Updated: Aug 26, 2022
Does this sound familiar? I started to go here mentally after a bike ride with my husband and our dragged-along daughter one evening...
Why the heck did I ACT like that? What was I THINKING? What is WRONG with me?
Can you hear that TONE?
We can be so hard on ourselves.
You can imagine the body language that goes along with it.
Would you in good conscience speak to a friend like this?
Does this line of thinking draw you closer to yourself or feel like you've sent yourself to sit ALONE in the corner....with a dunce hat on to boot?
When I start down this path, on a good day, I stop that voice in its tracks and invite in my CURIOUS SELF.
Curious how that could look? Maybe it's:
Why DID I do that?
What WAS I thinking?
What do I care about that feels THREATENED here? (Ooh, that's a big one)
Can you hear the difference in tone?
Can you hear trust and respect for the person who is going through this? (For YOU?)
We need to scrub our tone until it shines with
Neutrality, Openness and Curiosity
So here's what happened with the bike ride.
My daughter was playing outside with friends, and my husband and I pulled her away to go on a short family ride. She was "unhappy." In her "unhappy" state, she refused to wear a coat.
We went off on a beautiful, chilly fall day to the sounds of, "Why can't I just stay and PLAY?" "I'm cold!" TEARS....
...and I got "annoyed." And insistent to some extent that she should just get a grip and enjoy the ride. I found myself pulling away emotionally (and even physically on the trail) and doing inner eye rolls.
So, let's play the CURIOUS SELF game here:
CS: Why DID I get upset with my daughter when she complained throughout our bike ride that she wanted to turn back, and then try to talk her out of her unhappy feelings?
Me: Well....maybe there was a little hurt and fear that she's getting too "big" to choose time with her parents over time with friends. I really value our family time.
CS: What else is here?
Me: Well...maybe it's hard for me to be with complaining when I have a strong value of harmony. Or perhaps I don't give myself permission to complain either (i.e. push back when feeling pushed into something I wouldn't otherwise choose). Hmmm.... This is getting RICH.
Notice in this example that I'm not justifying my behavior and attitude toward my daughter on the ride.
I am exploring the underlying feelings that may have led to my thinking and behavior, and acknowledging values tied up in there. Maybe even LEARNING a little something of use for later.
You may find that, when you let yourself dig in, sleeves rolled up, with openness, curiosity and gentleness, like you would hope for from a good friend, there's a lot of GOODNESS in there, and RICH EMOTION that reveals what you care about -- if you're willing to give yourself the benefit of the doubt.
The BENEFIT of the doubt.
You deserve this.
When we go into black and white thinking, fight or flight, fear vs. love, we're operating out of a personal saboteur, such as our inner judge (I call mine Judge Judy).
From our own Judge Judy voice, using that critical tone, we go into even darker places, inviting in shame, regret, disappointment, guilt.
We then ACT and (oh God) PROBLEM SOLVE from this dark place. Our come-from can become something like:
I'm so awful, so broken that I should X. I don't deserve to Y or Z. I should just [insert pitiful idea]. ;-)
We might even pull away, not just from ourselves in this "dunce-hat-on" moment, but also from people we care about when we're in this place. When connection may be what we NEED MOST.
The last thing my daughter needed after that fateful 30-minute ride was for me to pull away even more because I had shame around how I reacted to her "complaining." And how painfully ironic had I pulled back because I feared that she was pulling away.
Sometimes, we need to do the OPPOSITE in that moment. Lean in, dare I say. Connect. Pause, BREATHE, and call in open curiosity and self-compassion.
We can tap into our INNER SAGE (sorry, friends, not sharing here what I call my own Sage but suffice it to say she's awesome, like yours is - but if you're curious, email me). This is our best self, the wise being that is IN ALL OF US and has courage, compassion and Big Picture perspective.
I was ashamed that I couldn't find compassion (or even neutrality!) for my daughter on our ride but that doesn't mean I couldn't connect to it now, and give myself a break too.
We are so hard on ourselves.
YOUR INVITATION: I invite you to notice that tone you take with yourself, and tune in to the possibility that you can shift it in the moment, or when you're ready.
And try this on for size when your Judge Judy wants to send you to the corner, upset with yourself and ALONE:
PAUSE. STOP THE PRESSES. HOLD ON A SEC.
Take a moment to BREATHE - focus only on your breathing for at least 15 seconds.
Now, call in the "big guns," your Inner Sage that GETS IT and can see the big picture. Who do you want to BE in this moment? Call it in. Trust me, whatever qualities you want, they're inside of you.
Put on your Curiosity Hat and scrub your tone 'til you can hear openness shine through - what WERE you thinking? why DID you act like that? what do you CARE about that may feel threatened?
Consider: What's possible from this place? How can I lean in to this situation and stay positively connected to self and anyone else who may be involved?
Just PLAY with this, and see what happens! Please let me know how it goes. I know that self-flagellating thoughts hit all of us, and in more challenging situations than the one I shared. Trust yourself, be curious, and lean in.
I'm rooting for you.