of what a life changing experience this would be. Of the honour it was to assist you, Guruji. So I kept going and gave 2000% to everything - my time, my personal practice and of course my support of yourself and the students…. There was absolutely no way I was going to let you, the students or myself down. This was far too important.

 
 

So as I sit here and reflect upon the month just gone, there are many special moments I shall hold dear for the rest of my life. It could have been just a simple nod of approval, a smile or sitting alongside you at the front of the Shala. Whilst to you or others these moments may have seemed insignificant, to me they were powerful and hugely meaningful.

So as a final word, I want to sincerely thank you for your ongoing guidance and support of my journey with yoga. For believing in me as a teacher and practitioner. I have learned more than I could have possibly ever imagined, and this experience has made me not only a better teacher, but a better student, practitioner and person overall. I cannot wait to return next year to continue this journey with you and step it up to the next level. Thank you Guruji. Thank you.

Much love,

Your student, Jessica.

 

Yogacharya Bharath Shetty