Setting Boundaries

In my quest over the years to understand words and phrases I have heard – loving myself, step into my power – one that has puzzled me is boundaries.  I didn’t know I could have boundaries, somehow I didn’t think I was qualified.  The problem I kept finding was no one got to the point in a simple clear way – they all kept going around it.  It confused me and I was having trouble seeing a picture of it for myself.

I checked out a definition:  Personal boundaries are the imaginary lines we draw around ourselves to maintain balance and protect our bodies, minds, emotions, and time from the behavior or demands of others.  They also allow us to be in the driver’s seat of our own lives.

At the root of boundary issues is the fear we won’t be loved, that we aren’t good enough or deserving enough just as we are. When we respond to life from this point of emotional weakness, we are letting go of our integrity in order to salvage the crumbs of love and acceptance.

Personal boundaries will attract people to you who are emotionally healthy themselves — people who respect your boundaries.

This has happened a lot in my life – there has to be a context that helps me see it.  Something Dr. Phil said was “You teach people how to treat you” – what was that all about?  Then one of the KKNW radio show hosts talked about how one enables another in behavior – addictive, violent, etc.  My light bulb began to glow brighter and I was getting a picture of it.

As I get older, I am more able to see my childhood programs – they aren’t all negative.  My parents gave the three of us daughters boundaries, very specific ones.  There were rules and consequences, so when they threatened, we knew they would carry it out.  My dad’s favorite one was “You do that again, I’ll warm your fanny”.  It wasn’t a beating, just a smart enough spank on our tush to let us know they meant it.

I’m not sure about about my sisters, I know I was brought up to be a good girl and follow the rules – at home and outside in the world.  I sometimes think they may have done too good a job, but what they taught us was very important in later life.  My older sister said they gave us a wonderful gift – integrity.  They also showed by example – none of this “Do as I say, not as I do” balderdash.  Mom once said  the hardest part of being a parent is being a good example.

Now looking back, I realize they gave us boundaries, I just never thought about it in that way.  Now as I am exploring what boundaries are, I see them better.  Mostly I realize it has to do with how I want to be treated, what I won’t accept and what are deal breakers.  It also means letting someone know they have overstepped the boundary – in a nice, but firm way so there is no doubt. Anything that makes me uncomfortable, upset or angry is overstepping boundaries.  I am qualified and have the right to say “This is unacceptable”.

Mom would occasionally talk about growing up in Connecticut, a lot about The Aunts and her Grandmothers.  Other times when I asked, her response was “I don’t remember” – end of discussion.

We all want to be treated with respect, be heard and be seen.  In my adult life I have areas where I don’t feel heard or seen – I am not sure how it happened, I have often been vocal about something I didn’t like.  It just didn’t seem to penetrate or get through to the other person.  I would think “If I just had the right words, the other person would finally “get it”.  So far I haven’t found the words and I am getting older and older.  Does the person think I don’t mean it or it doesn’t matter to her/him?

I have often thought I have more questions than answers – it will keep me in lifelong learning to find the answers.  I heard a great definition of enabling – when someone does something that hurts or goes against your best interests but you cover up and excuse them.  Whether it is addiction, violence, cheating, stealing, etc., when effects things in the outside world and you protect them.  How many parents have done that for their kids and find things get worse.  There are no consequences for their actions.  That tells the other person he/she can do it again or do even more and there are no consequences.  There you are lamenting you don’t know what to do about this behavior.  Some things to think about:

Some unhealthy boundaries

  • Saying no when you mean yes or yes when you mean no.
  • Feeling guilty when you do say no.
  • Acting against your integrity or values in order to please.
  • Not speaking up when you have something to say.
  • Adopting another person’s beliefs or ideas so you are accepted.
  • Not calling out someone who mistreats you.
  • Accepting physical touch or sex when you don’t want it.
  • Allowing yourself to be interrupted or distracted to accommodate another person’s immediate wants or needs.
  • Giving too much just to be perceived as useful.
  • Becoming overly involved in someone’s problems or difficulties.
  • Allowing people to say things to you or in front of you that make you uncomfortable.
  • Not defining and communicating your emotional needs in your closest relationships.

