positivity

Glow, Grow, Glow: Befriending Your Inner Critic

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We are our own toughest critics” - This phrase is so widely used and understood, because we tend to be more judgmental of our own performance than others are of us. Whether or not this fact is true or the self-critique is accurate, it can feel true and accurate at times. The implications of self-criticism are unique to each individual... Perhaps self-criticism is a form of motivation or a preventative measure from becoming “lazy.” Perhaps self-criticism has become so much a part of our inner dialogue that it is automatically accepted as fact and prevents us from putting ourselves in seemingly anxiety-provoking situations. Maybe self-criticism falls somewhere in between (or outside) those areas. Whatever role your self-critic plays in your life, I invite you to draw attention to this part of your story and identify how it serves you.

Criticism is defined as the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes. The word criticism inherently has a negative connotation, noting that “disapproval, faults, and mistakes” often define this word. Rather than criticizing ourselves, I encourage you to experiment with using the term “feedback.” Feedback, rather, is defined as information about reactions to a product, a person's performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement. Feedback is inherently more neutral/positive and implies that there is opportunity for growth. By simply changing the word we choose to apply when reflecting on our own performances, we may be mentally and emotionally opening ourselves to the opportunity for growth and change.

When offering feedback to ourselves or others, I often encourage the “glow, grow, glow” method that I learned in my yoga teacher training. A glow is something we feel proud of and are able to acknowledge that we did well. A grow is an area we are able to identify that can benefit from improvement. The “glow, grow, glow” sandwich encourages us to begin our feedback with a positive self-affirmation and end with a positive self-affirmation. This supports a reworking of our inner critic to appreciate our strengths rather than focusing on our perceived shortcomings.

For example, I may judge myself on my performance in a social setting as awkward, shy, or unapproachable on the basis of my perceived lack of connection with others in that setting. True or not, my inner critic may be screaming self-judgments in my head. If I am to apply feedback through a “glow, grow, glow” sandwich, I might tell myself - “I am a good listener” (glow), “I can practice engaging more in the conversation, particularly on topics I can relate to” (grow), “I care about my relationship with others” (glow). The example above cultivates drawing attention to our strengths while offering areas for change.

Here are some helpful tips when giving yourself feedback using a “glow, grow, glow” sandwich:

  • Start small, practice often, and apply feedback to multiple diverse areas in your life

  • Practice mindfulness of disqualifying the positive when acknowledging a “glow” (it’s only a true glow when you maintain the idea that this is something you feel proud of)

  • Practice mindfulness of the emotional weight you place into your “grow” (your grow might feel more significant than your glows and that is OK - manage the amount of energy you focus on your grow and take your attempts for change one step at a time)

  • Be kind to yourself and practice self-care. Your inner critic might pop back up from time to time, perhaps you can give your inner critic a feedback glow, grow, glow sandwich

LifeTip: Taking Baby Steps

At some point in time, someone has probably given you the advice - “Just take it one step at a time” or “Take baby steps.” These helpful sayings are usually said to help us complete a job or figure out something new. Just the other day I used the baby-step metaphor with a client. Using the metaphor this time, however, felt so real and alive to me since I’ve recently gained new insight watching my own sweet baby boy start walking. He’s literally taking baby steps! It’s so darn adorable, too. But guess what? He’s not very good at it... yet. Taking baby steps isn’t just about taking small steps (that’s how my literal mind sometimes interprets this saying). Taking baby steps means that each action towards a new goal is tiny, wobbly, wonky and sloooowwww. My little baby puts his arms in the air to help him balance, and then he pauses to try and right himself when he picks up too much speed or loses coordination (which is often).

When I was talking to this client about taking baby steps with their school work (which causes them some anxiety) we broke down what taking baby steps means for them. I even got up and demonstrated what baby steps are and how they may look! I probably looked like a fool, but it helped us laugh and get into the reality of the metaphor. In life, taking a baby step often means that you aren’t sure, and that’s okay! It’s really about getting yourself moving, starting with the most gradual of steps, and letting yourself sort of hang out in the space of uncertainty and imperfection. It’s okay to want to go fast - some babies start out running! - but know that you also need to figure out how to stop, lest you crash! When I see my baby walk, I feel like I can hear him thinking, “I’ve got it, I’ve got it, I’ve got it! Wait, nope, wait, yes! Nope again! Hey, now I’m doing it! This is great!”

