Tag Archives: inner critic

Here’s why I don’t plan

I wrote yesterday that I procrastinate on planning – because I fear I won’t stick to it. Then I wrote that I’d start this week with thinking instead of doing. I planned to plan, but I didn’t do it…

Here’s what I did instead. I’ll show you the pictures first, and then explain how I feel about it:

1) A before picture. This is a part of our dinner table. It has been looking like this for more than three months I believe. This even is the already slightly better looking version compared to last week:
2) An after picture… No, not really. This was an intermediate stage. I don’t live in a magazine.

After -I wish

3) The true after picture. It’s more organised than it was before, and I’ve thrown away lots of papers and stuff. There’s still stuff in this pile I have to deal with. It probably won’t happen today.
The real after

If I have enough time and energy today, I’ll clean out the chair first (that pile on the right side of the picture). It stands out like a sore now.

How do I feel now? I’m proud I finally worked on something that I really wanted to get rid of. It’s even linked to my November project: there were papers in there that need to be filed to do our taxes.

I do feel a bit silly for skipping the planning and doing this instead. I said I would plan, and I didn’t do it. Lame. But… That’s my inner critic talking. I’ll hand the microphone over to my inner adult:

This was the perfect day to seize this opportunity. The planning I had planned (yes, chuckles and loud laughter are allowed) can be done tomorrow.

#NaBloPoMo day 13 done. And a mini Mount Doom tackled.

I took care of my inner child today

… and here’s what we did:

[image source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:De_Vliegende_Hollander_(Efteling).JPG]

At the end of last week I realised I had missed out on something really important: creating time and space for my inner happy child. My inner child is the part of me that’s playful, spontaneous, fun-loving, relaxed, feels connected to other people, etc. The part of me that contributes to my health and wellbeing by keeping me sane.

She got negelected badly last week. My inner schoolmaster and inner critic had a ball, and my inner adult was working hard on dealing with all of that. Each time my inner happy child suggested to do something fun, all of them ignored her. Jig saw puzzle? No time for that. Painting? Has to wait, we have serious stuff going on.

At the beginning of my November project I thought about how I could make this much dreaded project a success, instead of it making all my fears come true. I had some vague ideas about planning and concrete ideas on protecting myself from scope creep. I included things I know from my work as procrastination coach, like breaks on time (instead of too late) and small but helpful rewards.

I learned from last week that I should plan more than just recovery time. I need happy time as well.

I’ll start my work week tomorrow by doing some thinking again, to improve on the half-finished plan I’ve made. I procrastiate on planning… the trigger is that I have low confidence in my ability to stick to a concrete plan. Life comes in between, fatigue comes in between, and a limitless number of other threats. My brain tells me it’s not a problem to change a plan if that’s necessary. My emotions tell me changing a plan is too dangerous. They know what my inner critic will do…

Eat this inner critic: #NaBloPoMo day 12 is done! 😉

My brain is being mean to me

Dear diary,

My brain is being mean to me. It’s not fair.

I was doing really well, working on my November project. I still don’t know where some of my administration is hiding. So I was searching for it, organising stuff in the meanwhile.

I was creating good results, sorting papers for the recycling bin, freeing up a box to put assorted old stuff in. But my brain started whispering: it’s not good enough. You’re supposed to work directly on your planned result. This is a distraction. You’re giving in to scope creep

So I told myself: No. Look how good this will feel. I’m saying goodbye to an old project, which is quite a big step. The papers will leave the house and that creates space. I’m saying goodbye emotionally too, that will create space on my mind. Really, I’m on the right track.

Then my brain whispered more loudly: look at what you’re doing. You’re making small piles of stuff you don’t know where to put. You’re not sticking to your planned result. You’re not sticking to your method. You’re doing a bad job. You’re stupid.

I felt the tension in my shoulders rise and decided to quit after 15 minutes, the maximum that I had set for this round (hoping to do more than one round today). This was sticking to my method, but my brain didn’t care about that.

It got louder and louder: Look at that mess! This isn’t right! Work a bit longer in this, so you’ll reach some satisfaction. If you can’t put those papers away, do more of the easy bits. Find yourself papers you CAN sort and put in the right place. Go to the recycling bin with those papers that can leave the house. Try to… It was frantically ordering me to do anything but take a break now. Go get RESULTS! Make yourself feel GOOD!

Like I wrote before: old patterns don’t die easily, if ever. But I’m learning how to cope with them. So I decided to step away and do some thinking. Who was running the show at the moment?