How to set boundaries:

  1. Mind Shift  Begin with the mind shift that having personal boundaries is OK. It doesn’t mean you are selfish or unloving. It is both completely acceptable and absolutely necessary for healthy relationships. Understand that self-worth comes from defining your life as you want it to be, not from the acceptance or identity of others.
  1. Define  Sit down and think about how you have been allowing others to take advantage of you and how you might be accepting situations that are really unacceptable to you. Make a list of things that people may no longer do to you, say to you, or do around you. Decide how you need physical and emotional space. Define your values, belief system, and outlook on life so you have a clear picture of who you are and how you want to live. Get very clear on that.
  1. Communicate   Sit down with the people involved in crossing your personal boundaries and kindly communicate your mind shift. Let them know you have spent some time thinking about what is important and acceptable to you and what isn’t. Let them know how they have crossed your boundaries in the past, and ask them to respect and support your new boundaries.
  1. Expect Expect that this conversation will feel uncomfortable and difficult, especially if you are a pleaser. There may be some defensiveness and push-back from those involved. That’s OK. They’ll get used to your new boundaries over time.   Whatever you do, don’t compromise your values, integrity, and self-respect simply to keep someone in your life. Your soul can’t sustain that.
  1. Reinforce   It may take some time to train yourself and others around your new boundaries. Continue to reinforce them so that you are taken seriously and respected. Practice saying no when you are asked to do something you don’t want to do. Create a plan for times when someone crosses your boundaries. Let them know what they are doing. Ask them to stop immediately. Walk away from any push-back or negative comments without acquiescing or getting angry. Over time, you and the other person will realize you are serious.
  1. Reward  Be sure to acknowledge and reward those who are supporting and respecting your personal boundaries. Thank them and let them know the positive impact it has had on your life. This will motivate them to continue their behavior.
  1. Reciprocate  Remember that respecting boundaries goes two ways. Examine your own behavior and words to see where you might be crossing another person’s boundaries. Work to change those behaviors so that you are reflecting the respect and support you want for yourself.
  1. Stay Flexible  The goal is a healthy relationship with those close to you, balanced by a sense of understanding, mutual support, and give-and-take. There may be occasions when you choose to bend your boundaries or allow someone to cross the line. When someone is hurt or sad, needs extra support, asks for an exception with respect and kindness — these are times to show flexibility and love.
  1. Be Patient  If you have had weak personal boundaries for years, be aware that this change doesn’t happen overnight. Disengaging from the emotions and beliefs that led you to weak boundaries requires practice, and sometimes it requires the support of a counselor. Begin to recognize and challenge the limiting beliefs that undermine your practice of setting boundaries. Try to require your boundaries are respected even when you feel unsure or uncomfortable.
  1. Believe  Believe in yourself and your value as a unique individual who is worthy of love and respect. Trust your instincts and feelings about what you do and don’t want in your life. No one knows better than you who you are and what you desire. Don’t allow others to define that for you. Practice self-confidence and self-love until it feels natural. Setting and requiring boundaries is a great way to practice this.

What happens when we possess healthy personal boundaries:

 We have improved self-confidence and a healthy self-concept.

 We are more in touch with reality.

Are better able to communicate with others.

Have better more fulfilling relationships.

Have more stability and control over our lives.

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Stepping Into Your Power

I have spent so much of my life feeling powerless, I never knew why or what I could do about it.  When RA arrived, I added helpless to my view of myself.  I never thought I had any power, other people were always making the decisions.  To me, power and being powerful always seemed as if powerful people were strong and bulldozed their way through whatever obstacles stood in their way.  As a highly sensitive person and brought up to be the “good, polite girl”, I couldn’t see myself doing anything like that.  Lately I have begun to understand I have given away my power all this time – then came the question “How did I do that?”.  A foreign concept to a “good girl” because the “rules” said you had to play nice, be polite and as a girl, let the boy win.

Skip forward a few years and I read one of  Dr. Phil’s rules – “You teach people how to treat you”.  Once again, how did I do that?  Since I came from a background and lifetime of insecurity, not all that hard.  I ran across a list from Jenna Avery on how one gives one’s power away.  What an eye opener!

You give away your power when you …

•  Doubt yourself. Energetically other people sense this and take advantage of it.

• Try to be nice and polite, and make everyone else happy.

•  Just go along so you don’t make waves, cause trouble, or disrupt the “peace.” Does the phrase “peace at any price” mean anything to you? Are you giving up your own personal inner peace to create the illusion of peace with others?

• Over-empower others by looking for approval and validation from them, instead of getting it from yourself. This gives other people the power to hurt you.

• Forget that you do know what you’re doing, and you are good at it.

•  Have poor boundaries.

• Get energetically “mixed up” with other people by not staying in your own energy. Or, you let other people take over your energetic space by leaving your body or by pulling back.

  • You give in to guilt trips.

•  Allow yourself to be intimidated by bluster, bragging, or emotional assaults from other people.

• Don’t say what’s true for you and then honor it. You can do this without being confrontational.

• Energetically and emotionally buy into other people’s dramas, emergencies, and aspersions.

•  Allow other people to run your life, or try to run other people’s lives.

