The voice in our head. We all have one….in fact most of us have at least two. While at times we may prefer the voices would shut up & go away the reality is the voices in our head are here to stay.
Take a moment to reflect on your day thus far.
What has been the tone of the dialogue in your head?
Did you wake up excited to embrace the challenges of the day? Or were you struck by nothing except self-criticisms about what you could actually accomplish today?
I love the image of the cartoons with the devil and the angel on opposing shoulders. The cartoon is a great example of the internal dialogue pulling us from feelings of support & curiosity for embracing our power to total self-destruction and self-hate around all our fears & insecurities in life. So at this point I ask you to notice...who has the louder voice...your devil or your angel? Let’s take a moment to analyze the different thought patterns our devil & angel may throw at us.
Imagine this: My alarm goes off New Year’s Day & I have volunteered myself for a public speaking engagement later that morning. It is by no means automatic for me to have positive feelings regarding the idea of public speaking. Those of you who know me well may know that I can even have social anxiety over coaching groups. More specifically, I have fear that pops up in a one-on-one setting when I start to worry about not being able to connect with a new client. Needless to say, general public speaking brings out the nerves & uncertainty which typically means my devil will be the first to greet me in the morning.
Devil: What were you thinking? No one is going to come and if they do come you’re only going to disappoint them. You never prepare enough for these talks. You babble, forget your train of thought. You have no focus. You are dumb for thinking this was a good idea. Why didn’t you simply enlist other people to talk & inspire like last year?
The voice of my devil vocalizes my self-doubt, my fears. The devil tends to bring about guilt and is especially harmful when I allow that devil to go to a place of inflicting shame. ie. You ARE dumb. vs that was a dumb idea.
Yes, my devil speaks up first. This is common for many. We create challenge for ourselves which is great as challenges create opportunities for growth. However, that devil on our shoulder is inherently lazy & often self-limiting. It’s going to question if we truly want & need to exert the extra energy to meet this challenge. This has benefited us tremendously for survival during more primitive times. Now we live in a world with so much at our convenience we need to create our own challenges. These challenges help us optimize our health & fitness as well as our personal & emotional development.
On this occasion my angel is prepared for the language my devil is throwing at me. In fact, with my increased awareness over these patterns she has become comfortable & is not longer surprised or intimidated by the voice of my devil. She allows the devil to spit out her rant of self-doubt and personal attacks on what I largely cannot do well or right. When the rant is done, rather than allowing it to play on repeat over and over again, she simply reminds me to pause and take a deep breath.
The angel & I smile at each other as we knew this moment was coming. No matter how long the devil may stay dormant, her reappearance is one of the few guarantees in life. That devil used to be my own-worst enemy. However when I realized we were forced to be in this life long relationship, I made the decision to befriend my devil. I chose to take the “kill ‘em with kindness” approach. I can even say that I have learned to love my devil (most of the time) as our biggest life lessons come from learning to conquer our own thoughts.
After we share a deep breath (or sometimes two or three deep breaths) my angel graciously takes her turn to speak:
Angel: Yes, perhaps you haven’t formally rehearsed this as often as you intended, but you think about these concepts constantly. You have spent more time than ever before in your life bringing more attention to your thoughts and people CAN relate to you. Sharing your thoughts can help inspire others take charge of their own thoughts. That is why you do this. You love to inspire and you are inspired when others share with you. Trust yourself. You know what you want to say. When you get lost in a thought, take a moment to pause and you’ll know what to say next.
While my devil spits reminders of self-doubt and guilt my angel has learned to develop a voice of love and reassurance. She has allowed me to acknowledge that whatever the outcome, it will be just as it needs to be. My angel reminds me of all the gray in life. We can “win” even if we come in last. It all depends on our perspective. This isn’t an “everyone gets a trophy” mentality, rather being able to face & accept reality. For example, I may have the best “Fran” time of my life and finish last if I am going against the best in the world. Is this a reason to feel disappointed? On the contrary I may have the WORST Fran time of my life and be able to learn from the experience. Have I been inconsistent with training? Am I recovering from a cold? Not sleeping well? Did I allow my devil to scream in my ear the whole workout and limit me from doing the best I could in that moment? Whatever the circumstances my angel helps me to be understanding with the outcome & to guide my decisions going forward. And so I digress...
My angel wasn’t always so patient and understanding with my devil. Developing my angel is how I approach developing the relationship with myself.
I like to set my angel up for success whenever possible and imagine her as a well rested, healthy, radiant mother who is there to support me. Rather than nagging the devil with all the things she shouldn’t be focusing on she simply sends loving reminders to counter the devil’s input. Take a moment to feel the difference between a mother that nags you to do your chores and eat your vegetables vs a mother who lovingly requests you clean your room & supports you to eat vegetables in order to grow strong and healthy. Consider giving a persona to your angel that you feel can best meet the challenges of your devil. You can consider someone who has been a consistent support in your life or create your angel into your version of your best helper.
The relationship we cultivate between our devil & angel will work to foster the relationship we have with ourselves. Our relationship with ourselves is the only relationship that is guaranteed in life. When we are on our deathbed it will be us and our thoughts and we never know how much time we have. So start now. Acknowledge you have the choice to choose self love over self hate. If you have been in the habit of more hate than love then simply begin with a deep breath & find a positive thought to begin the process of resetting those patterns. It doesn’t happen immediately but with practice and intention it gets easier. Learn to love the struggle and have curiosity for who you can be by setting the intention to soften your angel and learn to love that devil on your shoulder.
Create your best year yet in 2015!