Silence Your Inner Gollum
I have a question for you. Have you ever noticed the running commentary that goes on in your head?
Yes....I AM accusing you of talking to yourself. We ALL do it; me, you, your boss, your mechanic, the Dalai Lama, Brad Pitt, the Queen. Every person in the whole damn world is going around having a conversation with themselves most of the time.
Sometimes the voice is running through a list of all the things you need to do that day. Sometimes it's replaying the argument you had with your spouse the night before. Sometimes it's got the lyrics to the latest Disney song, or to Achy Breaky Heart, on repeat. Mostly though, it's telling you that you shouldn't have done this or that, that you really need to lose 10 pounds, or that you are a bad parent for forgetting to send the pizza order form back to school before the deadline....shame on you!
I have a recent personal example to illustrate:
The other day, I happened to catch a glimpse of myself on the way to the shower. I stopped and did a double take. "Uh, that's strange....I don't recall seeing THAT particular bulge before" Of course, I then did the only thing that made sense....I stepped on the scale. Brilliant, I know! Now, I have never been a slave to the scale, and frankly, I think we should all ban the word 'diet' from our vocabulary, but in this particular moment, I wasn't thinking clearly. The scale, of course, confirmed that yes, I had gained a few pounds since I last checked in. Hmmmmmm.
I stepped off the scale and proceeded to the shower. Then, right in the middle of soaping up, I caught it. That vile, nasty, Gollum-like voice inside my head....."Hey fatty, thought you could get away with eating all those treats over Easter didn't you? You have no self-control. I TOLD you not to get rid of those maternity jeans. It's nothing but water and kale salad for you, muffin top!"
It was like a full on episode of Dr. Phil playing in my head. I was both the school yard bully, AND the cringing victim.
Fortunately, because this was not my first square dance with the critical voice in my head, and because I have spent a number of years learning to reel the little critter in, I was able to snap out of it fairly quickly. I sent my inner critic packing, and told him not to visit anytime soon. Fingers crossed, it will be at least a few hours before he decides to pay me another visit.
Why oh why do we do this to ourselves? How is it that we can treat our very own selves with such contempt and disrespect, when the majority of us would NEVER treat another person that way? If we heard other people talking to our children or our siblings so viciously, we wouldn't stand for it! Can you imagine calling your daughter 'fatty'? Or telling your best friend that they were a bad parent?? I didn't think so. Then, WHY is it o.k. to talk to yourself like that? The answer, my friend, is that it's NOT!
Here's the thing. If you don't love, respect, and accept yourself, why should anyone else? We teach other people how to treat us, by how we treat ourselves. We all have enough crap to contend with in our lives, we don't need to add to the pile by being our own worst enemy. What we need to do is learn to start being our own best friend.
There is a severe shortage of self-compassion/self-love/self-acceptance in this world, and I say we need to fix it! In fact, I think it's imperative that we fix it! If we can't feel compassion, love and acceptance for ourselves, how can we truly feel it for other people? I actually have a theory that the whole world is in such a bloody mess because most of us don't like ourselves very much. In my humble opinion, I think the whole damn planet would be a lot more peaceful and less frazzled if we could learn to be more kind to ourselves.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not implying that we all need to go around like a bunch of Kardashians looking at ourselves in the mirror and thinking we should be paid to simply exist. I'm not suggesting that we should adopt an attitude of 'I'm better than everyone else' either. I'm not talking about developing a supersized ego here. I'm talking about showing yourself a little kindness, some empathy, and allowing yourself to be human.....which means being imperfect.
In my experience, there are a few things you can do to stifle that obnoxious, miserable inner critic when it decides to make an appearance:
- As always, the first step is awareness. You have to realize that this is actually going on before you can do anything about it. Practice self awareness by paying attention to what you're thinking. This doesn't mean you need to be on high alert like some crazy thought ninja, monitoring everything that runs through your head. That would be exhausting, and pretty near impossible! No, instead, just stop what you're doing every once in a while, take a breath and notice what's going on 'up there'. Eventually, this will become second nature and you'll be doing it all the time....but it does take consistent practice.
- Once you take notice of what you're thinking, you will be more likely to catch yourself when your nasty inner critic pipes up. When you catch it in the act, stop! No need to be harsh, or to start beating yourself up, for beating yourself up. Just acknowledge your inner Gollum, tell him you don't really want to hear what he has to say, and send him skulking on his way.
- Then, change your inner monologue. Start talking to yourself like a kind friend; give yourself a 'there-there' as if comforting a small child. Ask yourself what you would offer to a person who was feeling what you are feeling now. It might be a hot cup of tea, a pat on the back, a good laugh or some words of encouragement. Then, do that thing for yourself!
- Make a point of telling yourself that you love yourself and then list the reasons why you are awesome. There are TONS of amazing things about you, you just have to start noticing them and admitting them dammit! I know it can seem weird, or maybe even conceited, but really, who has to know? It's not like you have to stand in the middle of the produce aisle and start giving a speech about the benefits of being you. Just say these things to yourself, or do it when you're alone, in the car....or the shower. It will be awkward at first, but you'll get over it once you realize how much better it feels than listening to a constant stream of self-criticism.
A side effect of cultivating self love and acceptance, is that you will also be less critical of, and more accepting towards others and their human flaws. In fact, you may notice that the world starts responding to you in nicer, kinder ways. The type of energy we exude is inevitably the type of energy that comes back to us.
So, next time your inner Gollum shows up, send the nasty bugger packing as quickly as you can. The longer he stays, the more comfortable he'll get, and nobody likes a freeloader. The more often you shoo him away, the less often he'll come back. Then, you can get on with the business of being your awesome self!
Shine On Fabulous!
"Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting." - Henry V, William Shakespeare