Bullseye!  That has been me so much of the time.  It was not easy to read or to realize how much that described me, but it was a real eye opener.  It has taken time for it to simmer on the back burner and really see how I have allowed this to happen.  But I didn’t sit and beat myself up for not being aware of it before, my normal SOP for a long time.  I have been able to see  a bit more objectively how it has happened and I now know I am not responsible for the whole world or making sure every one is happy.  I care, but not so much. (Thank you Ike Pono)

I also found these two – When we have pain, illness, or dis-ease in our bodies, it is a sign that we are out of balance; that we are giving power to heal ourselves away. We all have the power within us to create good health, but when we develop physical dis-ease our bodies are communicating to us that we are losing our life force energy; this energy is needed to heal.

Depression happens when we feel out of control in our lives. We don’t feel like we can change the status quo to create what we want, so we “opt out” of life to some degree. What precedes depression is often a feeling that you cannot control, such as grief or anger. In effect, a depressed person is suppressing their power, and controlling what they can control: feeling nothing.

My biggest way of giving away my power has been looking for validation and approval from external sources.  My sisters and I grew up asking our parents for permission before doing anything – well, at least the 2 oldest.  My younger sister used to announce to my parents “I have done . . . “  Where did that come from and why didn’t I have even a bit of it.  But now I see that there is a gift in that – I finally realized that it has to come from within me, not from outside.  If it is from outside, when that source is no longer there, I have to find a new source.  When it comes from within me, it is always there and I love, accept, approve and trust myself.

Jenna has also given a list of ways to begin to take back your power:

• Remember to breathe! Focus your breath into your solar plexus and third chakra, which is your personal power chakra.

• Practice staying in your own energy, your own body, and your own skin.

• Learn energy skills to strengthen your energetic and interpersonal boundaries.

• See yourself as a whole, resourceful, and spiritual being, with your own best answers.When you choose to focus from the inside out in this way, you’ll be less susceptible to outside influence.

• Learn to say “No” and mean it. This means being firm — and not just with the tough people, but with everyone. Your personal power must become your habit, not a reaction, afterthought, or counterattack.

• Use your anger wisely — anger is the energy of personal power — and stand up for yourself.

• Stand on the courage of your convictions. Believe in yourself no matter what anyone else does or says, or how they behave.

• Ask for what you need and want. Give yourself what you need and want.

• Similarly, don’t burden others with the task of validating you. Use your own yardstick to measure your successes. Look to your higher self for validation and approval.

• Own this truth: Other people have their own path and you are not responsible for them. You might even be doing them a disservice by not acknowledging this.

• Claim your rights and place in the world. You do have the right be treated respectfully by other people.

• Be detached and practice detachment by observing other people’s behavior without attachment. Think to yourself: “Isn’t that interesting? I wonder what that’s about?” Remember that another person’s behavior is not about you.

Think of it in these terms “Her circus, her monkeys”.

As Marianne Williamson says:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

Thoughts, Words, Actions

It finally hit in the face –  we only have this moment right now.  The past is done, there is no way to go back and change it – no matter how much we might want to – and the future is yet to be created.  We create our future in this moment with our thoughts, words, actions, attitude and beliefs.  So in each moment focus on those things and make sure they are loving, empowering  and positive thoughts, words, actions, attitude and beliefs.  What you send out to the Universe attracts and returns those same vibrations with more of the same.  So you  need to be aware of what vibrations you are sending.  It is true that thought become words, become actions and become things.

I’ve spent many decades not liking or loving myself, feeling no one wanted to play with me in school, often feeling there was something wrong with me.  A chubby, plain daughter in the middle of 2 slender sisters.  Didn’t feel I was special in any way.  I didn’t have a date until I was 19 and they weren’t beating down the doors to date me.  I did marry at 22, I still wasn’t quite able to believe he saw me as beautiful.  I could go on and on – the point is when my Mom was going into dementia, I finally saw a lot of childhood programs I was still operating under without knowing it.  I finally decided that I was going to decide what my thoughts are, make my own rules and put those false programs behind me.  I chose to see those programs as past data, no longer valid in this moment.  I asked Spirit to  help me as well as all who are here for my highest good to put behind me.  I closed a huge steel door on all of it and locked it tight.  The key is with someone in this group.  I felt so much lighter after that.  I had to really work on I Am Enough because I never felt good enough.  I was looking at the Big Picture for a sudden revelation but nothing came.  Someone talked about the definition of Enough – sufficient unto the day.  I realized that it is about this moment because that is all we have.  The past over and done, we can’t go back and change anything – even if we want to.   Think of it as past data, invalid in this moment.  The future hasn’t been created yet, that what you think, say, do, believe and your attitude right in this moment creates your future.  So change negative into positive, loving and empowering thoughts worlds, actions, beliefs.  If necessary, write down the negative thoughts as they come and create positive, loving and empowering ones.  Then, when the old thoughts come up, you already have the opposite  to choose.

