The nasty inner saboteur was ever present in my life for so long. It finally took me down in 2013. When asked that year what brought me joy...I couldn't find one thing. I couldn't even say my little girls brought me joy. They were 8 and 11 at the time and the sweetest things on this planet...so that says a lot. I also had this tape in my head that said, you're not good enough, you suck at your job, you're stupid, nobody likes you, you're fat, you're never going anywhere...and on and on. My body finally shut down and that was the beginning of my transition and I am going to be so bold as to say...my spiritual transformation.
Over the past nine years, I have coached hundreds of people including emerging leaders in the corporate world, graduate students and women in transition. What is interesting is that when you look at all three groups, a common theme is evident. There is usually an element of self-doubt, self-judgement and negative patterns of thinking that consistently take over the thought process. For some, these emerge less than for others. But for the most part, the inner saboteur makes a visit at some point. This is the single biggest factor for unmet goals, fading dreams, procrastination and the feeling of being stuck.
It's common to hear I'm not good enough or my opinion doesn't matter or I'm such a mess or I'm too old or I'm too young or it's not my fault or I just don't have what it takes. Not only are these things that we may say aloud, but phrases like these are often played over and over again in our minds.
It is so necessary to meet this inner saboteur head on in order to eventually beat it at it's own game. I've worked with so many people to do this. It is never an easy exercise but it can lead to some fantastic revelations. Eliminating it, might never happen but knocking it down for a bit longer every time it rears it's ugly head...is progress.
It starts with envisioning what that inner saboteur looks like, smells like, sounds like, feels like. What is says to us. When it typically appears and why. We name it and then we practice knocking it down. We get an angel to help us by placing it on our shoulder and giving it more and more time of day. The angels words are compassionate and much louder than the saboteur. And, while it is so difficult to drown the saboteur out, it is possible. We just need to stay focused on our angel.
Another way to look at it is to reprogram our thinking - catching, checking and changing our thoughts. Catching them when they arise is key. Then we need to check them; are they realistic, are they true, is there a better way to interpret these thoughts, do we understand how these thoughts are limiting us? And then, we change them. Simple right? Not so. This takes time, exposure and practice.
What is a lovely companion for reprogramming the way we think, is self compassion. Many of us are more likely to have compassion for others than for ourselves. What is so important about compassion is that we can often feel someone else's pain and attribute their suffering, failure and imperfections to our shared human experience. A shared human experience. We are all human beings. We all suffer. We deserve happiness. We can be kind to one another. Why is it so hard for us to do that with ourselves? Self-compassion involves accepting our imperfections rather than criticizing or judging ourselves. Easy right? Again, not so.
In addition to working towards ultimately squashing the inner saboteur, I work with women to help them develop a healthy level of self-compassion. We do this in many ways but the single most effective way I have experienced and witnessed is through meditation. I love Tara Brach's Self-Compassion Meditation called The Rain. If you're in my current Follow the Arrow Group...wait a couple of weeks before listening...we're about to do all of this work. And there is so much more we'll do.
All this to say, if we don't want to be stuck, if we want to set and achieve our goals, if we want to reach our dreams...we can't have this nagging, negative, toxic, little saboteur sticking around. And the good news is, with some concerted effort, we most definitely can beat it at it's own game. This allows us to live, follow our passions and make our dreams become a reality. And how hopeful and exciting is that?!
I can tell you a million things that bring me joy today and I have become really good at body slamming this nasty inner saboteur. It doesn't serve a purpose in my life. From time to time, it rears it's head and can begin to consume me...but like the box...not as often and never for long. Again, progress...
If you're interested in joining a wonderful group of women on a journey of self-discovery and transformation, the next Follow Your Arrow program starts on April 7th. You can find more details and register here today.
Laura Humphries, ACC
Transition Coach, Activate Personal and Professional Coaching
Follow Your Arrow Facebook Group (join a wonderful group of women in a safe, positive, healthy space)