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What Constitutes a Life Well Lived?

podcast Nov 03, 2020

Can't listen? Here's the transcript: 

Hey Dethroners!  Today I would like to talk about what constitutes a life well lived, because I think there are a lot of people who are confused about what it really means-- they think once they reach their goals, that is when life will be good.  I speak with so many people who are  unhappy either because they have hopes, dreams and ambitions that they have all but given up on, or because they are still not where they think they “should’ be.   And the sad thing is, it’s not due to any fault of their own. It is certainly not because of stupidity, or laziness, or negative thinking, or a deprived childhood, or a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is simply because they do not know that they are separate from their Inner Critic, and therefore are fused with their automatic thoughts and mistaking them for the truth.   Those automatic thoughts that make them feel inadequate, unfulfilled, thinking that something needs to be different before they can feel good.

And many of them have been on the Self help hamster wheel, which offers all kinds of approaches that tell you how to gain more confidence, how to think more positively, how to banish your doubt and fear.  And I think that can be destructive, if not harmful.  Because 

I don’t think living your best life is about getting rid of fear, or anxiety and self doubt--or feeling that sense of certainty, or even fulfilling your dreams.  This is a false idea that has been perpetuated in our culture-- that successful people have no fear, no self doubt, no anxiety, and they are walking around feeling blissfully happy.  See, your brain is hardwired to find negativity.  It doesn’t matter if you lose that weight, or get that promotion, or find the love of your life.  Your Inner Critic will find something, because that is its job-- to find what is wrong and figure out how to fix it.  And if you buy into that-- if you believe that a fulfilling life is about fixing what your Inner Critic says is wrong or should be different, you will not see the magnificence of the life you are already living right now.  

This year in 2020 in particular, I’ve heard a lot of people say, “the world is upside down,” or “the pandemic has wreaked havoc on me.” “I can’t make a change (like start a business, get in great shape, or write my book until things get back to normal”.  So it’s easy to point the finger at the current circumstances and think that we can’t feel fulfilled and at peace.  We have ideas about success looks like, what our body should look like, what our relationships and friendships should look like, what our home should look like, what life should look like.  And we never question this-- we have our own ideal version of ourselves and the lives we SHOULD be living.  And then we blame ourselves and say it’s because we lack self discipline.  We think  that’s the thing we need to stay the course when the going gets tough.  And then we try to figure out how to be “more self disciplined” like there is some magic formula of grit and hard work and beating ourselves up and believing we’re not yet good enough,--that will produce more self discipline so we can finally achieve the goal that is going to make us happier. Well, then why are we more and more miserable? People were miserable before the pandemic.  The pandemic is a circumstance-- one that put us right in the face of the unknown.  And that is super uncomfortable!  And we don’t like to feel uncomfortable.  We don’t like to face unpredictability and the unknown.  

We buy into this belief that we need to FEEL good before we will take the actions that will lead to change.  Unfortunately, we wait until we feel good to take action-- until we feel more confident, until we know we won’t fail, until we can predict the outcome of our actions, until we acquire more knowledge.  We want to eliminate the fear, self doubt, the risk of failure and judgment, before we will make the change.  And for some people, that means staying stuck in old, deeply held beliefs about themselves and waiting until someday when the circumstances are different.  

We are so hard on ourselves because in our culture, we believe that to live your best life and have everything you want in your life, you have to keep improving yourself.  And in order to improve ourselves, we keep raising the bar.  And the more we keep raising the bar, the more we keep feeling like we’re not good enough, and feeling overwhelmed and chronically dissatisfied no matter what life looks like.   And then we stay on the hamster wheel, and keep trying to get better and better.  I have the most accomplished and extraordinary women in my Mastering Your MIND programs, you know who you are.  And they are drawn to the program because despite their incredible accomplishments and achievements, they continue to feel stuck. And just yesterday on the first day of my course, a woman in my program who had a career as a minor celebrity, said “my Inner Critic pushed me to my success.  Isn’t that a good thing?”  And my question to her was, “yes, but at what cost?”  

Let me give you an example from my own life.  I have had a deeply held belief that I am not good enough for most of my life. I know some of my childhood experiences that led me to feel that way… some painful childhood memories of being excluded or rejected.   And I have also had a dream for most of my life, since early adolescence, that i was going to make an impact on the world and help people live lives that they loved.  I knew this is what I wanted to do at the age of 12.  And yet, as a therapist, as a workshop leader, as a mother, I spent many years struggling with feeling like no matter what I had accomplished, I still wasn’t good enough.   I had a successful private practice, I was raising my three kids, I had a loving husband, great friends.  And yet I had this continual sense of inadequacy that kept me in the experience of lack-- and I see this time and time again--it’s like an epidemic among women-.  But I look back now, and I realize that I wasted so much emotional energy, that I can’t ever get back, trying to get to the next goal, the next level.  