I read a book a few years ago and one of the things he talked about was how your thoughts create your life situations.  I thought about it and it made me think of a hollow deck program in Star Trek.  They were so real with so much detail.  He suggested that instead of beating yourself up for  creating your situation, give yourself a pat on the back for doing such a detailed and thorough job of writing this program.  Since you did so well on this one, you won’t have any problem writing a new, ore positive, loving and empowering program for the next part of your life.

Amy Beth Gardener wrote this, it says it so well.

My daughter starts middle school tomorrow. We’ve decorated her locker, bought new uniforms, even surprised her with a new backpack. But tonight just before bed, we did another pre-middle school task that is far more important than the others. I gave her a tube of toothpaste and asked her to squirt it out onto a plate. When she finished, I calmly asked her to put all the toothpaste back in the tube. She began exclaiming things like “But I can’t!” and “It won’t be like it was before!” I quietly waited for her to finish and then said the following:

“You will remember this plate of toothpaste for the rest of your life. Your words have the power of life or death. As you go into middle school, you are about to see just how much weight your words carry. You are going to have the opportunity to use your words to hurt, demean, slander and wound others. You are also going to have the opportunity to use your words to heal, encourage, inspire and love others. You will occasionally make the wrong choice; I can think of three times this week I have used my own words carelessly and caused harm. Just like this toothpaste, once the words leave your mouth, you can’t take them back. Use your words carefully, Breonna. When others are misusing their words, guard your words. Make the choice every morning that life-giving words will come out of your mouth. Decide tonight that you are going to be a life-giver in middle school. Be known for your gentleness and compassion. Use your life to give life to a world that so desperately needs it. You will never, ever regret choosing kindness.”

Such wise words and a wonderful example.   I prefer real life examples to help me understand a theory or principle. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed – don’t we all.  There is a verse in the Bible that says God will never give us more than we can handle – there are times I think He overestimates my abilities.  What I have realized is that I have underestimated my abilities. Sometimes it is smart to just stop, find an quiet place and breathe several times.  Then put your hand over your heart and ask what Spirit wants you to know.  It means clearing mind chatter –  that may take some practice.  Listen to the answer – you will hear, see or have a knowing about it.

The most powerful 2 words are “I am”.  When you say those words, think those thoughts, it has so much power.    I saw something the other day that was quite eye opening.  The guy asked the young woman to describe herself.  She said “I’m fat, I’m ugly and I ruin everything I do”.  Then he said – “Picture your 7 year old self sitting in the chair across from you; would you tell her she’s fat.”  “NO, of course not!”  “Would you tell her she is ugly?”  “No, of course not!”.  “Would you tell her she ruins things?”.  “NO I wouldn’t!!”  “That is what you are telling her every time you think or say or believe you are those things.”

She is your inner child and she is looking for the love, acceptance, comfort and support she didn’t receive growing up.  You are now the adult and you have the power to give her all the things she wanted, plus so much more.  It may take time

to connect with her; it’s worth it to go within and allow her and yourself to connect and be there for each other.  She has a lot to teach you and you have so much to give her.   Remember Cupcake, you are a magnificent, wonderful and loving woman and you don’t have to measure up to anyone or meet anyone’s expectations.  You are perfect as you are.

Something I’ve been doing since I started doing speeches for the Arthritis Foundation.  Before I go in, I sit in the car and become quiet.  Take three deep breaths and exhale deeply.  Then ask Spirit, angels, God, Universe – who or what works for you – and ask that you be given the thoughts, words, actions, attitude and beliefs necessary  .  Then promise to show up and get out of the way.  I usually had a card with the things I needed to say – it was the basic facts – and make sure I covered them because that was most important.  I would tell stories about myself because everything I do is usually has a personal element.  So I would make sure I covered the important things and I found it worked well for me.  I may not have been that confident doing it, but it worked out and with practice I enjoyed doing it.   People were always friendly – they want you to do well.

Another practice I use when I am going into a negative situation is to  go quiet and breathe.  The imagine yourself encased in a golden bubble that is filled with love, joy and happiness.  None of the negative can come in to your bubble, it just bounces off.  If you don’t have time to go to your bubble, just keep saying to yourself “Bounce off, bounce off” to the negativity.

It Isn’t Personal

Miguel Ruiz in his  book “Four Agreements”  writes not to take it personally when someone says or does something against you.   Certainly it is hard to look at a person or situation that way when you feel hurt, betrayed and bullied for no reason.  Not take it personally?  Especially when you feel attacked?  It definitely feels personal because you are on the receiving end of all that anger.