I encountered some familiar company:
1) My inner schoolmaster: demanding I’ll do too much. Of course this is not how it puts it: please do too much. Instead, it will tell me this isn’t enough yet. “You should do more.” Activiting the other side of my horse shoe: the part that says “I’m not sure I want to”. This part is not strong enough to resist, and let me inner adult do the talking. It means I’ll probably give in to the demands, because otherwise I face criticism.

One way I recognise my inner schoolmaster is when I feel overwhelmed, pressured and a failing. The schoolmaster thinks I have no right to boundaries, I just have to do my job.

2) My inner critic lies in wait, ready to take over if I lean towards not giving into the schoolmaster. Or when I don’t (surprise!). If I decide to take that break, it will claim I’m lazy or unfit for needing one in the first place. If I don’t take a break, it will tell me I’m stupid for doing too much.

One way I recognise my inner critic is because it calls me names and exaggerates: stupid, fail, twat, bad, lazy…

The message of my inner schoolmaster is that I don’t do enough. The message of my inner critic is that I’m no good.

Dear diary,
My brain is mean to me, but I’m not going to be a meany to it in return. There was a time when these patterns were helpful to me, they were part of my survival kit. But now I want to break free (*insert Queen song*). I wonder how I can picture that?

I’ll file a complaint against the schoolmaster, with legal terms and small print any many things that will keep it busy while I go out for a walk and a coffee. I’ll ask my inner critic to make an inventory of all the bad things it calls me, and sort them on how many times they are used AND alphabetical order.

While they are busy, I’ll enjoy a bit of fresh air and sunshine, a small chat with the waiter who brings me coffee, perhaps read a nice book… Self care.

Me and my inner adult are running this show!

Blessed are those who don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. It’s wonderful if you can organise, declutter and work without distracting voices in your own head. I’m not schizophrenic (in case you wonder) I’ve just learned to tune in to my self talk and see where it’s getting me. When my self talk brings me down, I try to realise that and change it.

A pat on the back can be helpful against your inner critic, if you manage to mean what you say. My pats on the back for today are:
– After a lousy morning, I took a break before I started. I listened to my needs.
– I started working on my project without resistance.
– I listened to my body when it told me to stop.
– Managed to not listen to the voice that urged me to do more, more, more!
– I took the time to find out what’s going on inside of me and learn from it.
– Changing patterns takes an effort. A pat on the back for being dedicated.

I’ll add some visual proof to show how out of line my brain gets. These were the ‘piles’ that caused all that stress:
Mini piles

I could have told myself they weren’t that scary, but my brain wouldn’t have believed it. This half mocking dead serious dear diary post, did help. And it got me #NaBloPOMo done for today. And if anyone wonders why I’m sharing such private stuff: I hope it can help other people.

The horse shoe of have-to

Yesterday I thought about the dynamic my inner school master often starts, when it bosses me around. I’ve tried to draw what happens, to make it easier to understand.

At the bottom of the horse shoe is option 1. It’s my school master (the strictest form of my inner parent) drawing out my inner toddler (the least cooperative form of my inner child). One says “You have to”, the other one says “I don’t want to”. Sometimes my school master wins, sometimes my toddler. Either way, their fight leaves me drained.

The slightly milder version is nr. 2, the pink part of the horse shoe. The bossing around is less strict: “You should” – leaving at least some space to the possibility that it might not happen. My inner child responds with “I’m not sure I will”. A bit of a tricky situation: there’s less discussion, but who knows what will happen? If it doesn’t happen, my inner critic will have a field day: “You should have done that you… [insert appropriate form of unfriendly name calling].

Nr. 3 leaves more space. The schoolmaster has been replaced by a much friendlier form of inner parent, one who likes to give advice, to guide, to support – though from a place of authority still. The “you could” has that vibe that says “it’s your choice, but it would be wise if you did”. My inner child responds with “I might”. Which is meant as a tentative yes.

And there’s area 4… The green fields of “I want to”. There’s no inner parent, no inner child (or not much of them, anyway) just my healthy inner adult that says “I want to… more or less”. The more or less creates a lot of space. There’s room for making my bed for example. My inner child knows I don’t like that, and I don’t want that. My inner parent says you should. My inner parent wants it – more or less: it has arguments that matter to me, like that it’s hygienic and will make my partner happy. This way it motivates me to get that boring, repeating, senseless job done and don’t even complain about it (yes, my inner child has a strong opinion on this specific task ;)).

