You can imagine my surprise then, when last week, I not only had an unexpected guest (although they have been here before), but a rather unwelcome one. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I had been line dancing during the Calgary Stampede and apparently, I had found the outer limits of the number of hours I can dance injury free. I was sitting, nicely icing my knee, when my visitor arrived. He had barely got himself in the door with his very tattered suitcase when he started asking questions about my knee. This part would have been fine except for what followed; a barrage of unwelcome comments and advice. And just so you know, this guy has never danced a step in his life.
In a very short space of time, he plopped himself down into a comfortable chair across from me and managed to remind me that I had been foolish to think that I could keep up with this busy calendar of dancing. He mentioned that my previous long distance running had also likely contributed to this. He reminded me that I have already had one knee surgery; ‘Looks like another will be in the cards for you.’, he casually mentioned. He followed that with, ‘If only you’d not said yes to every performance and taken a few days off you’d likely have been fine’. And then, my favourite, ‘What did you expect….at your age?’
Meet my Saboteur. Again.
As a coach, I have this misguided belief that because I know about the Saboteur, or Inner Critic, I will be immune to him. I have studied his ways, I understand how he can worm his way into a mind, and I even attended a course about him last week. Now I’m left humbly admitting, he is simply a part of my life.
This is the biggest new learning I had during a course I took last week’s course by Tara Mohr. Our Inner Critic is a part of our life. But he does not have to run our life.
Tara talked about something we all have called the Safety Instinct. In days gone by, this helped us to get away from physical danger. It clearly had a great purpose. In more modern times, it continues to help us to dodge danger, but these days the danger it is most interested in is emotional danger. If this Inner Critic, or Saboteur, notices that we are about to engage in an activity where we could experience hurt, fear, disappointment, discouragement or failure (to mention a few), he jumps right in and says WHATEVER HE NEEDS TO SAY, TO GET US TO STOP. He will stop at nothing. And to make it worse, since he knows us so well, he uses the very things that he knows are emotionally vulnerable points for us.
For me, vulnerable points would be the ‘Who do you think you are?’ or ‘What makes you so special?’ or ‘You can’t expect to keep doing everything you’ve always done now that you’re older’. When I let the saboteur drive, I agree with him. He is right. I am older. What does make me think that I deserve to do this activity that brings me nothing but joy? If I wasn’t dancing the days away I could be advancing my business. I could be dotting more i’s and crossing more t’s and making sure that every little detail of my neat, organized life was still intact. If I did this, my saboteur could simply relax and have a nap. It is only when I threaten to make a change, to go for a new dream or take on a new challenge that he perceives a threat to the status quo and starts up his chatter.
Tara taught us that trying to banish this voice does not work. This is a voice that lives in us. It is a part of us and will always be a part of us. The amount of space that we allow it to take up is up to us. Last week, I gave my saboteur free reign. He was with me on the couch, in the car, at physio, in bed and even in the shower. He was relentless.
A new technique I have learned is, to approach him with love and acceptance instead of trying to get rid of him. I’ve learned to ask him what he is trying to protect me from. In this case, his answer was that he was trying to protect me from being physically hurt, which stops me from working out which takes away a stress reliever (notice how he plays on a value here) and he was also trying to protect me from being embarrassed when I have to admit that line dancing caused my injury. Not rock climbing. Not marathon running. Line dancing. (Notice his voice of judgement in these last three short partial sentences).
Once I can understand where he is coming from I can respond to him by letting him know that I appreciate his concern, and that although it could be true that some of this could happen, I have thought it through and I think “I’ve got this one”.
To further help me I called upon my Inner Wisdom, or my Future Self, or my Inner Mentor. She doesn’t have the rude habits of the saboteur; jumping in uninvited with advice, making definitive proclamations, interrupting my thinking and demanding my attention.
She is calm and loving and wise. She is gentle and only gives her opinion when I ask. She reminds me of exactly who I can be when I am brave enough to be my true self. She is who I am trying to grow into becoming. The best question I can ask her is, ‘What choice do I make now to become closer to who I am trying to become?’
Once I had my loving talk with my Saboteur, I asked him to have a comfortable seat on the back deck. I got him a nice cold drink to keep him comfortable. (Since he is going to be a permanent part of my life, I don’t want to tick him off!) I came back in the house and had a visit with my Inner Mentor. She reminded me that the best thing I can do right now is to access the proper help for my knee -someone who understands what my goals are and will help me get there. She also reminded me that ‘This too shall pass.’ And finally, she reminded me that rest is just as important for the body as is activity. She is right of course. Since then, I have been back to my excellent physiotherapist, and resting. I’ve remembered that this little blip gives me a little time to be creative. My mind is pleasantly planning my webinar for the fall. The topic? The Saboteur of course! And if you happen to drive by our house you may hear me singing and strumming a few new tunes I am learning on my ukulele!
Learn how to notice your Inner Critic and to manage him. Learn how to access your Inner Mentor and to grow into who you are meant to be. Book a coaching session for you, for your workplace or for a group of friends.