It’s taken me a long time to truly understand what he is talking about and what he means.   I think of a time when I was growing up, this one particular day I was feeling so good, feeling joyful.  I was dancing around the living room and then came what I call “The Squelch”.  My Mother used one of her regular phrases “Stop flapping around!”  For a long time I thought in terms that joy, enthusiasm and exuberance were not acceptable – I wasn’t acceptable.

It was several decades later I realized that is wasn’t about me, it was about my Mom being uncomfortable with the situation and she need to have control again.  I don’t think she realized what kind of effect it had on me, I was insecure already and this really made a huge impact on me.  Last year I was doing some therapy and found out that she may have been jealous of me for feeling joy, enthusiasm and exuberance.  That meant I had to start looking deeper into situations and people than I have ever done.

I began to realize that each of us  reacts according to our beliefs, attitudes, insecurities, personal history and experiences.    Another person or a situation can trigger emotions, memories and feelings from something similar in our past experience.  It is a reaction as opposed to a response.  We allow emotions to take over without realizing it – so often those are on autopilot.

I checked out the different between react and respond to be able to see the difference.  What I found was this:

 A reaction is typically quick, without much thought, tense and aggressive.  It is coming from the ego, its answer to life’s events. It is self protective, and often clouded with a deluge of varying emotions from sadness to fear.  Because it is from emotions, we often don’t have time to think or evaluate the situation.   A reaction typically provokes more reactions – perpetuating a long line of hatefulness with nothing accomplished.
A response is thought out, calm and non-threatening.  Responding to a situation differs from reaction because it allows room for our highest self to assess a particular situation. Response implies that there is space between an event and our interpretation of an event. That space is all that is necessary to allow in a more intelligent aspect of ourselves to steer the proverbial ship.  I think of it as letting it simmer on the back burner.
Because reaction happens in that moment, it is hard to tell the other person “Can I get back to you on that?’  Especially if one or the other is spoiling for a fight.  Then it is no holds barred, win at any cost.  It means you have to be willing to walk away in order to understand what is happening.  What is the other person’s motivation for what seems to be an attack on you?  See if it is possible to look at it from his/her point of view.
What you may find if you give it time is that there may be pressure from one or more sources and it is overwhelming to the person.   Sometimes that person may feel out of control or not be able to push back at the source, but you are handy to let off that frustration.  Maybe you really did do something, or contributed to the situation – the active participants all contribute to it.  Not only are you looking at the other person, you are also looking at what you have done.  As Dr. Phil often says “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge”.
Eckert Tolle talks about allowing.  Finding a quiet place and be with exactly how you are feeling.   Allow yourself to just feel the feelings, not to judge it as right or wrong, good or bad.  It also means not wishing it were different or it would go away.  Give yourself the time and space to feel it and then be able to release it, sending it back to Source to be transmuted into love and light.  The longer you hold on to it, the more negative affect it will have on your whole being.
It is not easy to retrain your brain and ego to see it more objectively.    It takes a lot of  practice of being conscious of our thoughts, words and actions.  It will not happen overnight, but give yourself a break when you forget to think that way.  It will get easier the more you practice.
Working this practice means we create space between what happens in life and who we are. The more we create this space the more we begin to see we are not what happens in our lives nor are we our reactions.
This is one the many things I wish I had known a lot sooner.

Inner Critic

Oh my, we all have one, don’t we?  Some have a stronger one than others and I have to admit, I have allowed her to be much too strong.  I have handed her the sledge hammer she uses to beat me up – I just stand there and let her do her worst.  Why? Well, for so long I thought I deserved it – but I now realize those are only programs that I didn’t realize were there or understand what was happening.  Yes, I am now more aware – I have also invited her to beat me up because I believed all those negative things abut myself.

I heard a story the other day about The Inner Critic that was so cool and unexpected.  Her name is SARK – she is a writer and also creates posters and cards. She tells about doing a show as she is promoting her new book and when she was finished, she heard her inner critic telling her how bad it was, etc.  She felt bogged down by it and knew she had to do something because she has other interviews and events that day.  As she walked out the front door of the studio, she saw a squad car and a police officer.  She went over to him and asked if he would do her a favor.  She explained what had just happened and asked him if he would arrest her inner critic and take her away in his squad car.  He was a little surprised, but he arrested her inner critic, opened the back door of the squad and put her and drove off – laughing.  Then SARK was able to go on to her events with out her inner critic hanging over her head.