I’m now training my inner critic to say ‘well done you’, when my inner adult and me have gotten a job done. The inner critic is at a loss. It has way more experience in finding fault than in providing more inclusive feedback (both mistakes and things that went well).

I’m quite curious if you recognise any of these types in you: your inner critic, inner toddler, inner healthy adult? Never mind the exact words, they are loosely based on different types of theory and therapy I know of. For me, these are the words that describe those parts of me best. Yours may have different names, and different characteristics.

horse shoe have to

I haven’t written this much in ages. Thank you #NaBloPoMo, I’m enjoying it!

Who do you allow to run your show?

After I caught myself thinking this morning: ‘When is the best part of the day to get exhausted today? I wondered: who’s running this show?

I know I’m the one who created my November project, and I’m the one designing a process to help me reach my goal. I’m the one who’s blogging too. But when I start working on my project, who’s running THAT show?

I have very strict schoolmaster inside of me (think Pink Floyd, The Wall). He often tells me what to do, and how to do it. Every ‘what’ comes with a complete rule book of it’s own. Let’s take for example his attitude towards planning:

  • You have to create goals (→ the only way to get proper results)
  • You have to stick to your goals (→ they’re not allowed to change, change is failure)
  • You have to work on you goals every day (→ not working on them for a day is failing the whole system of goals setting, is failing yourself, is stupid)
  • You have to create a plan how to reach your goals (-> if not, you’re really stupid)
  • You have to work on your goals according to the plan you’ve made (→ exceptions not accepted, they’re a sign of no discipline, weak excuses to be lazy)

As you can see, my school master teams has bonded with my inner critic (the parts in italics). One dictates the orders, the other one tells me why it’s vital to follow up those orders. It’s a lot easier to fail this set of tyrants than to satisfy them.

Having identified these, it’s easy to see where that morning question came from: ‘When is the best part of the day to get exhausted?’. Not from the healthy part of me (the part that wants things and creates reasonable ways to get there) but from my inner schoolmaster, together with my iner critic: You have a goal! You have to work on it!! Circumstances are not relevant!!! Don’t be weak!!!!

I realised this, I got a bit wiser, and I went to work. Not on my November project, but coaching a client. It was a lovely autumn day and we decided to take the coaching outside and walk. We walked for an hour, using the surroundings as input for the coaching process. After that hour I was satisfied and tired.

I always think that normal people rest when they’re tired. I’m not used to doing that (so my inner critic tells me I’m not normal, get it?). My inner schoolmaster believes that idleness is the devil’s workshop. So he either puts me to work straight away, or starts nagging me when I manage to take a break: ‘come up, hurry up, restore yourself, your next task is waiting’… Needless to say that it’s hard to rest when your brain keeps suggesting you should be something different.

When I was thinking about how much I could do on my project even though I was tired, I realised my schoolmaster was running the show. He popped up yesterday, and forgot to leave.

I need to think of a way of moving forward that comes from the healthy part of me. There are several options for today:

  • setting an amount of time. (I can keep it simple: a reasonable set amount of time. I can also choose to set a minimum and a maximum, to have both direction and boundaries.)
  • setting an amount of work (ditto: I can either choose a reasonable amount of work or set a minimum and a maximum).

–> Benefits of choosing time: easier to control
–> Benefits of choosing an amount: I like to see concrete results

–> Drawback of choosing time: the risk of wildfire in my brain
–> Drawback of choosing an amount: I may do too much or too little compared to the energy I have

My inner critic is wondering whether al this writing isn’t simply procrastination. My schoolmaster yells ‘stop thinking and get the bloody job done’. The healthy version of me enjoys the writing, and appreciates the clarity it brings. It also suggests that it’s time now to choose which way I will move forward on my project today. And post this only AFTER I get my stuff done 🙂

And done! Both my task, and the not posting this until later. I chose to follow today’s prompt in the decluttering group, and apply it to a heap of administration: to pick out 5 things and sort it. I might write a post later on how much self management those 5 things cost, both to get chosen and to get done.

And then… my body sent me signals: take a break. This post needs work (like creating links and stuff). You need to do that work later, not now.

When my brain tells me to do something later, it’s often procrastination. When my body tells me to do something later, it’s often a boundary.

So I took a break. I am happy to finish this post now that I’m waiting for my dinner. I feel satisfied about the work I got done. I’m proud that I managed to guard my boundaries. I feel good – and I haven’t even had my dinner yet 😉