What do you think when you’re in the midst of a project or task that you’re trying hard to complete? Is it light and fun and optimistic or harsh and cold? Could you try smiling like a baby when they joyfully take flight with their newfound skill? It could make a difference. And just remember, baby steps don’t last forever. All babies get better... just as you will when you’re working on something new!

LifeTip: Meet Your Procrastination with Compassion

Photo by  Sandro Katalin a on  Unsplash

I have a confession to make: I am horrible at writing blogs.

You might be a bit confused, since you are literally reading a blog post that I have, in fact, written – believe me, the irony is not lost on me. But really and truly, I’ve found that writing a blog is one of the hardest things for me to do at the moment. I don’t understand it either, because I normally love to write, and I think I can even be good at it sometimes. However, my paper/blog writing process is faulty, and I’ve been stuck in a negative feedback loop for as long as I can remember. I procrastinate. I avoid it. I start, and then I don’t finish. I meet the idea of it with dread. Then once I’ve waited too long, my anxiety sky-rockets and nothing makes sense. I’m in a hurry, and I’m not producing something I like which leads to frustration and disappointment and wanting to just give up. Rinse. Repeat. This whole process is extremely challenging, and it just makes me feel really, really crummy.

In many of my sessions, I have asked clients to pay attention to what they’re thinking, feeling, and deciding in their own challenging moments. This is illustrated by a triangle, where each point represents Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors; all of them connecting and influencing the next.

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Whether we know it or not, we’re using this triangle all the time in nearly every decision we make. When our thoughts are generally positive, the triangle/cycle tends to be positive and run smoother. When our thoughts are negative, however, the opposite is also true and can leave many people feeling stuck. To illustrate, here is what my writing process looks like:

Event: Blogs are due next week. I think, “I should write one about that TED talk I just watched!” I open a new word document, write a few things down, and then wonder what direction I’ll take with the info.

  • Thought: “I don’t know what to do with all of this, how do I make it make sense?”

  • Feeling: Overwhelmed, anxious

  • Behavior: I start to question my abilities, become flooded by my anxiety, and eventually shut down to avoid completing the task

  • Thought: “I AM SO BAD AT THIS!”

Event: Days later I think, “I should write about something more interesting, I’m probably the only one who thinks this is cool.”

  • Thought: “I’m not interesting enough to make something good"

  • Feeling: Inadequate, frustrated, sad

  • Behavior: I don’t like feeling this way, so I’m just going to do something else instead of finishing

  • Thought: “I AM SO BAD AT THIS.”

I could go on and on with this, but hopefully you get the idea. My deadline approaches and because of all my past experiences and behavior, I start to believe that I’m really bad at writing blogs which leaves me feeling stressed and incompetent. Since I don’t want to feel that way I decide to just avoid writing all together. When I avoid it, I’ve just reinforced the idea that I can’t do it and I’m bad at writing. Then I feel bad all over again, and the cycle repeats itself.

Through this exercise I recognize that maybe I’m not actually bad at writing blogs, but that I have an unrealistic expectation that it has to be perfect, and deep down I’m really just scared of failing or embarrassing myself. It has nothing to do with my actual abilities to write a blog, but in how compassionately I talk to myself. How different would this cycle look if instead of cruelly putting myself down, I compassionately thought, “I am a good writer” or “I take my time so I can take pride in my work”? The cycle takes on a totally different tone, and I’m left feeling more competent and calm, which then allows me to actually write something I can take pride in. Instead of believing that I am horrible at writing, I’ve realized that I really just want to do my best and I deserve much, much more self-compassion.

I’d like to challenge each of you to explore what you might be thinking, feeling and deciding when you’re faced with a difficult task that you might be putting off. What might your child be thinking, feeling and deciding in their challenging moments? As you think about it, remember to be kind to yourself in those moments and give yourself the compassion that you need.




 

Keep it Positive!

Raising a tween can be full of challenges, which is why it's so important to take time out to remind yourself why your tween is special. John Gottman, author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, has found through his research that it takes 5 positive interactions to counterbalance 1 negative interaction! When you think about your relationship with your tween, what does that look like? It's easy to get caught up in the rule-making, limit-setting, behavior-correcting mode, so take a moment to make your own Top Ten List of What I Love About My Tween! Here are a few ideas inspired by the amazing tweens we know...

1. She is full of creativity!

2. She has opinions and is learning to think for herself!

3. Her dreams are taking shape--She doesn't want to be a princess anymore, she wants to be a doctor...or an engineer...or start her own business!

What are some of the things you love most about your tween?