WOW! I loved that!  As a matter of fact, I was coming home that day and stopped for gas. it’s been cold here for a bit – yes, cold to us, not the Arctic Circle.  As I was filling my gas tank, I started thinking “I’m so tired of the cold”.  I realized that was really negative so I decided to arrest my inner critic.  I imagined an arrest warrant, then the squad car and putting her inside, shutting the door and watching her be driven away. After that I thought about what is great about the cold weather – being inside warm and dry by a fire, reading with a lovely hot cup of tea and a cat purring in my lap.  I also thought about going out early Wednesday mornings to my networking breakfast group and  seeing the sun rise over the mountains and enjoying a magnificent view of Mt. Rainier – otherwise known as The Big Snowcone.  I was also very glad to come home to the warmth. Now all I have to do is remember to do that every time I feel negative.  One of those simple but hard things.

My inner critic is the one who tells me when I started my RA blog – what makes you think you can write, or that anyone is interested?  No one will want to listen to your show or sponsor it.  You don’t really know what you are doing as a promotional marketing advisor – you don’t have any ideas that will work.  Who do you think you are that you will be successful?

A few years ago I won a drawing for a book “Taming Your Gremlin” by Rick Carson.  The premise is that we all have a “vile, vicious, villainous, insufferable bully lurking in the shadows of your very own mind: your gremlin.” And, depending on your level of self-awareness, you likely already have some sense of your gremlin, which has influenced you since your birth.

Your gremlin is the source of your negative thoughts and she uses some of your past experiences to influence your attitude and behavior. Your gremlin can appear to be your best friend and advisor or your most ill-intentioned enemy. Although your gremlin wants you to believe that she has your best interest at heart, her motive is much less honorable: she is intent on making you miserable.

Rick Carson suggests just noticing she exists and heightening your awareness.  Then describe her, name her and draw a picture of her.

I really had to think about it – I was having trouble picturing her as a gremlin – hairy and weird looking.  I began to think of her as wanting to be my best friend, so she would more likely appear as someone I would like to be – a bad girl biker chick.  So different from me but I have wanted to be a bad girl.  However, she is not my friend at all.  She is the one who when I am having fun doing something tells me – you need to be doing more productive things with your time.  She will say this is stupid and makes no sense, no one will want to read what you write, you are wasting your time.

Whatever I am doing, that gremlin or inner critic loves to get involved.  She says how bad I am, that I am not enough and makes me doubt myself.  As I think about it, I see she is a thief, robbing me of my innate goodness, worth, talent, values and abilities.  How do I recognize when she is around,?  When I am in the middle of a project and suddenly start to question myself, I feel energy decreasing, as well as getting bored, stuck or tired.  So what can I do to stop her in tracks?

From the website tinybuddha.com, I ran across an article by Lynn Newman about 5 easy was to silence your inner critic.   So when the inner critic starts in :

  1. So what?  Just because you say it doesn’t mean it’s true.
  2. Who cares?  Your judgements mean nothing to me.
  3. Big deal!  Really, big freaking deal.
  4. Why not?  Why shouldn’t I do this?  I’m not listening to your barbs about not being worthy, I’m going to do it because I can and I want to do it no matter what you say.
  1. What if it doesn’t matter if I am (fill in the blank) or not?  It doesn’t matter if it is not good enough, people will think I’m weird, or it’s not beautiful.  I give myself permission to keep on no matter what you say!

When you ask these questions, notice how you feel.  Do you feel empowered?  She will keep on and not give me a break, but when I recognize her, I can just tell her “I see you and I know what you are doing!  You aren’t going to stop me from doing this”.  So although she won’t go away, when I see her and call her on it; then she will lose her power over me and  I regain my power.

When you are dealing with the inner critic, your thoughts greatly influence how you feel and behave, so having positive thoughts and outlook help tremendously.  Negative self take give the inner critic so much ammunition.  Creating a more positive and empowering dialog with yourself will help make the critic’s influence more work to get to you.  so be aware of what you are thinking about – just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true.  Maybe you have done something silly or stupid, made a mistake or just had a bad day – instead of going over and over it in your mind, do something actively like taking a walk or talking about a completely different subject.  You need to stop those negative thoughts from spiraling out of control.

Think about what you would say to a friend who came to you with the same problem.  Think about what you might say to him/her.  Maybe “you made a mistake but the world won’t come to an end.”  You would treat them kindly rather than criticize or say he or she is stupid and can’t do anything right.  So treat yourself as kindly as you would a friend.  Also, examine the evidence, a list  that supports your thought and a list  of evidence to the contrary – bet you will find the supporting list of your thought won’t stand up to scrutiny.

This also includes those negative thoughts you keep having about yourself – you know the ones, “I never do anything right or I’ll never succeed at anything.”  When those pop up, immediately replace them with positive ones.  Think about how bad things would be and how you would feel if those critical thoughts were actually true.  You can remember situations you handled well and assure yourself you can handle this one or the next one coming up as well as that other one.

