Tag Archives: inner critic

Commitment and accountability

One of the good things about National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) is that your commitment to a post a day invites you to write every day, even when you don’t feel like it. One of the bad things about NaBloPoMo is that you ‘have to’ write every day. And my inner child yells “I don”t want to!!!”. All perfectly according to that darn horse shoe I’ve drawn.

One of the reasons to write this month, was accountability for working on my November project. Well, today is the day I dreaded: I haven’t worked on my project, and I’m not sure I have a valid excuse. I could try to make one and see if you think it’s valid, but who would I be fooling?

I’m too tired at the end of this day, even without working on my project. I’m stressed about it, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish it in time. Wednesday will be a very busy day, and I expect to have no time for it then.  I expect to not have the energy to compensate for that on another day.

What will happen if I don’t make my deadline? Nothing. We might even still be able to do our taxes in the month of December, which is what I was aiming for. So I might be able to reach my goal, even when I don’t deliver my planned result on time. So why worry?

I’m too tired at the end of this day, even without working on my project. I’m stressed about it, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish it in time. Wednesday will be a very busy day, and I expect to have no time for it then.  I expect to not have the energy to compensate for that on another day.
What will happen if I don’t make my deadline? Nothing. We might even still be able to do our taxes in the month of December, which is what I was aiming for. So I might be able to reach my goal, even when I don’t deliver my planned result on time. So why worry?

I think I have a thing about being committed to commitment. When I have a plan, I feel I should stick to it. When I set a goal, I feel I should reach it. When I tell all of you about what I’m doing, I feel I should at least be doing it!
Today is not the day. My inner critic is ready to throw rotten tomatoes at me and tell me what he thinks of me. I’n not sure I’m willing to listen. My throat aches, I’m tired and I wonder if I’m coming down with the flu. Why make things worse by listening to a bully?

I’m tagging my post now and wonder if I should add ‘procrastination’ as a tag. Which would feel like I declare myself a procrastinator today. I’m too tired to care if my choices today were procrastination or sensible. Or maybe both, why not? So, I’ll add ‘meh’ as a tag. That’s the part about today that feels relevant now.

If you want to read something sensible, I have a post about accountability. A good one, with useful comments.

The fact that I post even when ‘meh’, counts as commitment. #NaBloPoMo day 20 done. Tomorrow is a new day.

Practice, stumble, practice again

In general I’m not a ray of sunshine in the morning, but this morning was specifically absent with light. I’d had a nightmare filled with anger, powerlessness and feeling stupid, and somehow my mood wouldn’t lift. I had a party to go to… What to do?

My brain being my brain, there was a lot of internal discussion going on. One voice tried to keep me at home, explaining in a thousand ways how that was the safest option. Another voice tried to make me go out, reminding me that I think birthdays are important and adding a thousand other arguments. I won’t bore you with all the details.

I wondered how I was going to make a decision I would like, and remembered the horse shoe of have -to I created earlier during #NaBloPoMo. I realised the part of the horse shoe that stands for ‘I can’ might get me somewhere, so I made a list of ‘I can’ that felt relevant for today:
– I can go to lunch.
– I can go for a walk.
– I can paint.

The first two options were part of the party I was invited to. The third option would have me stay at home. The list of ‘can’ cleared my mind. I realised:
– I want to go to the party.
– I can go home if it’s not working for me.
– It will be easier fro me to join the lunch than a 7km walk.
– It’s lovely weather so I’d like to walk a bit.

I ended up walking to the party to join the lunch, and walking back home when the other ones went on a hike. I’m back home now, and I have time to rest before my son comes home. And time to write this post.

Since my brain has had a lot of training in negative and worried thoughts, I’ll have to practice it in the thoughts I want to have more of. The horse shoe of have-to can help me. Getting in touch with my values may help me, but only when I watch out for the difference between a value (a carrot for my inner adult or inner child) and a norm (which is a stick for my inner school master). Whatever decision I make will feel better if I manage to step away from I have to and find my way to I want to.

How will I do this after National Blog Posting Month is over and I don’t write about all this stuff any more? Hmmm, I guess I’ll have to search for my I want-to’s…

Planning is a way, not a destination

Yesterday’s results

  • I created a planning for the rest of this month
  • I got my planned filing done
  • I stuck to the planned time boxes (15 minutes for planning, 15 minutes for filing)
  • I enjoyed my planned reward

From the over-abundant use of the word plan in these four lines, you can concluded that I’m very relieved that I finally made it: to create a planning and stick to it.

What worked well?

  1. Planning in a time box of 15 minutes worked like a charm. I was aiming at getting the planning done, and didn’t get stuck in endless maybe’s, but’s and what if’s.
  2. I planned a time limit that was small enough to leave me energy after I’d finished it, and big enough to make me feel happy about how much I’d got done.
  3. I liked that it was just 15 minutes. It soothed my fear of doing too much and getting exhausted. It also soothed my fear of doing too little: 15 minutes today, 15 minutes tomorrow., etc. Small but steady works, as I learned from Less Stuff.
  4. I managed to let my inner child do the painting. She simply enjoyed to play with the materials and didn’t care about the result. I felt satisfied and relaxed within 45 minutes.
  5. I even created a limit for how long I want to work on these blog post (45 minutes maximum).

What worked less well?

  • I’m can’t remember if I really finished the planning, or just finished those 15 minutes.
  • I had promised myself to make a list of activities that I need to get done to get my planned result. I chose another chore this morning, because I really felt like doing, not like thinking.

My inner critic would like to tell me off for not sticking to my plan. My inner adult shrugs when she hears this. She reminds me that a planning is a way to get something done, not a goal in itself. The planned result is my destination, and I worked towards that.

The values I wrote down yesterday were honesty, personal growth, family and fun. My decision to postpone making a list of activities until tomorrow, is in line with those. I was honest with myself about really not wanting to do this today. It’s personal growth to let my inner adult run the show instead of the inner critic. I need to save some energy for later today, because my son comes home from school at 12.30 PM. Since my active, concrete chore didn’t drain me, I have energy left for some fun. Probably more painting.

#NaBloPoMo day 15

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:
Before
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:

De_Vliegende_Hollander_(Efteling)
[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!