A Gentle Solution: exploring the power of a tender touch.
Lauren's All Purpose asked writer, yoga teacher and healer Amanda Blair to share an experience from her journey of personal growth and self-care. Read on for inspiration and tips on how to tenderly create space for those big dreams and goals.
We’ve all heard about the ego, or inner critic, that little voice in our head that tells us we aren’t this or that enough. When we bravely set out on a new path, that little voice will call us back to safety--or what we know--and tell us we couldn’t possible do the intended thing anyway. This voice is our inner critic or our ego. However, it’s not the big, bad monster it’s made out to be. Its original purpose was, actually, to help us.
Let me backup. Our brain’s programming is still the same from when we were cavemen. The ego was a survival tool. Whenever we were about to set out to uncharted territory to hunt, the ego piped up to caution us so we wouldn’t run out and get eaten by a saber tooth tiger. However, now that we have moved on from cave dwelling and into cities, surburbia, and small towns we no longer need this survival tool-- well not like we used to need it. Our brains, though marvelous machines, haven’t quite caught up our programming with our new lifestyle and thus we have an inner critic shutting down every new thing we are trying to do.
I let this voice rule me for far too long. I let it rule me for so long due to trauma and chaos I encountered as a child. During the trauma of childhood my ego was very helpful in me surviving that time period. As I got older, I was able to care for myself and not depend on others for survival. I now longer needed ego to protect me. But, when faced with emotional triggers from my past, my ego/inner critic would send up flares to reel me back in and keep me protected, like it did when I was a kid. As a an adult this protection is no longer necessary and the ego turns from protector to aggressor. If you think about it, most of what actually comes at us are emotions: failure, love, heartache, sadness, joy, anger, etc. The inner critic is protecting us from these emotions like they are our old saber tooth nemesis but they aren’t. So, what do we do?
I had very low self worth up until a little over a year ago. I would constantly underestimate myself and viewed myself as not capable of things I admired in others. A great example of this is running. I’ve always wanted to be a runner and run a marathon. The physical feat of of completing 26 miles feels super human to me and I cry when I watch people running the NYC marathon. Plus it seemed like so much fun! However, every time I would try to create a running practice, my inner critic would rudely inform me I could not actually run that well because I was too this and not enough of that. It also let me know I had no business running a marathon because I was not as good as the other people, “real” runners, that ran them. This inner critic was trying desperately to pull me back to the safety and comfort of homebase (not running) to keep me away from perceived threats. The perceived threat? Failure. I could try to run the marathon and not be able to finish it and that would mean I failed to complete a task I set out to do. My ego reads this emotion as life or death and throws out some barbs and holds me back. Until I met my manifestation advisor Lacy Phillips. Doing her work (which I won’t get into here because if I start talking about it, I will not be able to shut up. BUT, please go and check her out. She is life changing) along with meditation allowed me to create space in my brain.
Creating space in my mind allowed me to separate my egoic thoughts, aka the inner critic dialogue, from me and my truth. Before, it was all wrapped up in one- I am a failure. I am not worthy. I am unlovable. After doing a lot of self work, I could hear the inner critic voice for what it was-an outdated opinion trying to keep me safe- and now I choose to listen to it or not. A good rule of thumb is to step back and ask if you’re in danger at that particular moment. If you’re not, then you probably don’t need to listen to the ego. Back to running- last summer I finally decided I would create a running practice and realize my dream of running a marathon. And I started. It was different than every other time I had tried and stopped. This time I ran 2 miles without stopping, then 3 miles, then 3.5 miles, then 6 miles and by October 2017, 15 miles. My inner critic didn’t shut up during this period. It kept talking! I’ve realized, I can’t turn it off. It is a part of me; it’s the part of brain who really wants to keep me safe. Now when I hear it I say, “Thank you for keeping me safe but I got this."
Last October, when I got to 15 miles, I took off for a 7 month trip around SE Asia. I kept up my running through November and then suffered an injury from not great shoes, upping my mileage too quickly and not incorporating strength training in my routine. I stopped running to heal. Let me tell you, my inner critic was PRIMED to tell me I failed. And I was all, “Cool story, Bro. But, I’m healing, not failing and I’ll be back at it when I’m done healing!” It may sound cheesy but talking to my ego quiets the beast. I recently returned from my trip and have started running again to reach my marathon goal. Also, I just love running! You better believe my inner critic is talking to me BUT, I’ve created enough space it doesn’t deter me. Each time I go about thanking it and letting it know, I got this and am moving forward safely. And to keep my toes safe from painful blisters, you know I am slathering them with LAPS.
Moral of this story; don’t throw the ego out with the bathwater. It isn’t trying to destroy you. However it is trying to hold you back because it learned from a point in your childhood that a situation was unsafe and is continually trying to protect you from similar harm. Allow yourself to heal fully from the past experience and reprogram (do the work!) so you can create the space you need to no longer have it rule your life. You got this!
Amanda, I’ve loved seeing your IG posts these last months about your travels and the words of wisdom that accompany them. The happiness and freedom I see in you is inspiring! Sending you LOVE!