Something else to remember, you can balance your self acceptance with knowing what you want to improve and work on that.   All of us have flaws and strengths, so play to your strengths and see where you can improve what you feel are your flaws or weak areas.  This is a journey and we are all a work in progress.  It would be so much worse if you just sat in a corner and continually told yourself what an idiot and jerk you are, incompetent and worthless.  Make it as difficult as possible for the inner critic to sabotage you, your worth and your dreams.  You are in charge, not your inner critic.

Yes, the inner critic is still there, I am simply becoming more aware of her and remembering to to tell her to “Knock it off!” or even arresting her.  I have been beating myself up for 70 years – for no valid reason it turns out – and as I become more and more aware, it is going to be less and less for the future.  The biggest gift I can give myself is to love myself without judgment or criticism.  Then it is so much easier to love others the same way.

You Can’t Change Anyone

How often have you thought “If only he/she would stop doing that or start doing this, everything would be so much better”.No matter how often you mention, suggest, ask, shout and anything else you can think of, nothing changes.  So frustrating and irritating.   Why is it so hard to do just a small thing for me?

NEWS FLASH!!!!!  The likelihood of anyone changing is slim to none because it isn’t in their interest to make the change.  This is about you and your annoyance with whatever habit or quirk that bugs you.  That’s all fine and good, but now what?  You can find a whole new group of people to be around – what are the chances you’ll find other habits and quirks that big you even more.  Maybe it is time to sit down and write out what exactly each person does that annoys you and why.  Yes, this is your work, because the changes need to be made from inside you.

Once you make the list, think about what, if anything can be done.  Can you rearrange workspaces, find a quiet corner by yourself?  As Neal Walsch says “What you resist, persists”.    Then there is  Eckert Tolle, who says that just by observing what is happening, ego begins to lose her power.   There is a part where he writes about a woman who came to him and was so depressed and despondent, she poured out all her woes to him and he listened, free of judgement.  Then he told her something that has stuck in my mind and I have used it many times.

When the woman had come to the end of her story, he said: “At this moment, this is how you feel. There is nothing you can do about the fact that at this moment this is how you feel.  Now, instead of wanting this moment to be different from the way it is, which adds more pain to the pain that is already there, is it possible for you to completely accept this is what you feel right now?”  The woman said she wouldn’t accept it.  He then told her: “I am not asking you to do anything.  All I am asking is that you find out whether it is possible for for you to allow those feelings to be there.  In other words, if you don’t mind being unhappy, what happens to the unhappiness?  After a few minutes she realized that although she was still unhappy, there was a space around it.  It seemed to matter less.

Since this isn’t a perfect world where everything works like clockwork, maybe it is time to flip the person or situation 180 to see a different view.  Instead of looking at it in judgement as good or bad, right or wrong, look at the positive aspects.  I can hear the wheels in your brain spinning, wondering what the heck do I know about the situation.  I may not know about your particular situation, but I have had plenty of my own and only recently have I finally figured some things out that make a difference.

If none of this seems to be working, it is time to work on yourself, the most important person.  That means going within, not to blame yourself but to start asking questions.  What does this situation or person’s behavior trigger in me? What pain is generated in me when I am confronted with this behavior or reality?

I saw this article by Nancy Colier, LCSW, Rev. is a psychotherapist, interfaith minister and the author of the book The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World.  She wrote about an experience she had and to be honest, she wrote it better than I could.  So I have used excerpts from it.

I was in a relationship with a blamer for years. The problems in his life were always someone or something else’s fault and the dialogue never moved much further than that. For years I tried to change him, encouraging him to be curious and use the situations that caused suffering as opportunities to bring some light to what the real suffering was about. Through the process, sadly, I too became entrenched in blame. I blamed his blaming for my own suffering; if only he weren’t a blamer, I wouldn’t be in pain. But in the end, he didn’t change, I didn’t change, and the situation didn’t change.

And then I started thinking that probably I should take my own advice: Take the focus off the other and get curious about my own experience. Not what I was also doing (wrong) to cause the situation, but rather, what experiences, feelings, memories, beliefs, etc., were his blaming behavior really triggering in ?

What was I experiencing that made the blaming so hard to bear?

What I discovered was simple but profound—and profoundly healing. I found the center of my own truth, what I was really in contact with inside myself in relation to the blaming. Interestingly, naming what I was experiencing and what made the blaming so painful for me did not change my partner’s behavior, nor did it make the experience that arose in me disappear. What it did, however, was ease the excruciating suffering that existed for me in the situation. Rather than the blaming setting off a screeching fire alarm inside me—a code-red emergency—I could witness the blaming behavior, know what it put me in touch with, and stay calm and non-reactive. I didn’t need to change the behavior so that I could get away from some unknowable, but unbearable experience inside myself. I could say to myself (with kindness), “Oh right, this blaming triggers this such and such in me, which has a history of its own and is understandable. That’s what’s here now.” And then, oddly, the whole thing is kind of done. The experience that was so threatening, and the cause of so much pain, is deactivated. Its wires are cut. The emergency of making the situation or behavior stop eases when the inarguable truth of what is happening inside us is clear. The suffering doesn’t need much more than that.

