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

The hidden lessons in yoga

I find I lose a little bit more of me each day I walk into the building here at work. There is this aroma of ‘soul destruction’ which floats around the building and i’m at a critical point now where my shield to it is beginning to fail. I feel as though this negative energy is just permeating my entire being with every breath i take. I also cant help but notice the lack of energy everyone else around me seems to have (or not have). I see new starters come on board with this amazing energy and then within a matter of a few weeks, they too look - well - grey. There is no colour left.

(Being synesthetic, I see everything in colours. I feel in colours).

But again, I need to take some responsibility here. I am choosing to stay that little bit longer. I need to, to make sure I have enough cash to cover my trip and my properties should anything happen whilst Im a barefoot yogi in Mysore. So I need to be strategic. I could also choose to look upon my situation more favourably - which I really try to, believe me - but there are some days where enough is just enough!

I had another daunting realization today - assuming i live to be 90 - my days on Earth will be done by 2074. Pretty terrifying! Knowing this just makes me even more determined to challenge myself and chase my dreams.

This morning I only practiced for a short while - just to wake me up. Its incredible what your body tells you when you listen to it. An ache can have so many meanings if you try and tap into it. And a beautiful release can offer such a blissful feeling when in the right state of mind. I’ve injured my left foot and for a while there, when at my lowest of lows in this job - I kept trying to push the recovery and challenge it through my morning practice. My high expectations for myself meant i wasn’t going to accept the injury and expected it to recover quickly. But with the aid of physio and gentle stretches, my foot is beginning to heal beautifully. Who would have thought!!

image

I guess that’s another reason why I love yoga so much. I am such an impatient person, but yoga teaches me to be still. To feel calm and to really take the time to care for my body the way it needs to be cared for. If there is a day when things are a little stiff - i have now come to accept that its is ok. If my balance is off one day - then that is ok too. I’ve become accustomed to this 'fast life’ as a result of many years of working in a frantically busy and stressful industry - so I am now working hard at doing the opposite, winding down.

I’m just glad i realised this now and not at year 2065.

One day at a time - I know i can get through this xx