When it comes to motivation, most of us will try numerous different methods to instil behavioural changes that will last. Especially in the first weeks of the year, when the excesses of Christmas are fresh in the mind and it’s difficult to ignore the physical and emotional impact of overindulgence, millions will step up their efforts to lose weight, cut out alcohol, reduce spending and increase fitness. But it’s equally common for these intentions to fall by the wayside before January is done. Why is this? What are the reasons behind the commonly acknowledged failure of New Year’s Resolutions, and how can we ensure that we stick to our goals and maintain motivation throughout the entire year?
Can you recall your last efforts to implement a new healthy behaviour? How did you speak to yourself about what you wanted to change? If you are like most people, you’ll be very familiar with your Inner Critic, who tends to creep out of the shadows of your mind at precisely the moment you don’t want it to:
“You’re so fat.”
“You’re completely useless.”
“You’re a failure.”
“Nobody will ever love you.”
“Look at how much weight you’ve put on!”
Any of these sound like your Inner Critic? When this voice starts up in our heads, we often attach to the internal dialogue and unquestioningly believe that what it’s saying must be true. But who is this voice, and how on earth can we know that what it’s saying has any real meaning or truth in it? Is your Inner Critic actually YOU?
The simple answer is no; your Inner Critic is not you. And worse still, when we listen to and act upon it, we enter into a spiral of self-criticism, which leads to self-neglect or self-destruction. Put simply, when we talk to ourselves in this unkind, judgmental and non-compassionate way, we massively reduce our motivation and feel compelled to destroy ourselves further.
So what happens when we go the other way? What effect would it have if you spoke to yourself kindly, with love and understanding? Yes, you guessed it - the opposite happens; we embark upon a positive path of self-care, which is hugely motivating. We start to behave in a manner that’s closer to our best intentions, we feel capable and full of resilience - we feel strong enough to turn our intentions into our realities.
Your Inner Critic is a collection of all the pain, fears, insecurities and memories that have accumulated over the years of your life. Like a stinking pile of rubbish, this catalogue of all the negative and critical comments we received from parents, partners or teachers, or even siblings and peers, while growing up, festers and shouts loudly. Think of the Inner Critic as a script you downloaded when you were very small, from people who you felt at the time were more powerful and knowing than you. The Inner Critic picked up comments from influential adults we encountered in childhood, who themselves were probably employing negativity as a misguided means of trying to motivate us to be better or more successful - “You’re so lazy, you never work hard at school. You’ll never amount to anything in life” (when really what they wanted to say was, “I love you so much and I want you to do well in life - please don’t make the same mistakes I did when I was your age!"). We absorb these comments and gradually they become harder and harder to disregard.
That is, until we develop our awareness of our Observing Self and learn to disassociate from the negative voice that rattles on endlessly in our minds. Behind the chatter, sits our Observing Self and this is our core, our heart, our soul. It’s where we can feel all the love, and it’s the part of our self that's capable of implementing self-compassion.
When you hear unkind words, when your Inner Critic starts on at you, take the instant stance that what it says is nonsense. The voice is not you. It’s your conscious mind attempting to interpret the world around you, based upon the opinions and unkind words of others.
The Observing Self IS you. It’s your loving self. Open your heart to this part of you, and allow it to speak lovingly towards and about you. Using the power of your Observing Self, challenge everything the Inner Critic says to you:
“You are a beautiful person.”
“You have rare and wonderful talents.”
“You are successful at so many different things.”
“You are loved.”
“You are on the path to all the goals you want to achieve.”
Once you enter into this self-compassionate mindset, you’ll notice that you begin to act with a greater degree of self-care. This will build and manifest in a surge of self-belief and motivation. It will cause you to feel confident about yourself and your abilities. You’ll recognise your humanity. You will feel relaxed and capable.
And guess what? You’ll start to tick off those goals you have been striving to reach for so long.