As we all know, we can’t control anyone else’s behavior, and we can’t make another person want to or be able to change. But we can always make the choice to shift our attention inward, to focus the lens of curiosity onto ourselves. And remember, by investigating our own experience, we are not condoning the behavior that triggers our suffering, nor are we assuming responsibility for having caused it. Getting curious about what is happening inside us in a particular situation, naming it, understanding it, unpacking its history, and bringing compassion to it—this the surest path to freeing oneself from the cycle of blame and the need to change what we don’t like. Ultimately, self-awareness is the most powerful and profound antidote to suffering.

I couldn’t have said it better myself, I wish I had.  The point is, you aren’t beating your head against a wall trying to change someone else, it is our choice to change the focus inward and choosing curiosity rather than anger and irritation.  We have a choice about what our thoughts and words are, they can make it worse or improve the situation.

Be Yourself

How many times have I heard that  during my life.  When I wanted to know how to attract a boy – “Be Yourself”.  It never made sense to me because my childhood messages told me myself wasn’t good enough, I was too loud, talked too much and not acceptable.  Not necessarily a promising start.  What I found was when I was out in the world, away from some family members, I felt I could be myself.  Somehow, those family members constrained me and I felt I had to watch what I said and did.

If I was getting negative feedback about myself and I believed them, how was I going to be comfortable and be myself?  Flash forward several decades to finally coming to a point when I learned that I was operating under deeply hidden childhood programs I didn’t know were running me.  I realized I had lived my life that way and couldn’t understand what was happening.  I also learned that so much of it was not about me – it certainly felt that way.  It was more about the other person, his/her insecurities and beliefs.  I know it sounds screwy but it wasn’t personal.  It certainly feels personal to have all this come at me.  Instead, it is a way for the other person to control or be comfortable in a situation.

I wasn’t so swift at attracting boys or young men, they weren’t beating down the doors to go out with me.  Plus, I often did or said something stupid that meant, game over.  So being myself wasn’t working very well for me.  Plus I never quite knew what to say, what to talk about.  I always appreciated the guys who were easy to talk to and made me feel comfortable.  I didn’t have a brother and I know girls learn about boys from their brothers.  I suspect boys learn about girls from their sisters.

Now I had to find out who myself was – yes, I am a bit loud at times, I do talk a lot, I have a offbeat sense of humor that gets me in trouble every once in a while because I say what I am thinking.  It doesn’t always come out the way I mean it, so I just apologize and say “Move over foot, here comes the other”.  I will make a comment in a conversation and I am often surprised to hear people laugh because they think it is funny.  I am also compassionate, patient, understanding and I want to help people.  I have lived with a chromic illness for almost 50 years, it has taught me a lot and at times  I am pleased when what I have said or done has been of help to someone.

Normally, if I were asked to describe myself, that last paragraph would not be the first thing I would think to say.  I might say how tall I am, overweight, freckles, wrinkles – I have earned every one of them – silver hair, joint deformities from Rheumatoid Arthritis.  But those are only outward, physical signs.  It is not who I am, just how you recognize me on the street.

I am less insecure than I was at 22, I have learned a lot over the years, experienced all kinds of situations and had an interesting life.  I married a man who showed me the world, history and so many things I never knew existed.  I am much more independent than I used to be because he traveled a lot and I had to take care of things that happened when he was away.  I have finally gained confidence in myself and my abilities – still work to do – and I now know I don’t have to do everything myself.  It is good for me to ask for help when I need it.  One benefit of being older is I am not so concerned about what people think.

Now is the next phase of learning who myself is – so often I hear the phrase “Know who you truly are”.  Oh goody, another mystery to solve.  However, I finally have a big clue I didn’t have before – Who I truly am is my Higher Self.  So I am working on connecting with my Higher Self and finally understanding as well as being able to truly love myself.  Not in an egotistical way.   I mean to love, accept, approve, and trust myself. Since I am still working on understanding it myself, I am not all that able to put it into words that make sense to someone else.  It keeps me growing and learning, no doubt until my time here is done.

I am a work in progress just as everyone else is.  I may not know “who myself is”, but I am much closer than I have ever been so far.  I love Oscar Wilde’s quote:  Be yourself, everyone else is taken.  So true.  There has never been a me before and there will never be another one again.  So true for all of us.