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inner critic

From Faultfinder to Mentor

My child was two years old the first and last time he ran out into the road.  We lived in the country so the probability for danger was low but that did not stop me from yelling, screaming, racing after him and yanking him up as swiftly as possible.  All followed by some significant discipline.  I never wanted him to do that again and he didn’t.  However, I doubt seriously that I conveyed the entire message to him.  I know I loudly communicated my anger and fear but did I communicate my hope and desire and love equally as well.  Do you tend to be like that with yourself?  When we’re upset with ourselves we express a lot of anger and maybe a little fear but seldom have a full conversation that reveals the hope, desire and love behind the other emotions

Complete the Conversation

The complete conversation that a frantic parent wants to communicate involves anger, fear, an appeal and love.  It might sound something like this: (Anger) I’m so angry with you for running out in the street without looking both ways to see if any cars are coming.  (Fear) I’m so scared that you will be badly hurt or even worse.  (Appeal) I want you to pay more attention when you are playing near the road.  Stop and look both ways.  Only go into the street after your toy if no cars are coming from either direction.*  (Love)  I love you so much.  I want you to be safe and healthy.  You are so precious to us. We need you to be around for a long time.  You deserve to have lots of fun and stay safe.  Do you understand?   Gee!  That’s a very different kind of message.  In your own childhood, you can probably identify many times when you received only part of the message, not the full message.  You may even see how you’re currently getting this stunted communication from your boss, co-workers, spouse, friends when what they really mean to communicate is the complete message.

What's the Full Message?

Sadly, it also becomes the way we communicate with ourselves.  What would it sound like to speak the entire message to yourself (and others)?  Make a list of the things that upset you the most — eating habits, exercise routine, work ethic, time wasted, lack of family time. Maybe you’ve told yourself that you don't get up early enough.  You watch too much TV.  You spend too much time on social media.  You’re lazy.  You need more sleep.  Write it all down and then practice communicating this information to yourself giving the complete message which includes anger, fear, an appeal and love.  It might sound like this: (Anger) You’re so lazy.  You need to get up earlier.  You have no self-discipline.  What’s your problem? (Fear) If you don’t take advantage of the early morning hours, I’m afraid you’ll never make the kind of progress you want to make.  I’m afraid if you don’t start a new schedule, you’re project will never be completed and your dreams will never be realized.  (Appeal) I want you to set your alarm for 6:30.  I want you to place it on the other side of the room so that you’ll have to get out of bed to turn it off.  I want you to stumble to the bathroom and get directly into the shower after you turn off the alarm.  I want you to start working on your project before you check email or social media or do any other part of your “to do” list, in order to optimize the morning hours.  (Love) I love you.  I want you to have a wonderful life.  You deserve to have your dreams come true.  I want you to live life fully.  

Message Received

When you begin to speak to yourself (and your children) in a way that communicates the full message it changes the way the message is received.  Truthfully, it changes the message entirely.  We immediately go from faultfinder to mentor simply by completing the message.  Note that the appeal needs to be very specific - a list of action steps.  Once we have included all four parts, we have the “why” attached to the emotion, as well as the request we are asking of ourselves.  This sets us up for a completely different response.  Jack Canfield calls this turning your inner critic into an inner coach.  

 


*If you are wondering, no two-year old should be playing by the street or allowed to go in the street to retrieve a toy.  This dialog is for a school age child.  Just wanted to clarify, since I started with a story of a two year old.  This part of the appeal would need to sound differently for preschoolers.  But you already had that figured out. 

 

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Actions to Annihilate the Negative

50,000 times a day.  That’s how often you talk to yourself, according to the researchers.  Sadly, 80% of it is negative — I shouldn’t have said that . . . She doesn’t like me . . . I’m never going to get this done . . . I can’t . . . I’m not . . . I’m stupid . . . I’m always . . .

Negative thoughts control our actions.  They can make us stammer, forget the speech we’ve memorized, take shortened breaths, feel anxious and start sweating.  Lie detectors show the reaction our body has to our thoughts — temperature changes, elevated heart rates, tightening of muscles, and increased blood pressure.  While negative thoughts weaken our bodies, positive thoughts impact our bodies favorably.  Endorphins are secreted with each positive thought reducing pain and increasing pleasure.  

Question It

Clinical neuroscientist and psychiatrist Daniel Amen says, “Don’t believe everything you hear—even in your own mind.” Most of the negative thought in our brain is not based on truth but instead our imagination.  In his book The Success Principles, Jack Canfield suggests that we constantly ask ourselves these questions:

Is this thought helping or hurting me? Is it getting me closer to where I want to go, or taking me further away?  Is it motivating me to action, or is it blocking me with fear and self-doubt?  

Talk Back

Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, tells a story about her daughter.  Ellen was playing in the “Glitter Center” in her kindergarten classroom when her teacher said, “Ellen!  You’re a mess.” Ellen very seriously responded, “I may be making a mess, but I’m not a mess.”  40,000 times a day, talk back!  Object to the negative talk (both yours and others) and move toward language that adds value to you.

Take Inventory & Responsibility

An exercise created by Doug Bench, a brain researcher, recommends that you write down every negative thought you think, say or hear for 3 days.  This will highlight how much negativity is running through your system.  Once you're aware of this self-deprecation, you’ll have a burning desire to bring it to a halt.  Consider finding an accountability partner to catch you every time you mutter a negative word.  A business meeting I attend requires everyone to pay a dollar into the pot when we’re caught complaining, blaming, or spewing negativity.  Build in some kind of cost that you pay every time someone catches you verbalizing the negative. In the beginning you will need pockets full of dollar bills. By day 5 or so you’ll be escorting those automatic negative thoughts right out the back door.

Accentuate the Positive

Determine to focus on the positive.  Dwell on positive messages about yourself and your future.  Also, practice marinating in the good moments — a hug, a joke, good conversation. By doing that a few times a day, you will weave positive resources into the fabric of your brain and chip away at the negativity. Ruminating on the positive will not only impact how you physically feel but it will also add value to your life and the lives around you.

Just because you hear or think it doesn’t mean its true.  You are ultimately in charge of listening and agreeing with the thoughts in your mind.  Transformation of your inner judge can start today, why wait until tomorrow to get started?  

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