And this is because I didn’t know that my Inner Critic mind was ruling me.  I truly believed the thoughts in my mind-- that my value and my worthiness was dependent on my life looking a certain way.  There was so much worry, so much stress, and I had no idea that I was the one causing all of it, by believing the thoughts that I had been thinking for forever  And all of those years, what I was really doing was reliving the memories of my past.  See, that is what you are doing when you continue to feel like you are not yet good enough.  You are actually using a mind that is rooted in your past.  I had no idea that I literally had a computer program that was running me, that was first programmed at the age of 6.  So, I kept pushing myself to get to the next version of myself.  I didn’t know that there WAS NO next version of myself.  

And if I kept using my old programming, rooted in my memory, to guide my life moving forward.  So no matter what I accomplished, no matter what life was, it was never enough because I was always looking for what’s next.  I had an old mind, my Inner Critic mind, rooted in memory, that was going to continue to find all of the goals I hadn’t yet achieved, all of the ways I didn’t match my ideal picture of who I was supposed to be or what my life was supposed to look like.  Where did my “supposed to” even come from??  Where does this ideal version of ourselves come from?  I think it’s so many puzzle pieces-- from our parents, our culture, the media-- the work of Dethroning Your Inner Critic was born out of my realization that I was accomplishing all of my goals and dreams, but was still feeling that sense of lack.  And I was like, WTF?  When are you going to stop this hamster wheel of worry, anxiety, discontent and dissatisfaction?  Because it certainly isn’t going away when you meet your next big goal!

It wasn’t until I learned to become an intentional and deliberate thinker that my life shifted.  And that is my goal for everyone-- that you learn HOW to intentionally think.  Because if you look at the thoughts that lead to your stress, you will uncover your greatest fear.  My greatest fear, which is an Inner Critic belief, is that I am not good enough.  

I didn’t even need to go back and heal the early experiences where I felt rejected or not included.  I have compassion for the little girl who felt different, who felt not good enough, who compared herself to her friends, who often felt lonely despite having a lot of friends.  But having compassion for my younger self is not going to change those early messages that are embedded in my brain.  Those are my Inner Critic’s messages, and they have never stopped.  And they never will.  And as I am launching my book in November, my Inner Critic still spews the same messages she was spewing at the age of 7.  They just take on a new form;  “you’re not good enough to write a book!”

  • You’re not a writer!
  • I had to push through the discomfort over and over again
  • What if no one likes it at all?
  • What if no one buys it?
  • People I don’t know will read this.
  • People I do know will read this!
  • People have expectations now!
  • What if the book doesn’t meet their expectations?
  • I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting to do something. 

Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk, global spiritual leader, and peace activist has written:

"Sometimes the wounded child in us needs all of our attention … If you are mindful, you will hear his or her voice calling for help. At that moment … you go back and tenderly embrace the wounded child within you …

When we speak of listening with compassion, we usually think of listening to someone else. But we must also listen to the wounded child inside of us. The wounded child in us is here in the present moment. And we can heal him or her right now. ‘My dear little wounded child, I’m here for you, ready to listen to you. Please tell me all your suffering, all your pain. I am here, really listening.’ And if you know how to go back to her, to him, and listen like that every day for five or ten minutes, healing will take place.”

That wounded child that he speaks of-- that’s your Inner Critic.  Your Inner Critic was born in your childhood-- when you first felt that sense that there is something “wrong” or not ok.  Your Inner Critic is the part of your mind rooted in primitive survival instincts-- she says, “don’t do anything that could put you in danger.”  And the possibility of rejection, judgement, failure--- that is the ultimate fear!  But here’s the bottom line-- if you want the life of your dreams, you have to be willing to practice discomfort.  That is the currency of your dreams.  

So this is my offering to you this week:

Where can you find the places in your life now that already make you feel like you are enough?  What is it that you are taking for granted, that people have told you they love about you?  Where do you already feel fulfilled and confident?  What parts of your life are already working?  Where do you feel proud of yourself?  What are you grateful for now?  

