Being stuck in an inner dialogue that makes your life look gloomy is something you have likely felt before. In fact, I regularly find myself in that frame of mind. It is a state of being where my inner critic takes center stage.
When you are in that place, have you ever gotten the advice “Just let it go”? I have, and quite frankly, in those moments of feeling doubtful, that advice is anything but helpful.
How do you “just” let go? Sounds like it should be so easy. Yet why does it feel so impossible to do in the moment you are hooked by negative thoughts?
It is because we are heavily invested in believing what our inner critic has to say and we find no shortage of evidence to support its claims.
Most of my inner critic storylines are focused on the “not enough” theme. After my divorce my inner dialogue went something like this: “I should have made it work …what was I thinking? … I don’t know if I can pull off supporting my kids and myself. …No man will love me again like he did….” The bottom line of all this mind chatter was that my fears and guilt made me feel self-conscious, inadequate and miserable. It took me a while to let go of it.
You see, when our thoughts are dominated by the doubtful voice of the inner critic, it is hard to get it off center stage. As a coach, I am trained to see when my clients are hooked in a disempowering story but do you know when you are?
Notice and become aware
In order to let go, you have to become aware that you are holding on to a limiting belief.
How do you become aware of that?
I have found there are some clear signs that your inner critic has taken over. It shows up in your language. Pay attention to your inner and outer dialogue. Are you blaming the outside world or yourself for your predicament? Are you comparing yourself to others? Are you trying to live up to certain standards and expectations you set for yourself?
The language of the inner critic sounds very much like a victim’s – full of blame, resentment, complaint and sometimes anger. It also likes using absolutes such as “I will never make enough money…”. “I will never trust another man again…”
Also, check in with your body. When my inner critic is center stage I can feel it in my body. I feel tight, constricted, and tired. If it is really bad my sleep gets disrupted and I get even more irritable.
Becoming aware is a conscious practice, and you become better at it over time. Pay attention to your thoughts and be honest with yourself.
In Your Divorce, Doing “the Work’ to let go
Let’s look at the letting go piece. Once you are aware that you are stuck in limiting beliefs, you have to be willing to let go. That is the challenging part. Our inner critic does not like to get off the stage without resistance. Its limited vision is fixed on who and how you should be and heavily invested in your security and certainty. For your inner critic, the threat of letting go is risky business, because it means you have to get off your righteous position and allow for something new to occur.
One of my favorite exercises for “letting go”, one that I use with my clients and myself, is “Doing the Work”. Developed by Byron Katie, this method is a great way to examine your liming thoughts and question them.
Choose a statement that you have uncovered as a limiting belief.
(Only use one belief at a time. Example: “Men can’t be trusted.”)
Now, use the following questions with the concept/belief you are investigating. Make sure you answer the question and avoid going back into your story, justifying and defending your belief. ‘The Work’ is meant as an inquiry – so bring openness and curiosity to it.1) Is your belief true?
Answer only ‘yes’ or ‘no”. There is no ‘right’ answer. (If your answer is ‘no’ go to question #3)2) Can you absolutely know that it is true?
Again, it’s ‘yes’ or ‘No’ but take a moment to really consider.
3) How do you react? What happens when you believe that thought?
Check in with your body sensations and your emotions. How does it feel believing this thought? How do you treat yourself and others? What’s the consequence of engaging in this belief? Be curious and explore the impact this belief has in your life,our relationships, your work.
4) Who would you be without that thought?
Allow yourself to just drop your story for a moment and contemplate. How would your life be different without believing that thought?
You can take it further by exploring what happens when you turn your thought around. (Example: I am doing the best job I can in marketing myself.) Could that belief be as true or more true than your original belief?
By the time you are done with this exercise, you will have created some space around your limiting belief. And as a result, you are much more likely to let go of it and replace it with a more empowering one.
Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Inga Michaelsen CPCC is a certified Life and Leadership Coach. She specializes in supporting people reinventing their lives and developing their leadership capacity in order to live an inspired, meaningful life.
Contact Inga for a complimentary “Re-invent your life” strategy session. During this session you have an opportunity to gain clarity on what it is you want to create and to draft a road map to your success.
“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.”
Contact Dana and Don from The Mediation and Family Counseling Group for a FREE consultation. The Mediation and Family Counseling Group offers help when you are trying to decide whether to save your marriage or divorce. The important point to remember is not to be in an unhappy place.