Those are the thoughts of your new mind.  Those are the thoughts that can ground you in a new mind that is calm and centered.  And when your mind is calm and centered, you can take risks.  You can take the next action, and know that even if you fail, the worst that will happen is you’ll be uncomfortable for a bit.  That’s it-- that’s the worst.  You won’t die-- you’ll just be uncomfortable.  I am usually uncomfortable.  I have just gotten used to it!  I know that’s the currency for going for my dreams.  And you know what?  It’s a little easier now than it was a few years ago-- because I have gotten more used to doing discomfort on purpose-- it’s the only way I have gotten this far.   

There is no new version of YOU.  There is no better version of life.  Your life is RIGHT NOW.  I invite you to stop waiting-- for the pandemic to stop, for the kids to get older, for the weight to come off-- stop waiting to love and honor and value yourself.  You are not your Inner Critic!  You are not those old programs.  

What changed for me is when I started thinking from this newly rewired mind.  I still had goals, and I will never stop reaching for more.  But I am passionately unattached.  And I think that is the biggest key--If I get to the goal, awesome!  If not, I  already know that I am enough.  I already know that I have everything I need.  I already know that there is nothing to fix.  That is the game changer.   

These times are so painful, and so ugly in so many ways, but the order they are pointing us to is the opposite of that – it is a beautiful and kind one. It is the one many of us have been fighting for, or longing for, or suspecting was the way we wanted to feel, for a very long time.  

When we look at the news, or the violence in the streets, or the rise in numbers of covid deaths, we can choose what we’re going to think about the life that WE are living: the world we are living in does not mean that we need to live in overwhelm and chaos and fear in our own minds.  We can live right here in this very moment.  And we can choose how we are going to think of the circumstances.  

We don’t need to continue to call this time in our life chaos.   I had a client this week say to me, “it must be so hard with younger kids who are learning virtually.  I can’t imagine what that is like for you.  It must be awful.  And I stopped and thought about it.  And you know.. It is what it is.  I could choose to think this is awful.  And my 12 year old is failing math right now-- she’s getting a lot of incompletes and zeros--- she had learning challenges before the pandemic.  But I am not going to see this as awful.  Because it is what it is.  And I am getting her the support that she needs, but it’s not awful unless I buy into the idea that it is awful.  

I unhook from my Inner Critic, whose favorite habit is to worry about how life will go-- If you want to feel calm and centered, you have to practice the necessary skill of unhooking from your Inner Critic.  -- if we don’t continually practice this skill, we can’t rely on ourselves--  because the only thing that gives you the ability to take action that is in alignment with your dreams, is to let go of the expectation that you should not feel fear, doubt, and that your Inner Critic should stop saying what she’s always said.  --- your Inner Critic does NOT want you to take the actions.  So she will scream.  But taking action is the very thing that changes the trajectory of your life.  

Observing your Inner Critic mind requires setting the time aside, and the willingness to see your Inner Critic thoughts-- all of the thoughts that make you feel uncomfortable.  And your Inner Critic thinks this is a bad idea to feel any discomfort, so will give you all sorts of reasons keep you stuck exactly where you are---it’s too hard, i am too busy, i am not in the mood, i’ve got no motivation, I am too tired or stressed, I am too anxious, I have no discipline, i shouldn’t try bc I will never be any good at it-- this has us give up especially if we are afraid of making mistakes or our progress is slower than we would like--   

In fact, it is imperative that your inspiration come from the life you are designing, and not from your Inner Critic memories of the past.  At the heart of my inspired life I am designing, is that I want to feel good.  I want to feel like I am proud of who I already am and the life I have already created.  Even with my faults, flaws, imperfections, my cringe worthy moments in my past, I want to feel calm and at peace.  I don’t want to keep striving for all my goals to be reached before I feel good.   And If my Inner Critic is in control of my mind, I want to reach my goals so I can feel like I am good enough. When my authentic self is in control of my mind, I feel good right now.  I am taking actions to reach my goals, but I don’t NEED my goals to make me feel good.  That’s a COMPLETE GAME CHANGER-- THAT IS WHAT CONSTITUTES A LIFE WELL LIVED.  

Your inspired life that you are designing should be the compass that directs your actions. My purpose for this work is to create a movement so that women are living their most fulfilling lives and are feeling the joy, freedom, self love and contentment that can change the world we are living in.  I am inspired to support people to transform from the inside out so that the world will be better for future generations.  We need to end this epidemic among women, who chronically feel like they aren’t good enough. 

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